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A great French mystic
Marthe Robin was often known for the extraordinary phenomena that marked her existence. From her illness, which was very real but whose causes and development remain a mystery, to her stigmata, including the attacks of the devil and the decades spent living on one host per week, she experienced manifestations that are unique to the great mystics.
But beyond the extraordinary aspects of her life, it was the way that this woman, who was profoundly united with Christ, loved, welcomed everyone and radiated hope, that she can be a model for all of us today.
Marthe was not born a mystic or woke up one morning in union with God. It was little by little, on a journey where the spectacular stages are always preceded by key moments experienced in the intimate space of prayer, that the young woman gradually allowed herself to be seized by Christ.
A growing intimacy with heaven
First, there was a natural intimacy with Our Lady that was nurtured in her childhood marked by the popular piety of the countryside. But it was within the ordeal of her illness that Marthe truly began her ascent towards Christ. In 1921, she had been ill for three years. Her symptoms were consistent with a brain tumour; she was expected to die. It is then that she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary who came to visit her in her room. It was the beginning of an enduring cohabitation with those in heaven: Mary, as well as St Therese of Lisieux and then, Jesus himself, came to speak to her, strengthen her, console her and teach her.
The choice of God
The key act that introduced Marthe into the mystical life was her written declaration of 15 October 1925, on the Feast of St Teresa of Avila. She was 23 years when she wrote an "act of surrender":
« Eternal God, Infinite Love! O my Father! (...) On this day, I give myself and consecrate myself to you, entirely and without seeking anything in return. O Beloved of my soul, my sweet Jesus, it is you alone that I want, and for your love I renounce everything! […] My God, take my mind and all its memories, take my heart and all its affections, take my intelligence and all its faculties [...] Take my whole will… [...] I hand over my life and surrender myself to you.»
Three years later, she experienced a key event in her life that permanently sealed her covenant with God. At the heart of her suffering, she experienced an inner transformation. During the visit of two priests in December 1928, she experienced the infinite love of God for her. This intimate spiritual experience profoundly changed her life. She took the decision to give meaning to the absurd and useless suffering imposed by the illness and that this purpose should be for the whole of humanity, in accordance with the words of the Apostle Paul:
« It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. » (Letter of St Paul to the Colossians, ch. 1, v. 24)
She received the "stigmata" of the Passion of Christ every week
Little by little, as her intimacy with God grew and she became more abandoned to him, she experienced the Passion of Christ with increasing intensity, first spiritually, then in her flesh. From 2 October 1930, Marthe Robin began to receive the stigmata every Friday, i.e. the wounds mirroring those of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Like other great figures of holiness, St Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena and St Padre Pio, here she was, manifesting in her body the afflictions endured by Jesus. All this took shape and deepened little by little... She said to Jean Guitton of the Académie Française, who came to visit her: « I no longer see the details of the Passion. I used to see and hear things and I could describe it. Now, I can no longer remember the details. I am in Jesus.»
When Marthe spoke of her union with Jesus in his Passion, she spoke using the words of someone who is in love: an "intimacy of love and suffering with Jesus". Jesus drew her to his heart in a progressively greater union, by sharing his love for humankind through her. The reason why she suffered and fought was to save souls in the certainty that Christ will be victorious.
Marthe rejected any form of morbid fascination with the cross and with suffering. To those who asked her: «Marthe, help us to love the cross», she answered sharply: «No! We must love Jesus on the cross!» She had only one great and immense desire, which was to love and get others to love the Lord:
All Christians must participate in the Passion of Christ and complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ with their own bodies. As for me, I am just a sign, a reminder for all Christians.
The Eucharist was her only food
Another wonder has left a deep impression on us... Throughout her illness (more than 60 years!) Marthe ate and drank practically nothing. Yet she did not die. The only thing she could swallow was the host that she received each week. Holy Communion became her only food. This rare swallowing action itself remains a mystery because the paralysis of the muscles of her throat prevented her from swallowing.
I want to cry out to those who ask me if I eat that I eat more than they, because I am fed by the Eucharist with the body and blood of Jesus. I want to tell them that they are the ones who hinder the effects of this food inside them, they block the effects.
Once again, beyond the spectacular aspects, the underlying reason for Marthe's inexplicable survival without the minimum required intake of food can be found in Scripture: « For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. » (Gospel according to St John, ch. 6, v. 55-56)
For Catholics, the "Body of Christ" received during communion, gives life to the soul and even reaches that of the body. Marthe Robin experienced the power of the sacrament of the Eucharist in a very special way: « The Host gives me a physical impression of food: Jesus is in my entire body. He is the one who nourishes me. It's like a resurrection! »
Many of the accounts of conversations people had with Marthe reveal her unique gift of counsel, her exceptional memory and her immense compassion. She was also entrusted with many prayer intentions. The power of her intercession was evident: seemingly desperate situations would be resolved or sorted out after she prayed. Many of her ideas on the future of the Church or of France were sometimes received like prophecies although she would always reject this term preferring a more spiritual vision of the future that remains in the hands of God.
As for the future, you know that I am quoted as saying many things about the future. I know nothing except the following: that the future is Jesus.
First and foremost, Marthe Robin, the great French mystic, touched her many visitors with her infectious joy, her lively spirit and her closeness to each person. Meeting her was like coming into contact with the goodness of God.
To read :
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