Marthe Robin and the Foyers of Charity, by Martin Blake, (Theotokos Books, 156 pages, 2010, £7.95. $11.95)
This is a very readable volume about one of the most remarkable French mystics and a true daughter of the Church who lived in our own time (she was born in 1902 and reposed in the Lord in 1981, aged 78). Author Martin Blake succeeds to make her better known to English-speaking Catholics since as Msgr. Keith Barltrop noted in the Foreword, “Marthe Robin was one of the most extraordinary and influential figures, not just of the twentieth century Church, but of all time.”
A simple French peasant girl with little education, she would become regarded by both the great and small in the Church as a prophetic figure who exemplified Vatican II call’s for a new Pentecost of love and with a special mission in the lay apostolate. The inspiration of her life would result in the founding of over 70 Foyers of Charity or Retreat Houses of spiritual formation in many countries conducted by Catholics living in community and engaged in the new evangelization desired by the Popes of Vatican II.
Her spiritual director, Fr. George Finet, was indispensable in the astonishing growth of Foyers of Charity which have attracted many members and retreatants (including the author) thirsting for a deeper spiritual life. (There is a Foyer in North Scituate, Mass 02060).
Hers was a truly incredible life prepared for by 3 visions of St. Therese of Lisieux and those of the Blessed Virgin. In poor health from early childhood as a result of a typhoid epidemic, she suffered from 1918 various illnesses which resulted in her becoming totally paralyzed from head to foot, lying helpless on a divan for 50 years.
In 1928 she received the stigmata, thereby sharing in the Passion of Christ in order, as she wrote, “to be a victim of love for the Church and for souls.” In those 50 years of great suffering but great intimacy with Christ, she did not eat or drink or sleep, living only on the Eucharist, receiving visits by over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life who sought her advice or counsel or some spiritual comfort amidst their trials and difficulties.
A valuable feature of the book are the striking personal testimonies to her extraordinary sanctity given by such distinguished philosophers as Jean Guitton, Marcel Clement, and Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P., who were impressed with her simplicity, humility, and joy.
Martin Blake’s book would have been enhanced by photos of this remarkable mystic and the first Foyer at Chateauneuf near her home.
The publication of Marthe Robin’s journals is bound to throw much light on her fascinating prophecy that largely deChristianized France “ will be saved, for God will intervene through the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Spirit. There will be a new Pentecost … seen particularly in France, and will indeed realise her mission as eldest daughter of the Church.”
James Likoudis, president emeritus, Catholics United for the Faith (CUF)