MESSAGE to the Spiritual Family of Marie Rivier
Year of the 30th Anniversary of the Beatification of Marie Rivier, Year of Faith and of New Evangelization
To the Sisters and to all of you, friends of Marie Rivier, Those of you who are a part of the large Family of Marie Rivier are numerous throughout the world: relatives of our sisters and of our students, alumni of yesterday and today, the personnel of our education and health care centers, employees, directors, principals and administrators, professional counselors, young evangelizers and missionaryvolunteers, Associates of Marie Rivier (members of fraternities), consecrated laity, priest-friends, as well as all our collaborators and benefactors. Whatever your age, country or function, all of you contribute to the vitality of the spiritual family of Marie Rivier. Thanks to you, the heritage which she left us continues to bear fruit in the twenty countries where the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary minister today. Marie Rivierâ€™s Heritage In this period of economic crisis which is affecting all of our countries, many would wish that Blessed Marie Rivierâ€™s heritage could be found in bars of gold or in oil wells. To how much misery we could then bring relief! Marie Rivier was born in a family of inn-keepers considered fairly well off for the era, but her pocketbook was light since she kept nothing for herself. Perhaps you remember the anecdote when as a child, having received a coin from her uncle, she went out into the street looking for someone to whom she could give her gift. Having met a lady, she asked 2
her: â€œMadam, are you poor?â€? From this we can see how, as a child, her heart was already touched by the suffering of others. You certainly have realized that the heritage received from Marie Rivier is worth more than all the gold in the world. What she has left us is her FAITH, a faith which could move mountains: her faith in life, her faith in Him who is the pathway of Life: Jesus Christ. Today, more than ever, we need to believe! Believe that life is beautiful! Believe that the sufferings on our pathway are temporary and that violence will not have the last word! Believe in the power of love! This love received and given which allows us to overcome the challenges of life. This is the message of hope which the Child in the stable, whose birth we have just celebrated, came to bring us. But unfortunately, many of our contemporaries do not even notice this message; it is lost in the noise, the publicity, the parties, the routine and fatigue of life during this festive season.
A Year of Peace and Happiness! Tell me, of what use are all our wishes for PEACE and HAPPINESS for the New Year if we do not believe in the One who makes this very peace and happiness possible?
“O my God, you love everything you have created. What You want to realize with us is for forever! You alone are not temporary. You are maternal tenderness and love. You are the God whose patience is eternal. You are near to those who trust in You, who cry out to You with sincerity. May your friends bless Your Name. May they proclaim the joy of the new world that You are preparing.”
(Stan Rougier, Montre-moi ton Visage, Ps. 145)
Throughout the centuries, generations of believers have prayed the psalms and because they believed in the truth of these words, they were able to contribute to the transformation of their milieu. Like Marie Rivier and so many other saints from our ordinary life, they knew how to make St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer their own: “O Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace: Where there is hatred, let me bring your love. Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord. Where there is discord, let me bring unity. Where there is sadness, let me sow joy.” Let us light candles of hope! People used to say of Marie Rivier that her very presence gave them the desire to be better. Why could this not be possible for each and everyone of us? We only need to keep the flame of hope alive in our heart, and the light will spread. A small 4
candle in a dark room is enough to reassure and to bring light to other candles. Have we not all lived this experience during a blackout? Marie Rivier lit many candles of hope during her life. Think of all the families whose children attended one of the 142 schools that she founded during her lifetime. This continues today through her daughters, spread throughout the world, as well as through all of you who collaborate with them. Convinced that unity gives strength, Marie Rivier loved to repeat to her first companions: “Let us come together”; let us do our “little bit” and God will do the rest. And it works! The miracles of the multiplication of wheat still exist today. •
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New schools are being built, while others continue their mission thanks to the support and the collaboration of the competent and convinced lay people who have taken on this responsibility. These past few years, new insertions in disadvantaged areas have taken place in Burkina Faso, in Peru, in the Philippines…. Ministry with youth is active and many interesting initiatives have been created. An orphanage will soon open its doors in the Philippines, thanks to your solidarity.
A secret to discover Challenges are plentiful today, just like in Marie Rivier’s time. It is therefore important to know where this little woman, with fragile health, drew her unquenchable ardor to respond to the needs of her time. Those of you, who have had the privilege of visiting the places of origin of our Congregation in France and to stop in Montpezat, know the answer! In the church of Marie Rivier’s native village, is a Pietà. It is an austere sculpture that resembles many others of that period but for us, it has a particular attraction. Indeed, what can be more heartrending than a mother holding in her arms the lifeless body of her child; whether the child is young or old, the sorrow is the same. It is there, in front of this Mother of sorrows that Marie Rivier’s vocation was fashioned. But what could Marinette understand at this age when most children only think of playing? During her long hours of immobility as an invalid, the little Rivier believed with tenacity that a cure was possible: “Good Mother, cure me and I will bring you little ones and tell them to love you well!” It is this solid and audacious faith that supported her throughout her life, a life which was fraught with difficulties. It is in this intimacy with Mary that Marinette’s heart became filled with the fire of compassion and was opened to the dimension of the world. Presentation of Mary The presence of Mary remains very much alive in the hearts of the daughters of Marie Rivier. Many of them affirm that 6
because of her, they were drawn to the Presentation of Mary. With a confidence similar to Marie Rivier’s, let us pray to Our Lady asking her to awaken in the hearts of many young women the desire to resolutely follow Jesus Christ as committed lay persons or as consecrated women in religious life. Often, despite contradictory appearances, young people have a thirst for the absolute and want to find meaning in their lives. May we know how to challenge them, especially by the witness of our lives. During this year, proclaimed as the Year of New Evangelization, let us intensify our prayer for priestly and religious vocations. The Church needs them more than ever to continue announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ. In our Houses of Prayer, and especially in our communities of elderly sisters, the rosary and times of adoration have a special place. It is a precious support for those who, “in the field” of the mission, have to find words and gestures to touch the lives of the persons in their milieu. Called to Life On February 3rd, we will remember Marie Rivier’s entrance into true Life. Why not seize this opportunity to reflect on our own lives as a preparation for the Life which will never end? This would be one way of becoming more familiar with death and its inevitable sufferings. I admit that this is not exactly our society’s current way of thinking. We tend to take all the means we can to eliminate these realities. But, whether we like it or not, we are simply “passing through” life on this earth 7
and our pilgrimage cannot be lived without a few blisters on our feet. Do you know of any beauty which does not spring forth from suffering? Whether one speaks of a remarkable artist, of an athlete sporting a gold medal, or of a prodigious musician, each one had to pass through an apprenticeship that was long and often painful. Every beginning necessitates a period of giving birth … before joy can burst forth! This, lived in our own way, is the meaning of the great mystery of the death/resurrection of the Lord. The Lord preceded us in order to convince us that, in Him, our sufferings have meaning. Because he has conquered death, we can advance with confidence. What we are presently contemplating of the beauty of Creation and of the light of the stars is only a foretaste of what we will live in His presence on the Day of endless happiness. Blessed are you! Thirty years ago, in a grandiose celebration at St. Peter’s in Rome, the Church proclaimed Marie Rivier “blessed”. She was “blessed” much before that, since her death was in 1838, but as the Bible says, for God “a thousand years are as yesterday!” God’s ways are certainly not ours! And his way of calculating either! He is an expert in multiplication and in superlatives! Just look at the number of stars, the variety of colors and perfumes, the multiplicity of species and the diversity of their beauty.
If the earth is already so beautiful, what will heaven be? Our life on earth is a time of apprenticeship. The luminous splendor of the beatific vision would risk blinding us, if beforehand, we had not trained ourselves to gaze on this invisible beauty. It is in our daily life that we get used to the light of Happiness, by welcoming each day, each event as a gift from God. Let us reread the Beatitudes and ask Marie Rivier to journey with us in this lesson about life since she has become an expert in this area. With such a councilor, let us advance with confidence! The Kingdom “to come” is “already here” every time that we recognize Jesus among us. To all of you, my gratitude for your presence and your support. May the blessings of God reach you and your families wherever you are!
…………………………………………………………. Superior General
February 3, 2013 Castelgandolfo Presentation of Mary 9