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February 3

St Marie Rivier Statue at Rivier University - February 3

Saint Marie Rivier

Nun, “The Woman Apostle”

Foundress of Sisters of the Presentation of Mary

(1768 – 1838)

“These refusals only inflamed my desires; since they won’t let me into the convent, I will make make my own convent!”

Saint Marie Rivier

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life

Marie was born on December 19, 1768, in the village of Montpezat-sous-Bauzon, Ardèche in the mountains of southern France. She was the third child of Marie-Anne Combe and Jean-Baptiste Rivier. On December 21, Marie was baptized in the church of Notre-Dame de Prévenchères.

Toward the end of April 1770, at the age of sixteen months, Marie fell out of bed and injured her hip and ankle so badly that she completely lost the use of her feet and could not even stand, much less walk. Lying on her back, she would laboriously use her little hands to creep forward bit by bit. Her disability increased from day to day, because her legs developed slowly and became crooked. The child kept getting weaker and more frail.

Her mother, a woman of faith, entrusted ‘Marinette’ (Marie Rivier’s nickname) to Our Lady of Sorrows. Every day, she left the little girl at the foot of the Pietà, the sorrowful Mother holding her dead Son on Her lap. From her earliest childhood Marie had a tender love for the Blessed Mother, and when she had reached the age of six the thought occurred to her to entrust herself unreservedly to the Blessed Virgin for life.  Each day, Marinette would say, “It is today that the Blessed Virgin will heal me.” The four years of her early life were spent in expectation of healing, contemplation, supplications and promises. The Mother of God answered Marie’s confident act of devotion on August 15, 1777, by obtaining for her a complete and miraculous healing at the age of nine.

Thanks to Blessed Mary

Now it was up to Marie, who had been miraculously restored to health to find the right way of expressing her thanks to Mary. First Marie thought of a life of continual prayer in a wilderness retreat. This intention, though, quickly turned out to be impractical. Since she could not become a hermit, she became a ‘woman apostle’, as she was characterised by Pope Pius IX. She recalled the resolution she had made as a little child to lead many children to their heavenly Mother. Now she put this into practice. She looked up other girls her own age, gathered them around, and began to instruct them in the truths of the faith. Soon her comrades were calling her the ‘petite Maman’ (little Mum). They respected and loved her accordingly. Above all, Marie took care of poor, needy, and sick children.

Foundress of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary

In 1780, Marie left home to pursue her education at the boarding school run by the Sisters of Notre-Dame, in Pradelles (Haute-Loire). At seventeen years of age, she wished to become a religious in this congregation and thus requested entry to their novitiate. She was refused, because of her short stature and poor health. “Well, then,” she said, “since they don’t want me in the convent, I’ll found one myself.”

After returning to Montpezat in 1786, Marie opened a school. Despite the skepticism of many people, she remained steadfast. Marie had exceptional gifts as a teacher and an educator in the faith. After her school in Montpezat was closed, Marie took the road on the slope of the Gravenne volcano and went to Thueyt. Here, Marie opened a new school and eventually founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary on November 21, 1796.

French Revolution Did Not Stop Marie

During the Reign of Terror in France, when nobody would dare to call himself a Christian, Marie held secret Sunday assemblies and catechized not only children but their parents as well. Little by little, God sent qualified teachers to the young Congregation. Whenever the shortage of such teachers became too acute, Marie wrote to the Virgin Mary and placed her letters beneath the feet of her statues. Because of her filial trust in the Holy Mother of Jesus, she was never disappointed. When difficulties were overwhelming, Marie told her Sisters, “Our work stems wholly from God, and he does not want anything human in it—neither support nor the people’s praise.” In 1801, Monsieur Régis Vernet, confirmed Marie in her duties as superior. The foundress received the name Sister Anne-Marie.

Marie’s Work

Marie believed that without the family, the school cannot ensure a solid Christian formation. That is why she gathered the mothers of families and young women; the men came as well. Marie evangelized, exhorted, and catechized. She took the shepherding ministry of priests decimated by the Terror, and organized assemblies of prayer and Christian formation. Neighboring villages clamored for the Sisters to also come to them. Marie used to say: “Would that we had enough Sisters to make the Lord known and loved everywhere! I suffer ever more, knowing that so many parishes have no one to show them the way to heaven.”

Her Works

In about twenty years, from 1796 to 1815, Marie opened more than 150 schools in L’Ardèche and in nearby places in France. Soon, the first motherhouse in Thueyts became too small for the community. In 1819, the community moved to a very big house in Bourg-Saint-Andéol. She said: “If I had had money to undertake my foundations, I never would have been able to manage. Since I had nothing, I always thought that God would do everything.”

Despite her continuous poor health, Mother Rivier visited the foundations of the Congregation and established new ones, never compromising on the goal: “proclaiming Christ Jesus.” She welcomed orphans, and each time that the community experienced a more acute shortage of food, she welcomed one more orphan. Divine Providence never failed her. She watched over the formation of her sisters with the greatest care, a formation that consisted in “knowing Christ Jesus and living Christ Jesus in all his mysteries” throughout the liturgical year.

In 1822, Marie gave her daughters the Rule of Life, which was finally published.

Her Death

When Marie died on February 3, 1838 in Bourg-Saint-Andéol, Ardèche, France, there were more than 350 sisters and 114 foundations. Her final message: “I bequeath to you the spirit of prayer.”  Today, there are over 3,000 Sisters working in France, Switzerland, Canada, United States, England, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mozambique, Japan, Philippines, Senegal-Gambia, Ireland, Peru, Brazil, Cameroon, and Ecuador.

Born:                   December 19, 1768 in Montpezat-sous-Bauzon, Ardèche, France

Died:                   February 3, 1838 in Bourg-Saint-Andéol, Ardèche, France

Beatified:           May 23, 1982 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:        May 15, 2022 by Pope Frances

Feast Day:         February 3

Patron Saint:    Candidate for Catechists who work in Anti-Catholic Environment

Source:

Reflection

St. Marie Rivier had faith in God to provide for her.  She did not let any of her physical disabilities limit any activity for this 4-foot 4-inch “giant” who went onto found her own new order, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and over a 100 convents and schools in France. St Marie Rivier did all this amazing work keeping the Faith alive during the French Revolution in an environment of poverty and religious suppression. St. Marie River is “one who did the ordinary with an extraordinary sense of purpose”.  Today, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary are active in 20 countries spanning five continents.

What physical limitations do you think you have? Remember that God calls us all to be Saints. Whether young or old, pray for God to give you the grace, wisdom and strength do his Will today to allow the people you meet to keep the Faith through your example.

Prayers

St. Marie Rivier, thank you for your witness of lasting and enduring faith while carrying your own cross of your physical disabilities. Grant us strength and endurance so that each day we can be a blessing for others and bear our own cross of our own shortcomings with patience. Amen.

St. Marie Rivier, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Black Cordelias – Blessed Marie Ann Rivier, February 3

Catholic365 – Getting to know St. Marie Rivier

Catholic Online – Bl. Marie Rivier

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Marie Rivier

Davao Catholic Herald – Who is Saint Marie Rivier?

Prayers4Reparation – A Short Biography of Blessed Marie Rivier

Rivier University – The Canonization of Saint Marie Rivier

Saint Joseph Abbey – A little woman four foot four in stature

Salt and Light Catholic Media – Saint Marie Rivier: The Woman-Apostle by Kristina Glicksman

Santi e Beati – Saint Marianna Rivier Virgin and founder February 3rd

Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (Canada) – Blessed Anne-Marie Rivier Novena

Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (USA) – The Life of Saint Anne Marie Rivier

The Catholic Register – Canadian sisters celebrate sainthood of St. Marie Rivier by Quinton Amundson

Vatican News – Pope clears French nun for sainthood

Wikipedia – Anne-Marie Rivier

Video Link