“The story of the life of Madame Rivier is almost solely the story of her devotion to the Blessed Virgin, of an uninterrupted reciprocity of trust and favors, of prayers and graces obtained by the intercession of the Virgin Mary.”
-Monsieur Hamon – The first biographer of Blessed Marie Rivier
THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY
It is in Montpezat, at the foot of the Pietà, that little Marie Rivier lets herself be seized by a mystery that is beyond her comprehension. From this long contemplation of the dead Son being offered and of his broken-hearted Mother, she will learn the depths to which an offering of love can lead. Like Jesus and Mary, Marie Rivier’s heart will become ever more deeply a heart filled with compassion.
We can affirm that, from her childhood to the very last hours of her life, Marie Rivier placed herself totally in the hands of the Virgin Mary. Over the course of their encounters, a kind of complicity was created between Marie Rivier and the Virgin Mary, one that deepened over the years.
The Virgin Mary is Marie Rivier’s foremost formator. She teaches her Jesus Christ and the meaning of adoration and offering. The mystery of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is the perfect response to the deepest desires of Marie Rivier’s heart: “She always wanted her life to be a continuous Presentation: Here I am!” The feast of November 21st is closely linked to the offering of Jesus, the perfect Servant, who offered himself for the salvation of the world: Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require, so I said: “Here I am to do your will” (Ps 40). Therefore, it is not surprising to see Marie Rivier in awe before the mystery of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: “This feast suffocates me by the ardent desires it awakens in me to sacrifice myself with Jesus Christ”.
MARIE RIVIER and the HISTORY OF FOUNDATION
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary was founded in Thueyts (Ardèche) in the Diocese of Viviers at the end of the 18th century.
The Foundress, Marie RIVIER, was born in Montpezat, France, on December 19, 1768. She was not yet five years old when she felt a strong urge to dedicate her life to God to teach catechism to children. Deprived of the use of her legs following a fall she had at the age of sixteen months, she tirelessly begged Our Lady: “Blessed Virgin, heal me and I will gather children for you. I will make a school for them and teach them to love you. It is there, at the foot of the Pietà that our Congregation was born.
At this School of the Cross and of the heart, Marie Rivier takes on ever more deeply, the sentiments of Jesus and his Mother. Her heart learns to love, to love tenderly, intensely, to the very end.
With Our Lady of Mercy, her compassionate heart opens to all types of suffering.
Partially healed on September 8, 1774, she obtained her complete healing three years later on another feast of Mary, that of her Assumption. From then on, she only lives to fulfil her promise, certain that she can expect everything from the Blessed Virgin. This confidence in Mary will be hers during the whole of her life.
On November 21, 1796, in the midst of revolutionary turmoil and against the rules of human prudence, faithful to her promise, she founded her Institute, with the approval of the Vicar General of the Diocese, Monsieur Régis Vernet, priest of Saint-Sulpice who became the Counsellor and Father of the new foundation. With four companions, she consecrates herself to God and dedicates herself to the Christian instruction of youth.
Her burning love for God, her daring zeal, her passion to make Jesus Christ known and loved to the ends of the earth, her tender and boundless charity for the afflicted, the poor and the abandoned children, made Pius IX call her the Woman Apostle. She died in the hunger of her zeal on February 3, 1838. Saint John Paul II beatified her on May 23, 1982.
Marie Rivier founded 141 schools during her lifetime. She predicted: “My daughters will cross the seas”. Less than twenty years after her death, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, began to spread to other European countries and established themselves in America. The daughters of the Woman Apostle have crossed the seas. Foundations have multiplied on all four continents: America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
THE INTERIOR STRENGTH
Marie Rivier was convinced of the urgency of prayer for an apostolic life. She placed particular emphasis on the spirit of prayer, the “interior retreat”, the presence of God, the state of adoration and offering in which “it was necessary to remain”. She was convinced that “nothing could be done without prayer”.
Since the foundation of the Congregation, Marie Rivier always carried in her heart the project of a house full of adorers who would attract grace, blessing and mercy on the Institute. To make this project a reality, the Congregation ensures the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and has spiritual centers and chapels of adoration.