Marthe Robin and the Foyers of Charity
by Martin Blake
Nottingham, England: Theotokos Books, 2010
Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
Marthe Robin and the Foyers of Charity was written to help introduce more of the English-speaking world to the French Servant of God Marthe Robin, a suffering soul who lived solely for God. Robin lived from 1902-1981 and neither ate nor drank for many years of her life. Her only nourishment came from her weekly Eucharist. At age 26, she was paralyzed. She would spent most of her life on a divan bed in a darkened room. Yet, she met with over a hundred thousand people who sought her spiritual advice, left behind a great deal of writings, and began a lay movement known as the “Foyers of Charity.”
Relatively healthy as a child, her health began to decline when she was sixteen. She began to understand that her life was to be one of suffering. The early 1920s saw a rapid progression of her physical difficulties. During this period, she experienced some spiritual hardships as well. As biographer Martin Blake states, “Marthe was still torn between giving all to God and hoping for a normal life. It was the priest of Saint-Uze who recalled her saying: ‘I struggled with God!’ The years 1923 to 1925 were filled with anguish.” By 1930, she would totally dedicate herself to Jesus. She wrote, “I dared to choose Jesus Christ. One day, having consecrated myself to Him and received clear proof that my humble act of Abandonment had been accepted, He revealed himself to me and gave himself spiritually to me as the spouse of my soul, living and active.” She would receive the stigmata (the physical wounds of Jesus on the cross) and from 1931 she began to have a weekly experience of the Lord’s Passion.
In 1936, Fr. Georges Finet first met Marthe Robin. Together they would begin “Foyers of Light, Charity, and Love.” These Foyers would consist of consecrated lay people under the direction of a priest. Five day silent retreats would be offered. There are currently “more than seventy Foyers spread over five continents.” Foyers are only formed with the permission of the local Bishop.
In Marthe Robin and the Foyers of Charity, Blake introduces readers to this amazing woman who suffered so much for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. He discusses her life, her mysticism, and her mission. He includes the perspectives of those who knew her and wrote about her. He also explores her connection with St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Faustina Kowalska. While her official designation as “Blessed” is still under consideration, there can be little doubt that she was a holy woman dedicated to God and the Church who can serve as a role model in our spiritual journeys. Hers is an incredible story, well-worth learning about.