ST MARIE RIVIER
Anne-Marie Rivier was born on December 19, 1768, in the village of Montpezat-sous-Bauzon in the mountains of southern France. When she was only 16 months old, little Marinette (as she was known to her family) had a terrible accident. Falling off a high bed, she fractured her hip and ankle. Crippled and unable to walk, she used her hands to drag herself around on her back.
Every day, Marinette’s mother brought her poor crippled child to church. Every day for four years, she prayed before a statue of the Pietà – one sorrowing mother to another. And every day, the little child lying on the mat learned from this simple yet powerful witness of her mother’s faith and grew herself in devotion to our Blessed Mother, entrusting herself to her care. And she made a promise that if she were ever to be cured, she would devote herself to the education of children.
On September 8, 1774, the feast of Mary’s Nativity, little Marie unexpectedly found she could walk, and she received a second, further healing three years later on August 15, 1777, the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
Marie Rivier lived during a time of great turmoil. In 1789, social and economic pressures erupted in the French Revolution. No one was unaffected by the changes which swept across the country, including a systematic campaign to remove the Catholic Church and Christianity itself from every part of French existence. At the time it began, Marie was running a school in her hometown, having been rejected by a nearby convent due to her poor physical health.During a time of anti-religious sentiment and persecution, including the expulsion of religious congregations from the country, Marie became a rock in the midst of the storm, leading secret prayer services when there was no priest to say Mass and continuing to catechize the local community.
When the authorities confiscated the school building in 1794, Marie moved her school to the nearby village of Thueyts, where on November 21, 1796, she and four other women dedicated themselves to God and became the first Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (the feast of Mary’s presentation in the Temple being celebrated on November 21).It is a great testament to the courage and faith of this woman that she would found a new religious order in such an unwelcoming time and place. And a testament, too, to the strength of her witness of faith that so many women followed her. Just a year later, when the first members made their religious profession, they had already more than doubled in number.
St. Marie Rivier would be a good patron for catechists who work in hostile anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, or anti-religious environments. Whether they risk their jobs, their status, or even their lives for the sake of bringing Christ to others, they can find in the boldness and zeal of the Woman-Apostle an inspiration and a friend.