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The Life of the Baptized

According to Saint Paul and Marie Rivier

 

“I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me”(Gal 2:20; VJC v 3, p. 173).  We are at the heart of the Pauline doctrine:  the great news is the new life conferred on the baptized by this mysterious death with Christ.  We are also at the center of the spirituality of Marie Rivier: “My life is the life of Jesus Christ” (letter to sister Sophie)

 

Marie Rivier makes hers the baptismal theology of Paul.  Plunged in the waters of baptism, the baptized becomes a new creature.  He enters in communion of life with Christ and becomes one with Him.  Faith centered on the death and resurrection of Christ, elicits the total gift of self to consent to open one’s self to the paschal mystery, to welcome it, to assimilate it, to live it: “The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake (Gal 2:20;VJC  v 3, p.364).

 

Mother Rivier comments that, in Christ, we are called to live of this new life, to go from sin to grace, from vice to virtue, from self-love to the love of God, from the inclinations of the natural man to the new man.  “We have been buried with him by baptism in his death, so that,

as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life” (Rom 6:4; VJC v 3 p. 13-14).

 

Examining this new life, Marie Rivier develops the unbelievable reality of our life in Christ, the aspiration and the aptitude to be conformed with the risen Christ.  Because we are grafted on Christ, our homeland is in heaven. If it is with legitimate pride that Paul affirms: “We are citizens of heaven”, it is with a similar joy that Marie Rivier  encourages her sisters to be “daughters of heaven, to live as risen daughters” (letter to sister Zoé, 1836).

 

Just as Paul reminds the Christians of Colossus their dignity as citizens of heaven and the duties that derive from it, she also exhorts her daughters to live in the knowledge of the mystery of God, in conformity with the truth of their  being.  Marie Rivier confirms our necessary communion with the life of the risen Christ so as not to leave static their union with God received at baptism:  “In fact, you have died and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God”(Col 3:3;VJC v3, p. 299).

 

 Imitating Christ, living of His life, does not happen without the necessary death to self, without asceticism, without consenting to lose one’s life to live united to God in charity. “Whatever the cost, you must detach yourself from everything and die to yourselves so as to belong to God and to God alone”(Sister Sophie, beatification process).

 

We must put on Jesus Christ,  that is, put on his virtues, his humility, his patience, his meekness, his constancy and his obedience.  “Let us give him life for life; let us live only for him; let us die to nature so as to  live only from grace.  Oh blessed death that gives us the life of Jesus Christ and makes us live of the life of Jesus Christ” (VJC v 1, b-20, p.67).

 

 

Marie Rivier, in the footsteps of Paul, expresses the radical handing over of all her  being to Christ in these powerful words on which she will insist many times:  “It is not I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20; VJC v 3 p. 173).

 

 

 

SAINT PAUL – A CREDIBLE MODEL

 

TO BE CHRISTIAN TODAY

Message from the Bishop for Lent 2008

Kurt Koch, Bishop of Basle

 

After the experience of his conversion in Damascus, Paul, the one who was justified by Christ,   grasped by Him, does not live for himself alone and does not have his own justice.  He lives with Christ by self-giving  and by growing in his participation of the destiny of Jesus Christ.  In the very words of Saint Paul : “ I am crucified with Christ; and it is not I  who live now, but Christ who lives in me.  My present life in the flesh, I live it in the faith I put in the Son of God who has loved me and handed himself over for me”(Gal 2:19b-20).

 

Baptism as a mystical process

 

It is with profound words that Saint Paul describes for us what happens at baptism: in

baptism the candidate is enfolded in the movement of Jesus Christ,  moves from death to life, a movement that Saint Paul describes with great insistence in today’s reading (Rom 5:12-19).  In Paul’s eyes, baptism means a radical change in existence, a passage from the “carnal” life, subject to sin and to death, to a “spiritual” life, guided by the Spirit of God, on to liberation toward the truth of our being.  This life must be shaped by a radical change in the way we live; that includes, first of all, living in conformity and in personal friendship with Christ.  For Saint Paul, baptism is not only a sacrament that could be purely external; for him, it is much more the interior transformation of the baptized.

 

For Saint Paul it is not sufficient for us to be baptized; for him it is more decisive that we be “in Christ” and that we live with him.  When Saint Paul emphasizes strongly this interpenetration of Christ and of the baptized, we could speak of an interior dimension, perhaps even a mystical dimension, of the Pauline vision of baptism.

 

Today, we should reorient ourselves from the depth of this vision, for baptism will attain its objective only there, where it invites us to enter into a personal friendship with Christ.  Let us make of this “year of Saint Paul” a wonderful opportunity to delve once again in the precious letters of Saint Paul.

 

 

ramo

The Sufferings of Saint Paul

   “In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything.”  Phil 4:13

It is only Christ Jesus who could uphold the apostle Paul in the struggles and the difficulties of his apostolic life.

In Paul’s apostolate the difficulties that he confronted with courage for love of Christ, were many. He recalls himself having known:  “fatigue… prison… beatings… frequent brushes with death… three times I was beaten with rods;  I was stoned once;  I was shipwrecked three times…; I travelled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles, imperilled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers; enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings, in cold and nakedness.  Leaving other sufferings unmentioned, there is that daily tension pressing on me, my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:23-28).

 

How we must thank the Lord for having given us an Apostle of this calibre!  It is evident that it would have been impossible to face such difficulties and hopeless situations if there had not been reasons of absolute value, before which no boundaries could have been considered  insurmountable.  For  Paul this reason, as we know, is Jesus Christ, of whom he writes: “The love of Christ  impels us who have reached the conviction that since one died for all, all died.  He died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who for their sakes died and was raised up” (2 Cor 5:14-15) for us.

 

The sufferings of Marie Rivier

  “Who will separate us from the love of Jesus Christ? Rom 8:35

 

Marie Rivier was energized by the powerful strength of Jesus Christ.  She would therefore be invincible before the challenges that God inspired her to attempt.

 

The Woman-Apostle in spite of contradictions, difficulties, situations judged impossible, does not hesitate to launch her mission: To make Jesus Christ known and loved.  In spite of her weakness, of her ignorance, the poverty of her means, she does not argue with the will of God.  She is aware that her misery is pleasing to him.

 As Paul does , she boasts of her limits: I am content and I rejoice in my  weakness (2 Cor 12:10, VJC I, p.99). I have neither talents, nor virtue, neither science nor fortune (Letter to the Blessed Virgin 24/08/1835).  To be considered useless or incapable, to see “the wise” smile at her projects, to be handicapped physically by her infirmities, all this is the object of her pride.  When I am weak, that is when I am strong; this is when I am closer to God; This is when the virtue of Jesus Christ lives in me, and is manifested with more brilliance (VJC I p. 100).

To speak of Jesus Christ, nothing will stop the zeal of the Woman-Apostle.  Obstacles are made to be overcome.  In spite of her fears and her worries, the dangers of the road, of rivers and of mountains, the cold or hunger, fever or sickness, nothing will stop her frequent voyages, by horse and buggy or on foot: I feel courageous  and strong for gallivanting. (Letter from Marie Rivier).

 

There are always spiritual and temporal preoccupations, distress, annoyances of all types, and I say: Fiat! And I do the best I can, but never as I would wish.  With that I am at peace, I put all my trust in God and I desire more that ever all that can be for his glory (Letter to Sister d’Alcantara).

 

 

Reflection

It is in our daily life that God invites us to reach the maturity of spiritual life, which consists in living ordinary events in an extraordinary way.

In fact, holiness is acquired by following Jesus, not in escaping from reality and from our trials, but in confronting these with the light and the strength of his Spirit.  All of this finds its deepest meaning in the mystery of the Cross.  Jesus invites the believers to shoulder their cross every day and to follow him (cf. Math 16:24), by imitating him to the total gift of self to God and our brothers.

(…) May Mary sustain us in our daily commitments so that, as the Apostle exhorts us, we do not conform to the mentality of the world, but that we renew our spirit so as to “be able to discern what is the will of God” (Rom 12:2). 

Angelus John Paul II, 01/09/02

ramo

Saint Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ

 

To know Saint Paul is to discover the extraordinary unity between this man and his life.  For him, to be an apostle is to follow Jesus Christ, to make himself a disciple of Jesus Christ and to participate in the life and in the mystery of Jesus Christ.  This is why his apostolic mission takes hold of him in the totality of his being.  His life is the very life of Christ. (Ph 1: 21)

 

In describing his mission Paul defines himself:

 

“Apostle by vocation, set apart by God to preach the Good News.”(Rm 1: 1)

“ Am I not an apostle?” (1 Co:1)

“Servant of God, apostle of Jesus Christ, sent to lead the elect of God to the faith.”(Tt 1: 1)

 “Minister of Christ Jesus to work for the Gentiles.” (Rm 15: 16)

“Priest in preaching the Good News of God.”  (Rm 15: 16)

“Steward of the mysteries of God”  (1 Co 4: 1)

“ Collaborator with God”  (1 Co 3: 9)

 “Messenger of God”  (2 Co 2: 17)

“Ambassador for Christ” (2 Co 5: 20)

“Minister of God”  (2 Co 6: 4)

“Minister of the Gospel”  (Eph3: 7)

 “A teacher of  the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tm 2: 7)

“Herald and apostle to give witness”  (1 Tm 2: 6)

“Herald, apostle and doctor of the Gospel”  (2 Tm 1: 11)

 “Servant of Christ Jesus”  (Rm 1: 1)

“Your servants for the love of the Father”  (2 Co  4: 5)

“ Servants through whom you came to believe”  (1 Co 3: 5)

“Servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Co 4: 1)

How does Paul realize his vocation as an apostle?

Paul is conscious of being “an apostle by vocation”, that is, not by virtue of a spontaneous candidacy  nor of a charge that would have been humanly confided to him, but solely by a call and a divine election.  In his letters, the Apostle of the nations repeatedly states that his whole life is the fruit of the gratuitous initiative and mercy of God (cf 1 Co 15: 9-10; 2 Co 4: 1; Ga 1: 15).   He was chosen to “preach the Gospel of God” (Rm 1: 1), to proclaim far and wide that divine grace reconciles in Christ, man with God, with himself and with others.  The success of his apostolate depends especially  on his personal implication in announcing the Gospel with total devotion to the Christ: a devotion that does not fear risks, difficulties and persecutions: “Neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Rm 8: 38-39), Benedict XVI, June 28 2008 .

Marie Rivier

Apostle of Jesus Christ  

Marie Rivier:  the Woman-Apostle.  Apostle because inhabited by the presence  of Jesus Christ who came to set the world on fire and unceasingly wishes to see it ablaze: Jesus Christ.   Marie Rivier was one of these women and men whom we call Apostles.  She felt she was made to proclaim Jesus Christ, to point to heaven and to lead everyone there, without exception.. (Une flame de feu, p.38) 

By her writings and her “instructions”, Marie Rivier reveals to us a unified life and a spirituality completely centered on Jesus Christ.

Let us be true copies of Jesus Christ.  (Letter 05)

 Walk courageously in the footsteps of Jesus your divine Model.  (Letter 834)

Do nothing without consulting Jesus Christ.  (Letter 559)

Oh! My children, if we only had the spirit and the heart of Jesus Christ. (VJC II p 183).

The reason is that your vocation is a vocation of zeal, and that like Christ Jesus, we are called to work for the salvation of others.  (SV, p. 48).

Jesus Christ asks of you a burning zeal for his glory.  (Corr. To Sister Fabienne).

I thirst for the salvation of souls, to procure the glory of God (VJC).

Work every day to procure the glory of God by sacrificing yourself for the salvation of souls.  (Letter 100)

Oh! Lord, I would go to the ends of the world to win hearts. (VJC II, p. 176-178) Would that I had a thousand bodies to be able to work all over the world to make Jesus Christ known! (Bringing the Fire p. 34)

We need fire and zeal in action, and not despondency before small difficulties. (Letter 898)

We will always thirst for prayer, reflection and the Word of God. (VJC II, 176-178)

Crosses!  I believe that they give me strength. (Corr. Sister Valentine)

I want to do everything and to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ. (In the Fire of Her Tender Love, p. 191)

How does Marie Rivier realize her vocation as an apostle?

She allows herself to be led by Him who consecrated her and sent her forth: she goes forward in faith, with firm hope.  She lets God instruct her…  She is convinced that she has been chosen by God to do the work of God.

The action of Marie Rivier is the action of Christ at work in her.  Her being is Christ.  Christ is in her and she lives in Christ.  Like Paul, losing herself in Christ brings about a union of life, a communion of thought, a fusion of hearts: “It is Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2b: 20).

  Marie Rivier does not rely on herself, but hopes for everything from the grace of God, leaning on his strength, reflecting all glory back to Him:  “It is not that we are so competent, all our competence comes from God” ( 2 Co 3: 5).And God gave her the gifts of an apostle: a love of truth,  an  assurance founded on faith enabling her to witness to the Good News brought by Jesus Christ.  Totally aware of being guided by the hand of God, she adopts as her own,  the word of Paul: “It is by the grace of God that I am who I am, and the grace which was given to me has not been wasted.  Indeed, I have worked harder that all the others, not I but the grace of God which is with me”. (1 Co 1 : 10)   (from: La Femme-Apôtre dans le sillage de saint Paul)

 

ramo

Saint Paul and Marie Rivier

 The same vocation:  JESUS CHRIST

 

The  Vocation of Paul

 

It was on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of year 30 that Saul, according to his own words, was “grasped” by Christ” (Ph 3: 12).  Whereas Luke relates the event with an abundance of details – how the light of the Risen One touched him and deeply changed his whole life – in his letters Paul goes directly to what is essential and speaks, not only of the vision (1 Cor 9:1), but of illumination (2 Cor 4:6) and especially of revelation and of vocation in his meeting with the Risen One (Gal 1:15-16).  In fact, he defines himself explicitly as an “apostle by vocation” (Rm1:1; 1Cor 1: 1) or “apostle by the will of God” (2 Cor 1:1; Ep 1:1; Col 1:1), as if to emphasize the fact that his conversion was not the result of evolving thoughts or of reflection, but the fruit of an unforeseeable divine grace.  From that moment on, all that had been of value to him paradoxically became, in his own words, “complete loss and rubbish” (Ph 3:7-10).  And from then on all his energies were placed at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and of his Gospel.” (1 Co 9:22).  (Catechesis of Benedict XVI , Rome, October 25th  2006.)

 

The Vocation of Marie Rivier

 

Behind the altar of the Penitents in Montpezat, Mother Rivier was very soon filled with the presence of Jesus Christ.  Like Paul on the road to Damascus, she met the Christ: “It pleased Him who had especially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb to reveal His Son in me” (Gal 1:15).  Early on she is conscious of being called for a particular mission… “Our vocation, she would say, is Jesus Christ”. Like all apostles Marie Rivier becomes “an instrument of choice”, to announce the Good News.  Is she not, like Paul, “appointed by God to be an apostle by the decision of God who has called her?” (1 Cor 1: 1)

 

Throughout her mission, she goes forward in faith because the challenge exceeds her human strength and thus it cannot be her own personal work.  All is rooted in the contemplation of Him whom she saw in the arms of His Mother. “I am in Jesus Christ and nothing in the world will separate me from Him”(VJC t.2, p.103). Marie Rivier is aware that Christ is calling her to take part in His mission of salvation.  She must be more than a servant, more than a disciple, more than a friend; rather, she must be a “new living Jesus Christ.” In one of her talks on Jesus Christ, she told her daughters: “It is necessary that He speak in us as He spoke in Saint Paul, it is necessary that He act in us and that He live in us in such a way that we may say like the great apostle Paul: ‘It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me.’”(ES p.2).

 

Reflection

 

 “In order to be more courageous in our Christian life, we need

Saint Paul and his teachings. Especially, we need to experience the encounter that changed the life of Paul of Tarsus and the whole course of the history of the Church and of the world:  the encounter of Paul with Jesus. His encounter with Jesus made Him strong to meet all men, so as to be, as he said ‘all to all,’ so that every person might obtain intelligence by knowing Christ and thus, conquer the world and all people to Jesus Christ.

 

Today, more than ever, the world needs this real encounter with  Christ in faith, so that  all people will be able to face  bravely the world, nature, the environment, creation in all its elements, so that human beings may truly rule this creation as God intended him to.  The encounter with God is the basis of the encounter between civilizations, cultures, peoples and between diverse nations in their uniqueness and in their beliefs.  The encounter with the person of Jesus Christ is the foundation of worldwide understanding, of authentic globalization.” (Homily of His Beatitude the patriarch Gregory III Laham, Thursday May 8 2008, in the basilica of Saint-Paul-outside-the –Walls.)

 

Prayer to Saint Paul

 

Glorious Saint Paul,

Apostle full of zeal,

Martyr for love of Christ,

obtain for us a deep faith,

a firm hope, and

a burning love for the Lord

that we may say with you:

“It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Help us to become apostles

who serve the Church with a pure conscience,

and witnesses of her grandeur and of her beauty

in the midst of the difficulties of our times.

With you, we praise God our Father:

‘To Him be glory, in the Church and in the Christ

for all ages and for all times’.

Amen

 

 

Prayer of Marie Rivier

for all the members of her great family

 

“I never fail to thank God for you,

remembering you in my prayers:

may the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of glory,

give you a spirit of wisdom

and a perception of revelation

to bring you the full knowledge of Him

and may He enlighten the eyes of your mind

so that you may know what hope

His call holds for you;

what is the wealth of glory of the heritage

that He reserves for the saints,

and what is for us who believe

the infinite grandeur of His power

manifested effectively

by virtue of His strength.”

(Ep 1:16 ff)

 

 

ramo

PAULINE YEAR

 

This year we will celebrate the bimillennium of the birth of Saint Paul.  For this occasion, Pope Benedict XVIth has invited us to make of the year 2008-2009 an interior pilgrimage following in the footsteps of Paul.  This is a way of reminding us that the Church needs, more than ever, witnesses that are similar to Saint Paul, capable of giving their lives for Christ as he did.

 

Paul experienced an encounter that turned his life upside-down.  From being a persecutor, he became a disciple of Jesus, one who could say: “It is no longer I that lives, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2: 20).  Following the example of Paul, men and women today continue to allow themselves to be transformed by Christ.

 

How can we not think of Marie Rivier, this woman of fire who had a loving heart, a living faith and a bold hope?  Her life was one of a woman captured by Christ: “My life is Christ” she would say and “I could not sleep at night if during the day I had not spoken of Jesus Christ.”  Her frequent conferences are centred on Jesus Christ: “I want to speak to you only about Jesus Christ and teach you how to love him and imitate him unceasingly.  This is the whole of our vocation.”

 

Marie Rivier became a disciple of Paul because she found in this Apostle her path for following Jesus Christ.  Not only does she often quote Saint Paul in her writings, but she names him explicitly several times in her letters and conferences: “Let us put on Jesus Christ (…) so that we might be everywhere, as Saint Paul says, the good odour of Jesus Christ.”  “ I ardently desire that you might be filled with Jesus Christ; may he be your light, your strength, your all, and may you be able to say, like Saint Paul, it is no longer I that lives, it is Jesus Christ that lives in me.”

 

During the months to come, I invite you to better discover the “woman apostle” in the wake of Paul, this audacious apostle who spread the Good News of the Gospel to all the nations of his time.

 

In order to deepen our knowledge of Saint Paul, there are numerous interesting magazine articles and Web Sites such as www.annopaolino.org  (see its choice for the English language).  In order to better discover Marie Rivier as a disciple of Saint Paul, you will find each month on this site texts that will be taken from our family treasures:  Temps Rivier, Cahier 2, January 1988 as well as a research paper written by Sister Geneviève Couriaud on Marie Rivier, Disciple of Saint Paul.  Thank you to Sister Germaine Boivin, Sister Patricia Sofia Mendonça and Sister Marie de Lourdes as well as to our translators who, using their various competencies, will facilitate this interior pilgrimage for you. 

 

Like Saint Paul, like Marie Rivier, may we find our joy in proclaiming Jesus Christ!  Let us be an open Gospel where all might read Jesus Christ. 

                                                            Sr. Angèle Dion p.m.

                                                             Superior General

 

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