Marie Therese de Soubiran (1834 – 1889) is one of the many young women in 19th century France called out of oblivion to become an innovator, called to create a new religious family in the Church, in response to the vision implanted in her heart by the Holy Spirit and in response to a new social situation giving rise to new needs.
Marie Therese was acutely conscious of being a somewhat unwilling recipient of a call she felt was to lead her where she had no wish to go. But from her earliest childhood she had handed herself over in love to her God and her whole life story is one of faithfulness to this irrestible love.
The Joy and Pain of Love
As in any love relationship, there were moments of joy and pain, experiences of overwhelming intimacy and utter desolation. Through her spiritual writings, she allows us glimpses of the story of God’s love in the story of her life, as he patiently and lovingly fashions her, “the work of his hands”, through all the events of a disconcerting spiritual adventure.
Her faith in the love and tenderness of her God never faltered. Even in the solitude of her exile, far from the Congregation she had founded, her heart pours forth a hymn to the “love and mercy” of God. In accents reminiscent of Julian of Norwich, she leaves us with her unshakeable conviction that “All will be well, for myself and for those I love, those whom you love a thousand times more than I could myself”.
A Dream Survives
And indeed 110 years after her death, her vision lives on in the Congregation she founded. Marie Auxiliatrice weathered the storm that almost destroyed it. From the tiny seed sown in an obscure country town in the south of France, a tree emerged whose branches
have spread from Europe as far afield as Cameroon, Japan, Korea, Micronesia and the Philippines. There the Sisters who share Marie Therese’s call, strive to keep alive the vision entrusted to her by the Holy Spirit, for God’s glory and the service of his people.