Bl. Marie Deluil-Martiny of Jesus, Virgin and Martyr
Memorial: February 27
Consecrated to the Mother of God by her own mother while in the womb, Marie Deluil-Martiny was born in Marseille, France, on May 28, 1841, the firstborn of five children in a very distinguished family. (Through her mother, she was the great niece of Ven. Anne-Madeleine Remuzat, who helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart.) Called by one 19th century prelate “the St. Teresa [of Avila] of our century,” she still captivates all who encounter her due to the depth of her teaching and the holiness of her life.
Bright, even brilliant, highly educated, and very curious about society and history, she desired from an early age to consecrate herself to God in a unique way that would lead others to gradually experience an explosion of love for Him.
Not surprisingly, she was a precocious child. For instance, at age 15, she led some school friends in establishing a new “religious community,” the “Oblates of Mary. Amazingly the Sisters who taught Marie complained about her “mischief” to St. Eugene de Mazenod, archbishop of Marseille. He calmly told them, “She will be St. Marie of Marseille.” Nonetheless the Sisters dissolved the group.
At age 17, she went on a retreat to discern her vocation. During it she wrote in her journal, “Jesus Christ is the only One to love. At my death, I would like to have loved no one but Him…. To live properly in the world, I must abhor sin and flee its occasions, hate the world and what is of the world … Come and follow Me, Jesus said. O God, how beautiful these words are! … It is mine if I want it!”
So it was that, despite having several proposals of marriage, she discerned a calling to make herself entirely His.
t was around this same time that she went to confession to St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars, and revealed to him her desire for a religious vocation. He told her, “Yes, it is wholly the will of God, but you will have to wait a long time in the world.”
And so Marie took a private vow of perpetual virginity, even though she would not be in a monastery. She could not be. All of her siblings had died. Furthermore, the strain of this loss compounded with her father’s going broke left her parents in need of care. So she stayed and looked after them. In the meantime, she resolved to proclaim Christ by performing a hundred good works, serving the poor, helping the priests and missions, and spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Marie even assisted St. Daniel Comboni during his travels in France.
St. Daniel Comboni
According to the Monks of Clairval, who write many excellent saints biographies, “In 1864, she learned about a new association, started by a nun from the Visitation Convent in Bourg-en-Bresse, called the ‘Honor Guard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.’ Its purpose was to glorify, love and console the Sacred Heart through the offering of oneself with Him in a life of prayer, penance, and charity, in reparation for the sins of the world. Marie soon received from it the title ‘First Zealot’ for the work she did in spreading its printed materials, pictures, and medals throughout the world to many souls, including bishops.”
Two years later, she went to hear Fr. Jean Calage, SJ, preach on the Sacred Heart, and she was enthralled by his explanation of the significance of the water and blood that gushed forth from the side of Our Lord.
Afterward, she approached him and confided her frustration at not being able to enter a convent. He told her, “You are called, that is for certain, but the time has not yet come. Entering religious life at the present time would disrupt God’s plans. He has special plans for your soul… You must prepare yourself through detachment from yourself.”
Thanks to this spiritual guidance, she kept faith and persevered while God purified her soul. During this time she spent hours before the Tabernacle, praying, seeking, meditating on the things of God, and like Our Lady, keeping them all in her heart.
One topic that captured much of attention was this: She knew the Lord wanted her to cooperate with Him in making reparation for sins (cf. Col 1:24), but what did that mean?
Then on September 7, 1867, as she prayed before the Real Presence, she heard Jesus tell her, “I am not known, I am not loved… I wish to make souls for Myself who understand Me… I am a torrent that wants to overflow and whose waters can no longer be held back!… I wish to make Myself cups so as to fill them with the waters of My love… I am thirsty for hearts who appreciate Me and who enable Me to fulfill the goal for which I am here! I am insulted, I am desecrated. Before the end of time, I want to be compensated for all the insults I have received… I want to distribute all the graces that have been refused…!”
In response, Marie wrote in her prayer journal, “The world no longer wants Him. Today, some blush at Him, while others hate Him and scorn Him. They try to chase Him from hearts and from society. To these dishonors, scorn, and satanic profanities, let us answer loud and clear: He must reign!”
The next year, praying before a statue of Our Lady of La Salette, she felt the following inspiration: “The Blessed Virgin wants victims who, in union with her pierced heart (cf. Luke 2:35) and with Jesus sacrificed, interpose themselves between the crimes of men and the justice of God.”
This prompted from her this prayer: “O Jesus, receive me from the hands of the Most Blessed Virgin and offer me with You, sacrifice me with You… I offer myself for this sacrifice as much as You wish and my weakness allows… I will consider all the crosses, all the sufferings that Your Providence sends me as proofs that You have accepted my humble offering.”
It was around this time that the seeds of the religious order she wound found were planted in her mind. She wrote, “Just as Mary on Calvary, united to the Eternal Priest, offered her Divine Son, and then renewed this offering through the hands of St. John, the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, united with all the priests in the world, will offer the Eucharistic Jesus sacrificed on every altar. They will especially offer the Blood and Water that came forth from the divine wound of the Sacred Heart. They will be the adorers of the Eucharist solemnly exposed in the chapels of their convents, and will dedicate themselves to surrounding Him with the most profound signs of respect and love. This will be their life, their reason for being…”
God took her prayer seriously, for “humiliating trials” followed. To strengthen her, Fr. Calage wrote, “Strive to abase your spirit. Your soul is malleable, and you are obedient, but your spirit must be humbled… The ordinary means that God uses to humble the spirit are humiliations and temptations. They show you what you are without grace, something hideous and abominable.”
In time, God’s plans for her life came to fruition. She was ready to found her religious order. However the political situation made it impossible to do so in France. So with the invitation of the Belgian Msgr. Oswald van den Berghe, rector of the world’s first basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart, she moved to Berchem, Belgium. There, on June 20, 1873, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she founded the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus.
Their charism was devotion to the Sacred Heart, living a cloistered life, adoration of the Eucharist, prayer, and offering their sufferings for a) the conversion of a world that is far from God and b) the sanctification of priests.
The center, in fact the only One in her life, was the eucharistic Jesus offered to the Father on all the altars of the world, present in the Tabernacle, worshiped night and day, and experienced in the intimacy of sanctifying grace and charity. She took the name Mother Marie of Jesus, saying her model in doing so was Our Lady.
She didn’t impose austere penances or direct the Sisters to seek out these. Instead, she said, “The sufferings caused by heat or cold are good windfalls for a mortified soul. To say nothing on these occasions is a precious mortification, because no one sees or notices it; everything is for Jesus alone.”
Furthermore Our Lady had told her in prayer, “For the future institute, the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the celestial offering of the Divine Victim sacrificed on the altar, will compensate most excellently for the corporal mortifications that some constitutions can no longer bear.”
So many young people flocked to the new foundation of Mother Marie, that she soon founded two other monasteries, one in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the other on some property she inherited from her mother, La Servianne in Marseille.
Having grown so much in intimacy with Jesus, she taught how to have this intimacy with Him by being a gift to her “daughters,” who loved her like a mother. She wasn’t always easy. Mothers rarely are. In fact, the good ones aren’t. But they knew she loved them and wanted the greatest good for them. Indeed she sat with them for hours when they got sick and cared for them herself.
Her selfless attitude is summed up in a letter she penned to one of her spiritual offspring. In it she wrote, “Isn’t it ridiculous for us to spend our time thinking about ourselves, admiring ourselves, or complaining, getting upset over our little troubles which seem so big to us, limiting ourselves by groaning over our misfortunes, when the great plans of God and the salvation of souls are calling us, when we have a God to love and serve, and souls to help and save? We are like a man who, in the middle of a terrible fire that is burning down his house, and that is going to kill his mother, his father, his children, instead of hurrying to put it out, is in a corner wailing that his clothes got soiled from carrying buckets of water, and is busy picking off, with lamentations, each bit of ash that got on his clothes. Oh! That is what we do when, in the midst of this unhappy world that is trying to burn down the Church and that insults Jesus Christ Our Lord, we spend our time complaining about our ills or our own trials, etc. We shrink in on ourselves when we could expand in embracing God, and become saints by serving His cause through our renunciations and sacrifices. A good flap of the wings and, with the aid of grace, let us rise up, let us leave the earth—above all, leave ourselves—and no longer see anything but Jesus!”
In September 1883, she hired 21-year-old Louis Chave. From a poor family and orphaned at 10, he was destitute, so she took him on “to pull him out of poverty. But soon, he showed himself to be lazy, rude, and demanding, and moreover, was involved with the anarchists” (who also were typically atheists who hated Catholicism). So Mother fired him.
On February 27, 1884, Ash Wednesday, Mother Marie of Jesus was taking her recreation by walking in the garden at La Servianne. Chave lay in wait, and when she came to where he was hiding, he jumped out. She spoke a kind word to him, and he responded with his revolver, plugging one bullet into her head and another into her neck, severing the carotid artery, and doing so simply out of hatred for the faith. Thus she this victim soul died as a “virgin and martyr,” which she had always wanted. Her last words were “I forgive him … for the Institute!”
Chave later died in a shootout with police. A note he left behind showed his was a premeditated act, that he had wanted to start a revolution, and the first act was killing this good woman.
When Mother’s body was exhumed on March 4, 1989, in preparation for her beatification, she was found to be incorrupt.
On October 22, 1989, Pope St. John Paul II beatified her at St. Peter’s in Rome.
With her humble and extraordinary life, filled as it was with the love of giving and incredible joy, she shows us that Jesus’ Crucifixion and the Eucharist—because these are the center of everything—are the only source from which to draw upon the real life of grace and holiness. And the Virgin Mary is our model and guide to Him.
For information, please contact:
Daughters of the Heart of Jesus
Via dei Villini, 34