The Foyers de Charité were founded in 1936 as a result of the meeting between Marthe Robin (1902-1981) and a priest of the diocese of Lyon, Fr Georges Finet (1898-1990).
Marthe, who had been sick since the age of 16, was bedridden in her house in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, a small village in the Drôme. She experienced the illness in an intense mystical union with God, surrendered to Mary. Her inner union with Jesus was such that, every Friday, she experienced the sufferings of the Passion of Christ.
Shortly afterwards, she received from God the inspiration to open “foyers of light, charity and love” for the renewal of the Church and the evangelisation of the world.
I have a request for you that comes from God: you must come to Châteauneuf to found the first Foyer de Charité.Marthe to Fr Finet
On 10 February 1936, Fr Finet met this radiant young woman despite her illness. Marthe spoke to him about the plan that God had entrusted to her. On behalf of the Lord, she asked him to found the first Foyer de Charité in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure and to preach retreats for five days in silence. Fr Finet agreed after initially being taken aback. The first retreat took place in September 1936 in the girls’ school of Châteauneuf-de-Galaure. A few months later, Fr Finet obtained permission from his bishop to fulfil his mission on a full-time basis at Châteauneuf.
Marthe Robin’s fruitful spiritual life
Marthe’s radiating influence was extraordinary as she welcomed thousands of visitors, one after the other, in her small room of Châteauneuf-de-Galaure. She experienced an inner silence that deepened over time, to the point where she surrendered herself totally to the will and merciful love of God. She interceded for each person, particularly for priests. Until the very end of her life, she supported the efforts made to obtain the recognition of the Foyers de Charité as a lay community, which was concluded in 1986. At the time of her death, 52 Foyers de Charité had been founded.
Marthe lived out her holiness in a simple and humble way. Subsequently, the members of the Foyers de Charité, both lay people and priests, and all those who received her call to work for the renewal of the Church, made their own commitment to follow in her footsteps.