A stained glass window depicting Blessed Marie Rivier in the motherhouse of Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in France. | Public domain
Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to Blessed Marie Rivier, a French nun who founded a religious congregation amid the French Revolution.
The miracle involved the healing of a newborn baby in the Philippines in 2015 through the intercession of Rivier, who can now be canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church.
The baby girl was healed of hydrops fetalis, according to Vatican News. This is a life-threatening condition in which there is a buildup of fluids around the lungs and heart.
Pope Francis authorised the advancement of Rivier’s cause, along with five other causes for sainthood, in a decree on Dec. 13.
Rivier was born in southern France on Dec. 19, 1768. She suffered from a disability for much of her childhood after falling out of bed as a toddler and seriously injuring her hip.
The injury impaired her development, causing her joints to swell and her limbs to shrink. Rivier could hardly stand with the help of crutches, according to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Her health problems also hindered her desire to enter religious life. At the age of 17, a religious order, the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Pradelles, turned her away on account of her poor health.
Rivier persevered and the following year she opened a Catholic school in the town of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on the Swiss border. She helped to train unemployed women in her parish and cared for the sick and the poor.
As the French Revolution forced convents and monasteries across France to close and priests and nuns were martyred under the Reign of Terror, Rivier founded a religious community.
In 1796, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, which was dedicated to education of young girls in the faith. The congregation received official approval in 1801 and expanded across France.
Within a few decades of Rivier’s death in 1838, her congregation had spread to Canada and the United States. Today the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary are present on five continents.
At her beatification in 1982, Pope John Paul II spoke of the ardour of Rivier’s apostolate during and after the French Revolution and her faith amid physical infirmity.
“What was the secret of Marie Rivier’s zeal? One is struck by her boldness, her tenacity, her contagious joy, her courage,” John Paul II said in his homily.
“Her life shows well the power of faith in a simple and upright soul, which entrusts itself entirely to the grace of its baptism. She trusts God to the end, and he purifies her through the cross. She prays intensely to Mary and, with her, appears before God in an attitude of adoration and offering,” he said.
The date of Rivier’s canonization has yet to be announced.
With the decree, Pope Francis also approved a miracle attributed to Servant of God Maria Carola Cecchin, an Italian nun who died while serving as a missionary in Kenya in 1925.
Born in 1877 in Padua, Italy, Cecchin also experienced health problems that led her to be turned away from the first religious order that she asked to join at the age of 18.
Cecchin was eventually able to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo in Turin thanks to the advocacy of her parish priest and spiritual director.
After making her religious profession, Cecchin was sent to Kenya as a missionary sister at the age of 28. She would stay in Kenya for 20 years. She died of an illness on a steamship on her return journey to Italy at the age of 48.
With the approval of the miracle attributed to her intercession, Cecchin can now be beatified.
Pope Francis also recognized the heroic virtues of an Italian missionary priest in Uganda, Father Bernardo Sartori (1897-1983); a Spanish priest, Father Andrés Garrido Perales (1663-1728); an Italian Capuchin, Father Carlo Maria da Abbiategrasso (1825-1859); and a Polish religious sister, Sister Maria Małgorzata of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony in the Garden (1896-1966).