Antoinette FAGE (Marie of Jésus) : her first years of life

"Humility brings it about that it is not we who are but God in us."

She grew up in a broken family. Her childhood was passed in poverty and suffering.

Antoinette Fage was born in Paris on the 7 November 1824. She grew up in a totally working-class setting. Her mother was a seamstress and her father, Jean Fage, a soldier, was away when she was born.

 Her childhood was passed in poverty and suffering. Following a fall that was poorly cared for, she remained slightly handicapped and did not grow further, remaining well below average height.

Orphaned at the age of thirteen, she was taken in by neighbours.

"I was so disturbed by this misfortune that my health was shattered. My mother was all I had had in the world... I was an orphan and that word caused me so such pain that I wept every time I heard it."

Later, she decided to live on her own. She worked in a sewing workshop, earning her living by hard work. She integrated concern for her workmates, particularly the apprentices, for their situation and their future, into her professional and spiritual life. With them she lived out friendship and solidarity that extended to sharing. She transformed her suffering into a vital drive that opened her to others.

"In her capacity to love and her dedication, she tended above all towards the "unimportant" people, the weak, the abandonned. The more you were to be pitied, the more you had a right to the tenderness of her heart to her services."  (Etienne Pernet)

Antoinette did not receive much Christian education. But she went to listen to the Word of God in the churches. God "spoke to her heart". Towards the age of eighteen, she discovered the strength of a living faith.

In 1853 she joined an association called "Our Lady of Good Counsel." From that time, Antoinette had a deep love for the Virgin Mary. She was often to say later on : "I owe my vocation to Our Lady of Good Counsel."

In 1861, Antoinette was 37 years old. She agreed to run an orphanage for girls and joined the Dominican Third Order. Despite her frail appearance she was gay, full of life and was loved by the young people. However, a confilct broke out between her and the foundresses of the orphanage.

In May 1864, she met Etienne Pernet.


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