By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp / Robin Gomes
Pope Francis mentioned her at the end of his discourse to Madagascar’s government authorities, representatives of the civil society and the diplomatic corps. Calling for the integral development of all, he held her out as a model of how to go about it.
“As a Church, we wish to imitate the attitude of dialogue of your fellow citizen, Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo,” the Pope said. “Her witness of love for this land and its traditions, her service to the poor as a sign of her faith in Jesus Christ, show us the path that we too are called to pursue.”
Blessed Victoire was born in Antananarivo in 1848, in one of the most powerful families in the country. She was educated according to the indigenous beliefs of her ancestors. But when, in 1861, some French Jesuit missionaries arrived in Madagascar, the young woman enrolled in the mission school and in 1863 was baptized. Her parents reacted to this by enrolling her in a protestant school. When that did not work, they threatened to disown her.
Although she was drawn to religious life, her parents arranged a marriage between her and a high-ranking army officer, her cousin. He was not only violent but was also an alcoholic and given to a dissolute life. Nevertheless, Victoire was faithful to her marriage promises and remained with her husband, praying daily for him, despite her closest friends continually urging her to divorce him.
In 1883, following the Franco-Malagasy conflict, Catholic missionaries were expelled and the faithful accused of treason. But Victoria continued to profess her faith. Persevering in prayer, she became in charge of leading "L’Union Catholique", a movement of Marian spirituality. In 1886, the missionaries returned to the country and Victoire dedicated herself to countless works of charity in favour of the poor and leprosy patients even after her husband’s death in 1888. Before dying, he asked her forgiveness and accepted Baptism.
In 1890, her health took a turn for the worse and she died August 21, 1894, at the age of 46.
The process of her beatification started on 19 February 1956. Pope Saint John Paul II approved a miracle attributed to her intercession on 9 May 1985.
The Pope declared Victoire Blessed on April 30, 1989, in Antananarivo when he visited Madagascar in 1989. She became the first native Malagasy to be raised to the honours of the altars.
Initially, the remains of Victoire were kept in the Mausoleum of Rainiharo, the prime minister of the country who died in 1852. In 1961, they were transferred to the Missionaries' House in Ambohipo and finally, on 22 August 1993, they were transferred to the present site in front of the Cathedral of Andohalo. It is in the form of a round chapel.
Another miracle was investigated and led to the validation on 25 November 2005. The Medical Board approved the miracle on 9 October 2008, and it must pass two more hurdles before papal approval.