Protector of the Church in Madagascar: 1848-1894
+ Victoria was born into a leading family of the Hova or Merina “tribe” in Madagascar and was raised in the tradition religion known as Zanahary which honored God but which was primarily based on ancestor worship. Her father was a respected military leader.
+ Victoria was educated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny and asked to be baptized in 1863. Despite her family’s refusal, she courageously received the sacraments and at the time she told her mother, “I will no longer be the way I was before. I will be a daughter of God, because I want to receive baptism. I will have the seal of the Holy Spirit.”
+ Although she wanted to enter religious life, her family arranged a marriage for her with the son of the chief minister, Radriaka. A drunk and adulterer, he would often bring women back to their home, despite the presence of Victoria. Encouraged to divorce her husband, Victoria remained with him because she felt she would cause scandal to other Christians by leaving.
+ Victoria prayed continually for her husband. Victoria had the pleasure of seeing him baptized before his death in 1887.
+ In 1883, a fierce persecution of Catholics erupted because of the Malagasy-French War. All missionaries were forced to leave the country and the churches were locked. As they were leaving, the missionaries entrusted Victoria with the task of protecting the Catholic community.
+ Through her persistence, the churches were reopened and she made sure that religious instruction continued and that Sunday prayer services were conducted by lay catechists.
+ When the missionaries returned, they found a still-vibrant faith among the Catholic community.
+ Blessed Victoria died on August 21, 1894, and was beatified in 1989.
The Church honors another saint of Madagascar, the French Jesuit missionary Saint Jacques Berthieu. A martyr, Father Jacques spent 12 years serving in rural missions in various parts of Madagascar. He was canonized in 2012 and his memory is celebrated on June 8.
“You can put me to death, but you have no right to shut the church.”—Blessed Victoria Rasoamanarivo
O God, the exaltation of the lowly, who willed that blessed Victoria should excel in the beauty of her charity and patience, grant, through her merits and intercession, that, carrying our cross each day, we may always persevere in love for you. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women—For a Holy Woman)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.