St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

From “Give Us This Day,” May 2012, page 249:

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, (1779-1865)

Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in a small town in Burgundy.  Following the French Revolution and the suppression of religious orders, Catholic education in France had virtually ceased.  Madeleine’s older brother Louis, a one-time seminarian, took her education under his care, schooling her not only in the classics, but biblical studies, Church history, and theology — a typical seminary program.  Fortunately, she took happily to this strict regime.  Later, when she told her spiritual director that she wished to become a Carmelite, he informed her that her true vocation was otherwise: to found an order dedicated to the education of young girls.

In 1801, with two other women, Madeleine opened a small school in Amiens.  The work grew and from these seeds emerged the Society of the Sacred Heart.  Madeleine became superior at the age of 23, an office she would occupy for 62 years.

Mother Madeleine spent much of her life traveling.  She established an astonishing 111 houses, operating in 12 countries in Europe and North America.  By the time of her death in 1865 there were nearly 4,000 members of her society.  She played an enormous role in the resurgence of Catholicism in France; her contribution to the education of young women and their role in society was beyond reckoning.  She was canonized in 1925.

“The Creator alone can work in souls.  The less we put of ourselves, the more Our Lord works.  That is why He generally chooses those who are of little worth, mere nothings, as His most precious instruments.” — St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

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