I was born at Joigny, Burgundy, in 1779. My brother Louis, then aged eleven, acted as my godfather. Louis later taught me Latin, Greek, history, natural science, Spanish, and Italian. I took delight in reading the classics in the original, and surpassed my brother's pupils at the seminary.
My brother joined the Fathers of the Faith, a group of fervent priests, united in the hope of becoming members of the Society of Jesus on its restoration. A friend of his, Father Varin, wanted to found a society of women, similar to the Society of Jesus, which would be devoted to the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to prayer and sacrifice. With three companions I made my first consecration in 1800. The first convent was opened at Amiens the following year.
I was elected superior-general in January, 1806. As superior, I prayed a lot, suffered silently, and practised tact, respect and charity. With Father Varin, now a Jesuit, I elaborated constitutions and rules grafted on the Institute of St. Ignatius. Foundations multiplied, and soon solemn approval was received from Rome.
I journeyed from convent to convent, wrote thousands of letters, and assembled general congregations, so as to preserve the original spirit. I also prayed continuously. The real secret of my influence lay in my habitual seclusion from the outside world. My supernatural views on education, which I communicated to the religious engaged in my schools, were the effect of prayer. I was greatly loved both by my daughters, as well as by princes and pontiffs. Yet I sought to remain humble of heart.
I died in Paris, in 1865. My body was found intact in 1893. I was canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
“God does not ask of us the perfection of tomorrow, nor even of tonight, but only of the present moment.”
St Madeleine Sophie Barat
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