The Province of BFN has created a monthly series that presents the life and work of Madeleine Sophie and invites us to follow her bold example. Read the installment for the month of November: A Bold Woman.
- November 18 - Feast of Saint Philippine Duchesne, first missionary (sent to Louisiana)
- November 21, 1800 - Consecration of Madeleine Sophie, date of the foundation of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- November 1, 1815 - Convocation of the first General Council (General Chapter) of the Congregation
Madeleine Sophie’s life
Sophie left Joigny for Paris at the end of 1795, when the religious persecutions were still going on. She lived on the Rue de Touraine where Louis, who was secretly ordained as a priest during the Revolution, celebrated mass every day. Madeleine Sophie taught young children and taught them catechism. Bit by bit, the desire grew within her to give a new form to the cult of the Sacred Heart, a means of repairing the excesses of the Terror, which had prevented the practice of worship and the transmission of the faith.
She continued her religious, theological, patristic and secular formation, sometimes with other young girls who lived with her and who were animated by the same desire. This period was an apprenticeship, a form of novitiate. Bit by bit, the desire for religious life was strengthened in her. The meeting with Father Varin, Father of the Faith, was decisive. The Society of Jesus at that time had been dissolved by the Pope and the Jesuits no longer existed, but the Fathers of the Faith, a recent institute, were very close to them.
On November 21, 1800, on the feast of the Presentation of Mary, Sophie made her first consecration in the chapel of the Rue de Touraine with three other young girls, none of whom would continue.
On November 21, 1801, a first community was established in Amiens, on Rue Martin Bleu-Dieu, with Madeleine Sophie and two other young girls. Amiens became the "cradle" of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
"When Jesus entered the city of Jericho, he passed through it. Now there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was the chief tax collector and he was a rich man. He tried to see who Jesus was, but he could not because of the crowd, for he was small. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was about to pass by. When he got there, Jesus looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly; today I must go and stay in your house. He quickly went down and received Jesus with joy. When they saw this, they all complained, "He has gone to stay with a man who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood up and spoke to the Lord, "Behold, Lord: I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have wronged anyone, I will repay him four times as much." Then Jesus said of him, "Today salvation has come to this house, for he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:1-10)
"Zacchaeus tried to see who Jesus was": What a surprise! Jesus, too, has a great desire to meet Zacchaeus. What is my desire to meet Jesus, what is my tree, and what are the means I take to try to see him?
"I must stay in your house": Jesus has the astonishing audacity to invite himself into the home of someone who is "not very reputable". This makes Zacchaeus happy, but all the others are angry. How do I feel about this? Do I dare to do things or to dare to be in a relationship with someone when I risk the mockery, disapproval or anger of others? Has anyone ever stood up for me when everyone else was against me?
"Zacchaeus is transformed by the audacity of Jesus": In my life, have there been moments when the encounter with Jesus has invited me to change, to share? Talk to Jesus about this, give thanks. Ask him for the grace to share again and to be bold in my life because of him.
From the writings
"Here I am with the main idea of our little Society of the Sacred Heart, that of getting together with young girls to establish a small community which, night and day, would adore the Heart of Jesus outraged in His Eucharistic love, but, I said to myself, when we will be twenty-four nuns in a position to replace each other on a prie-Dieu, to maintain perpetual adoration, it will be a lot yet very little for such a noble goal…if we had young students that we could train in the spirit of adoration and reparation, how different it would be! And I saw hundreds, thousands of adoring women before an ideal, universal monument, raised above the Church. That's it," I said to myself, "before a solitary holy tabernacle: we must devote ourselves to the education of youth, to rebuild in souls the solid foundations of a living faith in the Blessed Sacrament, to fight the traces of Jansenism which brought impiety, and with the revelations of Jesus Christ to Blessed Margaret Mary on the reparative and expiatory devotion to His Sacred Heart in the Blessed Sacrament, we will raise a crowd of adorers from all nations to the ends of the earth.
(Fr. Perdrau, RSCJ, Les loisirs de l'abbaye)
About the consecration in the Rue de Touraine: "Having never seen a religious ceremony, this one, as simple as it was, made a deep impression on me. When we withdrew, we left a candle in front of the altar, which was to burn until the evening as a sign of gratitude. At dinner time, Father Varin, my brother, and Father Roger sat down at the table with us; it was as if we were taking part in the communal meals of the first Christians, where a pious and sweet dilation reigned. The meal was thus prolonged a little more than usual; it was not finished when a lady came to visit us; not wanting to disturb us, she entered the chapel first; it is hard to imagine her fright when she saw the altar cloth on fire. She hurried to warn us and the damage was soon repaired; a few moments later, the altar would have been consumed, who knows if the house would have been burned down?
Thus, from the moment we were born, the devil began to wage war against us and the divine Master began to protect us.
(P. Perdrau, RSCJ, Les loisirs de l'abbaye)
Texts for today
"To go out, to 'embark' as a Society and with others, to the new geographical and existential peripheries, to accompany life in the process of being born, to defend justice, peace and the integrity of creation in response to all those who seek meaning in their lives, those who have been wounded, displaced and excluded by poverty, violence and environmental degradation.
To live more humanly: with the radicality of the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth, to make ourselves more sisters among ourselves and with others, more human, simpler, closer, to reveal the joyful and compassionate face of God and to serve life wherever we are sent."
(General Chapter 2016, calls #1 and 2, p. 18-19)
Madeleine Sophie was audacious. She wanted to form a crowd of adorers of the Sacred Heart from all nations to transform the world through prayer and she created schools: she always wanted to live more like Christ.
- Do I, too, have the desire to be bold, like Zacchaeus, like Madeleine Sophie, like so many Christians who follow Christ?
- What form might this take? Am I ready to take another step?