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 December: A Woman of Fire.
- December 8 - Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- December 12, 1779 - Birth and baptism of Madeleine Sophie in Joigny
- December 13, 1804 - Meeting of Madeleine Sophie and Philippine Duchesne in Sainte-Marie-d'en-Haut (Grenoble)
- December 22, 1826 - Approval of the Constitutions by Pope Leo XII
Madeleine Sophie’s life
A few days before the birth of Madeleine Sophie, a violent fire destroyed part of Joigny. This is why, when asked: "Who gave birth to you?, as a little girl she answered: "fire". Despite her frail health, she remained "sparkling with life", loving distractions, walks, and games with children her age on the hillsides.
However, in Joigny, the Church was very Jansenist and Madeleine Sophie was marked by this for a long time, even though her daily family prayer was in front of images of the Heart of Jesus and Mary, sent by Louis from Paris around 1793.
With the Revolution, the church of Saint-Thibaut was closed in 1790 and various measures were taken concerning religion. Specifically, priests were required to sign the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy". Louis, ordained deacon in 1790, was affected directly. He took the oath in the church of Saint-Thibaut de Joigny, then withdrew it when the Pope announced that he was against this Civil Constitution. From then on, Louis had to hide in Joigny, then in Paris. The family lived in anguish. Madeleine Sophie helped her parents a lot, especially her mother. To defend her brother, she answered the various letters required by the town hall. Louis, arrested in Paris and incarcerated, barely escaped the guillotine. He was freed on January 19, 1795. His faith, his courage and his fidelity to the Church left a great impression on Madeleine Sophie.
"Jesus had said to his disciples: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (…) and to the ends of the earth.” “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (...) “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 1:8, 14 and 2:1-4)
"All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer”: Pentecost is a Jewish festival that commemorates God's giving of the Law. On this occasion, the disciples and some women pray and wait to receive the promise that Jesus made to them. I too, alone or with others, can ask Jesus for the strength to pray a little each day, to deepen hope.
"The Spirit, like a strong driving wind": Listen to the images that speak of the Holy Spirit and what He produces: the wind cannot be seen, but it blows and is offered in abundance; it fills the entire space and sets it in motion. How does the Holy Spirit work in my life?
"A tongue of fire came to rest on each one of them": Have I also had this experience of a fire inside me that gives me enthusiasm, energy and even love for others? I can thank the Holy Spirit for this and ask the Lord for the grace to learn to be His witness where I live and maybe one day, much further on...
From the writings
"If only it were given to me, if only I were not unworthy that God should give me the grace to speak to you of the happiness of a soul that gives itself up to the Holy Spirit... entirely... without any reserve! If I could tell you everything that happens in her... if I could paint her happiness: It is no longer she who acts, it is God... she goes, she walks only through His inspiration... everything becomes easy for her... she knows no more difficulties, she meets no more obstacles... The Holy Spirit enshrines this soul; she is His, He attaches her to himself, He establishes communication between her and heaven, it is a ladder, similar to Jacob’s, where angels go up and down ceaselessly; the good deeds, the desires, the sacrifices of this faithful soul go up to heaven and the Holy Spirit comes down loaded with new charges with which he is pleased to fill her soul. (…) If the happiness of a single soul is so great, what would be the happiness of a group of souls, of an entire Society which would allow itself to be guided entirely by the Holy Spirit and which would give itself to Him without reserve! (...) What good would we not be able to produce? For this soul finds the secret of penetrating hearts.
(Conference of Madeleine-Sophie Barat on the eve of Pentecost, June 2, 1827)
Texts for today
"Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #114, 2013)
"What is needed is the ability to cultivate an interior space which can give a Christian meaning to commitment and activity. Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out. The Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer, and to my great joy groups devoted to prayer and intercession, the prayerful reading of God’s word and the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist are growing at every level of ecclesial life. Even so, ‘we must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the incarnation.’”
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #262, 2013)
Her first project transformed and her heart burning with the Spirit of God led her to make known, through education, the love that is in the Heart of Jesus.
- What is the place of contemplation in my life?
- What does it mean for me to welcome the Spirit, the power of God, to widen my gaze, to review what I take for granted?
- What does this invite me to do?