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 October: A woman for young people.
- October 17 - World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty
- October 20 - Feast of Mater Admirabilis, worldwide patroness of the students of the Sacred Heart schools
Madeleine Sophie’s life
Although not very well off, the Barats had enough income to allow their children to study.
Madeleine Sophie's intellectual training was provided by her brother, a teacher at the college in Joigny. He helped her discover the importance of education, even for girls, and how it shapes judgment. A gifted student, Madeleine Sophie studied at home what her brother was teaching at school: history, literature, Scripture, Latin, mathematics, Greek, physics, and an introduction to Hebrew, Italian and Spanish. Fortunately, she loved to read!
Intellectual work elevated her thoughts to God. And like other young women of her time, she also worked with her hands.
She was even a "linen worker" and she embroidered. A beautiful embroidery in the house in Joigny where she was born bears witness to this.
“And people were bringing children to Him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them." (Mark 10:13-16)
"People were bringing children to Him": To see the crowds presenting their children to Jesus and the disciples dismissing them, out of fear, jealousy, concern for the right thing to do? To see a new school year in September; what are all these families expecting for their children: just good teaching?
"Let the children come to me": Jesus welcomes everyone. To feel the spontaneity of the little ones when, in many ways, they are not inhibited. As for me, maybe I am inhibited too: What are my barriers to reaching Jesus (lack of time, preconceived ideas, feelings of unworthiness, etc.)?
Let my confidence be born or reborn so that I may come closer to Jesus.
"He embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them": To welcome the good (benediction) that Jesus desires for me. If I wish, to speak to him about my desire for simplicity, for truth. To ask him for the grace to feel that he is near me, just as I am.
From the writings
"Every day faith is lost, difficulties increase, and in the opinion of all enlightened people, it is on the education of young people that all hope for a happier future is based.”
(Conferences of Madeleine Sophie Barat, Feast of Pentecost, 1834)
"Let us work more enthusiastically than ever. The hope of the Church is in the young.”
(Madeleine Sophie Barat)
"Where is the merit in raising only flexible and docile personalities? One must work hard and persevere and never get tired... Then one will certainly succeed, and I dare say that it is the strongest and most difficult personalities that, once taught, succeed best: this is a shared experience in all countries.
(Letter to the Mothers in Charge, December 11, 1845)
"Every religious dedicated to youth must be generous with these thousand little delights that bring happiness to the students who will be with us as a family only if we do this. Without these insights, without this habitual warmth, drawn from that of Jesus, do not speak to me of a so-called Religious of the Sacred Heart; she has not understood the ABCs of her obligations, she is a boarding school mistress."
(Fr. Perdrau, RSCJ, The Leisure of the Abbey)
"I am eager to see the children again," wrote Madeleine Sophie, then Superior General of the Maison Mère des Feuillantines at the boarding school on the Rue de Varenne. "Put those who are farthest from their mothers in a carriage, and arrive at four o'clock: I will have prepared a meal for them."
(Life of the Venerable Mother Barat by A. Cahier)
"For one child's soul, I would have founded the Society of the Sacred Heart."
(Thoughts and maxims, Madeleine Sophie Barat)
Texts for today
We also know that we need to harness power, especially our shared power, and put it at the service of mission and the common good. The desire to care and to be artisans of hope becomes sentimental and fruitless without the power to act on it. Thus, with passion and generosity, we expend our energies to respond as best we can to the needs in our different ministries and contexts. As Sacred Heart educators, we are convinced that “to educate is in itself an act of justice” and we take to heart the call “to orient all our educative endeavors toward creating relationships of equality, inclusion, non-violence, and harmony, believing that to have life, and life in abundance, is the deepest desire of God.”
(General Chapter 2008, Being Hopeful Artisans in Our Blessed and Broken World, Society of the Sacred Heart, June 2019)
Madeleine Sophie chose to follow Christ. She founded a congregation, schools and, for two centuries, thousands of families all over the world have been bringing their children to her.
What might Christ's invitation be for me today (attitude, activity...); to what do I feel called?