2015 marks the 150th year after the death of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
As we begin this year, we "listen" to her conference on New Year's Eve of 1855.
It has been a long time, dear Mothers and Daughters, that I am deprived of the consolation of seeing you and I am happy to end the year with you in this gathering so dear to our hearts. In these moments many feelings arise in our soul, you perceived them and have shared them in the sweet and precious moments spent at the feet of the Lord. The first you expressed in the song so pious and energetic, the “Te Deum.”
This feeling is gratitude, for we have much thanksgiving to return for the favors we have received. When I look over the year which just ended with incredible speed, I bless Our Lord for all he did for us. Last year on this date I had some concern and said to the good God: Perhaps you will ask us for some sacrifice; not because I feared sacrifices, but I know well the price! But that which I understood, you can easily understand, that I had a right to doubt. I said, seeing us together, will we come together in the same number next year? I was there with our first Mothers, those working with me for many years and I wished to keep them still and above all to offer you their examples, for I thought of you, my dear Daughters, and the grace that you enjoy now was prepared then.
My wishes have been heard, God be blessed, and we hope to work further for the glory of the Heart of Jesus while he gives us the means. We give thanks also for the graces which he showered on us in general and on each one in particular. Beside this first feeling one finds another which likewise inspires a review of the past year.
How many favors have we mistaken, how many resistances and delays which sadden the Holy Spirit and impede our spiritual growth! Oh! This feeling of regret you have also expressed by the second canticle, the Miserere, and of those feelings, of gratitude and regret, a third follows, which ought to be necessary for all hearts; I say a feeling, but it is more a firm resolution to repair the past for a greater fidelity and more constant generosity.
Every year we are accustomed to adopt a special virtue which is like the seal of the year. This virtue ought to be the one opposed to the defect which impedes our progress and obscures our sanctification. Now the greatest stumbling block to our perfection is self-love. We will take then as the characteristic virtue of this year mortification, and in another gathering I will indicate to you the means of practicing it, we will enter into some details.
A word before ending to offer to you the wishes that I present to Our Lord for all and each one. These wishes are, you may imagine, for your sanctification, your perfection, and that Our Lord may be glorified in you and through you. Those are my wishes, dear Daughters, the only ones befitting religious souls; but what I desire above all is a burning love, that divine charity drawn from the Heart of Jesus and which will make you worthy instruments of his mercy for souls.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
31 December 1855