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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

St. Madeleine Sophie's Journal - 1

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat 1779-1865

Before I begin sharing about St. Madeleine Sophie, you may want to read what one of our Sisters has recently written about her:

The lifetime of Madeleine Sophie Barat, has much in common with our modern time of conflict and strivings for peace. Born in Joigny, a village in the wine growing country of northern France, her early life spanned the turbulent years of the French Revolution. In 1800 with two companions she made vows in the newly formed Society of the Sacred Heart. By 1804 she was named Superior General, and the years she led the society were years of further revolution in France and throughout Europe.
Living in a period of political upheaval and suffering, Madeleine Sophie envisioned a life of both contemplation and action for the members of the Society of the Sacred Heart. The foundation of their prayer and ministry is dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart places its emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, the relationship of love between Christ and his followers, and provides the impetus for bringing joy and hope to a divided world.
From its beginnings the chief ministry of the Society has remained education and ministry to those suffering poverty and privation. Convinced that the greatest need of her day was the education of women, Madeleine Sophie founded schools both for those who could pay tuition and for those who could not. Her convents were also centers of retreat work. Before she died in Paris in 1865, Madeleine Sophie saw the expansion of the Society of the Sacred Heart into the United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, England, and Latin America.
Such is the legacy that Madeleine Sophie’s followers carry forward today in various ministries in 45 countries of the world. As St. Madeleine Sophie said before her death:
"There is a spirit of the Society. Our first movement . . .
is the contemplative life, that is what we must do in prayer. But it is then that Jesus says to us: “Go, tell my sisters and brothers.” Mary becomes an apostle. Why can we not say to the whole universe: “Know His Heart!”?

- Martha Curry, RSCJ

The most improtant document left to the Society of the Sacred Heart by St. Madeleine Sophie before the Constitutions of 1815 was her Journal kept in Poitiers 1806-1808. It gives an account of her trip from Grenoble to Poitiers and the foundation of the first novitiate there. It is the only time the foundress kept a journal, and it reveals the interior as well as the exterior life of this saintly woman who was so simple and straightforward. The journal permits us to follow the development of her spirituality and the formation she gave to others who were also called to live in union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus.
The first time the Journal was made known in its entirety was in 1977 when Marie-Therese Virnot published a critical edition. Madeleine Sophie's original journal was lost at an early date, but Mother Virnot worked with four manuscript copies. After a comparative study it was evident that the most authentic copy was that of Henriette Girard; this copy seems to have been made before 1811. The published critical edition contains 104 pages of which the first eight describe the journey of Madeleine Sophie from Grenoble to Poitiers. The rest is concerned with the foundation at Poitiers and the training of the novices.
I find that there is much to reflect upon in this Journal and will give excerpts from it for the month leading up to Sophie's feast which is May 25. I welcome comments from my readers.

I will sometimes call St. Madeleine Sophie Barat just Sophie; at other times I will call her Mother Barat; and sometimes she will be Madeleine Sophie. She usually signed herself "Barat" but lately we have learned to call her simply Sophie.

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