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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost Birthday

If I could only make you realize the happiness of a soul who gives herself to the Holy Spirit wholly and without reserve! She is no longer the one who acts, it is God…She moves only to follow the Spirit’s inspirations. Everything becomes easy to her: the Holy Spirit has taken possession of her…If the happiness of an individual is so great, how much greater that of a Society that allows itself to be wholly guided by the Spirit and gives itself without reserve….It would be heavenly! What peace, what union and, at the same time, how much good would be accomplished.
Madeleine Sophie Barat, Pentecost, 6-2-1827

Every time I read the above quotation I resolve anew to give myself to the Holy Spirit "wholly and without reserve!" I remember as a young religious on the eve of the opening of summer school the Reverend Mother Vicar apologized for not naming the Religious who was to teach one of the courses that summer. She said, "I know this has been upsetting for some of you, but I had to wait for the Holy Spirit to tell me; the Religious has now been told and will be on the night train." I have never forgotten that and felt consoled to think that it was the Holy Spirit making the decisions. I suspect it was not a consolation to the Academic Dean of the College!

I am so grateful for the action of the Spirit in my life. As I look back over the years it is easy to see that many of the crossroads in my life were decided by the Holy Spirit. What a grace to know that we have received the Holy Spirit!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sequence for the Mass of the Holy Spirit

Does this image convey the Holy Spirit at work in our daily lives?

Here is the promised Sequence:
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul's most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away;
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord; Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

I hope you were struck by a line and will take time to pray over it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove, a symbol of peace. We forget how really dynamic the Holy Spirit is!
Last Sunday, to prepare for Pentecost, I asked the community to use the Sequence of the Mass for May 31 as a Lectio Divina - I read it slowly aloud and then, after a pause for reflection, read it again. Then we had a prayerful silence before a fruitful sharing. Each had been asked to say what line or phrase had struck her and we all had chosen different phrases. I am going to copy the sequence for you tomorrow for those who want to use it for prayer.
In the meantime we can be with Mary and the Apostles in prayer as they awaited the promised coming of the Holy Spirit who would transform them with his sevenfold gifts.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prayer of Sophie

I thought today that I would share with you a prayer that St. Madeleine Sophie said everyday.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Give me a heart that is one with your own;
A humble heart that knows and loves its nothingness;
A gentle heart that holds and calms its own anxieties;
A loving heart that has compassion for the suffering of others;
A pure heart that recoils even at the appearance of evil;
A detached heart that longs for nothing other than the goodness of heaven;
A heart detached from self-love and embraced by the love of God,
Its attention focused on God, its goodness is its only treasure
In time and eternity. Amen.

As we prepare for Pentecost, let us remember that Sophie also said:
"Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us, then we will act on the Spirit's gentle inspiration."

It is the season now to develop our relationship with the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Comforter! It is also the Holy Spirit who transforms us and can give us a heart more like the Heart of Jesus - humble, gentle, loving, pure, detached, compassionate...

I keep going back to a chapter in Carlos Martini's book on the Gospel of Paul that speaks of three attitudes that Paul had after his transformation experience: joy, gratitude, and praise. We see these attitudes in Paul's letters and I hope others can see them reflected in my own life. I think they are worth cultivating, but only God can give us the grace to live with a joyful, grateful heart and one full of praise. Martini also speaks of Paul's never giving up but always bouncing back when rejected, thrown out, etc. I guess this is the grace of perseverance! He also acted with great freedom; when we seek only God, it makes us free.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Growing Older

This will just be a personal reflection as I approach my 78th birthday. First, I admit that I am growing older and that I can look back now on a life full of graces. This gives me both joy and gratitude. I can never begin to thank the Lord enough for all the gifts and graces he has bestowed on me. I suspect that one of the joys of old age is being able to look back and name these graces.

Relationships are precious and fill me with gratitude for so many wonderful people that the Lord has put into my life. I also find myself wanting to reach out to others and keep these relationships - some are now in the Communion of Saints, but what a blessing to have so many friends in heaven; I also am now making an effort to stay in touch with the friends left on earth. It gives me joy, too, to find that the Lord keeps sending new friends into my life; the Internet makes it easy to share our lives with one another.

I am finding time now just to allow the Lord to love me. I no longer think it is my activity that counts, but am content just to do what the Lord shows me is pleasing to him. Resting in his heart is becoming my main occupation - or at least the desire for this quiet being with the Lord no matter what the day brings. (At least this is true on some days!)

I think there is also a certain wisdom that comes with growing older; we see things in perspective and have a better grasp of the essential. I suspect I am also more aware of my own limitations and that helps me to be humble and keep silence, to discern and be content with God. What more can we want?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Preparing for Pentecost

Next Sunday, May 31, is the Feast of Pentecost. It is also my birthday and I will be seventy-eight years old and happy that I have had so many years filled with grace and with God's love. It is lovely to have the Feast of the Holy Spirit coincide this year with my birthday. St. Madeleine Sophie loved the Holy Spirit; in her letters of spiritual direction fidelity to the Holy Spirit was urged over and over again. In a letter to Adrienne Michel written in June of 1811 when Mother Barat was only thirty-two years old, she wrote: "Be very faithful to the Holy Spirit; you realize that he wants great things of you, and the fruit of this fidelity is beyond description; all my distress comes from my failures in this. If I could live my life over again, it would be to obey the Holy Spirit and act under his impulse only." She added that these were vain regrets for no one can be born again. At least it is possible "to begin to live today with that divine superhuman life, and the more time we have wasted so far, the more urgently we should begin." Then she tells Adrienne that she is fortunate for she is so much younger!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feast of St. Madeleine Sophie and Memorial Day

We have a national holiday today as it is Memorial Day in the United States. We are invited to the other RSCJ community tonight for prayer and dinner to celebrate Sophie. It seems fitting that my blog entry today be the final entry in Sophie's Journal; it sums up te main thrust of Mother Barat's direction to the novices. In her notes for the last conference she said: "After having outlined all that God has done for us, the graces He unceasingly showers on us, especially the profusion of graces He has just given us in the retreat, I added that we should regard ourselves as the most despised of all creatures if we were not fully determined to detach ourselves from all, even ourselves, and to make the most generous sacrifices for our Lord which are necessary to respond to the greatness of our vocation. In the world, when it is a question of some human success, people make great sacrifices to succeed; what would they say, then, if we, Spouses of Jesus Christ, are cowardly in pursuing His interests?"

The excerpts from the Journal of Sophie have allowed us to glimpse her spirituality as it developed at the beginning of her government of the Society as Superior General. Centered on the Heart of Jesus, her spirituality was full of joy and freedom at this time. She stressed the importance of prayer and the interior life because she was convinced that without this foundation union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus was not possible.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 22

Today I promised to tell you about Suzanne Geoffroy. She had a very interesting life before she joined the novices in Poitiers on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila in 1807. She liked to tell how she had been brought up by an uncle and "as my education cost him less than fifteen francs, I have never been able to spell a word the same way twice." When the Revolution began and religious orders were suppressed, she formed her own community which assisted persecuted priests and religious during the Reign of Terror. Her great object in life was "to establish a Society following the Rule of St. Ignatius, which should be devoted to the Sacred Heart and to the salvation of souls."
Suzanne's community became the nucleus of Father Coudrin's order of the "Religious of the Sacred Hearts and of Perpetual Adoration." Suzanne was "overtaken by calumny and advised to retire to a convent in La Vendee." Shortly after Mother Barat arrived in Poitiers in July of 1806, Suzanne begged to enter but was refused. Later, when the Vicar General of te diocese asked Mother Barat to make a foundation at Niort, she replied: "Very well, on the condition that you give me Suzanne Geoffroy. I know her. She will suit me perfectly."
When Suzanne entered the community at Poitiers, Mother Barat wrote: "Though she was forty-four years of age and had been Superior for fourteen years, she fulfilled all her duties as a novice with the most exemplary humility and obedience."

The older novice had one of the most exciting stories to tell, but when the candle-flame approached the pin she summed up: "I obeyed; I came; Mother Barat received me and here I am."

Sister Geoffroy made her vows on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1808. Mother Barat named her superior of the new foundation at Niort.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 21

Mother Barat's love for the poor made her long for free education for poor children. She said: "By our vocation we ought to welcome this kind of good work; it saddened me that this house had not been able to undertake one of the aims of our Institutions."
Her joy was great when she could finally open a school for the poor at Poitiers. The Pastors in all the nearby parishes were informed by a circular letter. They were asked to send children who would be taught by the religious to read, calculate, and sew, as well as learn their catechism. Soon ninety were enrolled; the boarding school also increased to twenty-seven by the beginning of 2008.
Mother Barat wanted every house to have a school for the poor and to give their best teachers for this work. She said in her Journal, "I have designated the two religious who are most fervent and filled with the Holy Spirit, Mothers Suzanne Geoffroy and Therese Maillucheau, to share the work with the youngest children." The preference for the poor and for the youngest children was characteristic of Mother Barat. She thought highly of both Suzanne and Therese and said that "these are chosen by God and are faithful to him."
After such praise, it is tempting to look at what Mother Barat wrote elsewhere in her Journal about both of these religious. Therese had a gift for prayer; Mother Barat had chosen her as superior when she had to be away and had made her second in charge with the title of "assistant". She wrote of her: "she loves our Lord with extreme ardor, and is very humble, very straightforward, and very simple. She follows in St. Teresa's footsteps, and what more can I say?
Tomorrow we will look at Suzanne Geoffroy who was nearly twenty years older than Sophie when she became a novice in 1807.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 20

Following the spirit of St. Ignatius, Mother Barat held to the two daily "examens", or examinations of conscience, that Saint Ignatius thought so important. "Spiritual reading" was valued as a means of nourishing prayer. Mother Barat explained to the novices how they should pause to reflect on what had most touched them. She felt that the novices did not retain what they read because they did not reflect enough. As always, she pointed out the need for recollection.
In November the novices made the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of Father Lambert. Mother Barat permitted lay people to join the novices in the Chapel for the retreat instructions. Inviting others to make the retreat was a powerful way to bring them closer to the Heart of Jesus. The work of retreats was encouraged by Mother Barat from the beginning; it would be one of the four chief "works" of the Society mentioned in the Constitutions.
After the retreat, Mother Barat received the first widow into the novitiate conditionally. She wrote: "I could not give her a definite answer since it is not decided whether we will receive widows in our Society." The widow was Mme. de Chasseloup from Bordeaux. Mother Barat pointed out that "although she is not young, she is full of zeal for all that is the end of our vocation." Her entrance into the Society is recorded for December.

Going over some of these excerpts from Sophie's Journal has called me to new reflections. In fact, her words are a continuous call to strive to live the ideals she called her novices to way back in 1806.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Thursday

Although Ascension Thursday has a long history of being celebrated as the 40th day after Easter when Jesus left the Apostles and "ascended into heaven", most dioceses in the United States now have transfered the Feast of the Ascension to Sunday. We want to prepare ourselves to enter this mystery.

In the opening prayer we ask God to make us joyful in the ascension of his Son, Jesus Christ. Imagine God's joy to have Jesus ascend, body and soul...

There are two Prefaces in the Liturgy for the Ascension: the first says that today "the Lord Jesus, King of Glory, conqueror of sin and death, ascended to heaven while the angels sang his praises. Christ, the mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow."

Both Prefaces give hope. In the second we read that Jesus, "in his risen body plainly showed himself to his disciples and was taken up to heaven in their sight to claim for us a share in his divine life."

St. Madeleine Sophie died on the Feast of the Ascension. An old Sacred Heart custom in our boarding schools was to gather just before noon on Ascension Thursday and sing "Beau Ciel" and think of Jesus ascending to his Father.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sophie's Journal-19

Whatever Mother Barat saw in prayer, she tried to put into practice. She did not just talk about humility and suffering but lived what she said. She terminated the conference given at the end of her retreat by asking to kiss the feet of the novices. In her Journal she admitted: "The next day I had to stay in bed because of an attack of rheumatism." This attack was very painful and lasted several days. Mother Barat noted: "I was delighted to have something to suffer, but thanked God that the attack had not come during the retreat for I would not have been able to continue it."
Shortly before the retreat Mother Barat had learned that a projected foundation to be made at Niort had fallen through because the owner of the boarding school decided not to turn it over to her. Always seeing God's action in people, events, and circumstances, Mother Barat accepted this calmly. Her humility made her turn to God and she included in her Journal a prayer straight from her heart:
O God, you know what we are and what we can do by ourselves: if you do not sustain us by your grace and hold our your hand to us, what can we do? Poor, ignorant, and weak, are we capable of doing anything without your help?...But it is a consolation to know that you do have need of human help to carry our your plans. Did you not choose a dozen poor and ignorant apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world? Our weakness does not discourage me; on the contrary, ordinarily you choose the weakest to confound the strongest."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 18

On coming out of retreat, Mother Barat gave the novices a summary of the subjects on which she had been meditating. She had followed the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Her notes give insight into her spirituality. She wrote: "I am made for God and to possess Him eternally." She pondered the "Principle and Foundation: and said that "these deep truths are capable of renewing our fervor in order to do anything the Holy Spirit asks for the reform of our life and the perfection to which we are called."
In the "Second Week"-(Ignatius divided his Exercises into four "weeks" but this does not mean a week of seven days but is a division that can be lengthened or shortened according to the graces received during the time period)- of the Spiritual Exercises Mother Barat told the novices that she had meditated on the life of Our Lord and the virtues of which he has given us an example, especially his poverty, humility, and obedience. She declared "when we are on fire with love for Him who has so loved us all becomes easy." She saw the Paschal Mystery as a whole and did not make any distinction in her notes between the "Third" and "Fourth" weeks of the Spiritual Exercises. She pointed out that the Lord's resurrection and triumphant entry into heaven should be a motive to sustain us in our troubles for "if we imitate him we will have the same happiness. Let us look at our Crucifix in all our difficulties; it is this which gives us courage."

I have been reading a new book by David Fleming, S.J. on Ignatian Spirituality as we are adding it for the International Online Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies for the first Unit next September. Anyone reading it will have a grasp of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and, hopefully, a desire to make them. Creighton University has an online retreat of 32 weeks for anyone interested. I have made this myself, but find they offer too much material so I counsel using only what really helps you and leave the rest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 17

Mother Barat often used anecdotes to illustrate the point she was making in her conference. While giving a talk on the Rules of Modesty, she recounted how Saint Francis of Assisi went out with one of his companions saying: "Let us go and preach." After having made the rounds of the town, he returned to the monastery. His companion protested: "Father, you said you wished to preach." To which Francis replied that he had just done so. He made him understand that by their modesty they had produced more fruit than if he had given a long sermon.

Mother Barat began her retreat in February. She told the novices that in order to help them she was entering into solitude with God because to guide you in the paths of sanctity I must be there myself." Therese Maillucheau wrote a description of Mother Barat's first retreat at Poitiers: "In the garden was an isolated little chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph where our Mother went into solitude and where she gave free rein to the tender effusions of her heart for God. No one under any pretext could go to her." She also said that during this time "our Mother remained in the depths of God, heart to heart with Jesus, speaking only to her confessor, and that briefly. We only saw her in the evening, at the far end of the chapel when she came to visit the Blessed Sacrament."

Sophie remained in retreat more than the usual eight days. She wrote in the Journal, "I finished my retreat at the end of thirteen days. I would have liked to prolong it still, but I thought before God that I should give up my own satisfaction in favor of the duty of being in the midst of my sisters."

I have been blessed with the grace of having made several retreats of 30 days and none has seemed long to me. I have also given the 30-day to retreat to priests and religious brothers and sisters and it is always a grace. In Chile I gave many directed retreats every summer and each was a grace for me. This summer the directed retreat I will be making is only six days but I will take a few days hopefully somewhere before starting back at the University. If you have not had a retreat where you can sink into silence with God, I suggest you make one. It is such a grace!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 16

In January 1807 Mother Barat "gave a conference on the way to give conferences." Unfortunately, she did not record any notes of that conference in her Journal. It would be interesting to know what she said to novices about giving conferences!
Mother Barat does mention in her Journal the different feasts for which she gave talks to the novices. St. Hilary, the patron saint of the diocese, merited a conference. Mother Barat was always interested in the local as well as the universal Church. Love of the Church was characteristic of her spirituality from the beginning.

For the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, Mother Barat explained that all their joy and consolation should be in the Divine Name of Jesus which should be unceasingly on their lips. Because the original inspiration of the Society had been drawn from the Society of Jesus, the novices should have "greater recourse to the Divine Name and pronounce it with greater devotion."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sophie's Journal 15

In 1806, on the octave day of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mother Barat gave a conference on "the means to attain union with God: Union which must be their happiness on earth while awaiting perfect union in Heaven." The means consisted in "purifying their hearts from all that could hinder the infinitely holy God, who is also a jealous God, from dwelling within them." Detachment was the way to purification of heart. Intimate union should be "the end of all their desires." Mother Barat told the novices: "Try to detach your heart from all that is not God in order to prepare for Him a worthy dwelling place, and He will fill it and be your happiness."

Her words still are true today. Am I detached from all that is not God?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sopie's Journal - 14

In promoting devotion to the Immaculate Conception, Mother Barat was ahead of her time. Before the feast she told the novices: "We who have such a need for protection should have recourse to her with confidence, rejoicing that our Blessed Mother has been preserved from the corruption of original sin; she will obtain for us the help that is so necessary for us to overcome our tendency to evil." Mary was to be their model. Devotion to the Immaculate Conception was promulgated by Mother Barat long vefore it was proclaimed a dogma by the Church. This devotion expressed itself in a tradition of serious novenas, patronal feasts for the boarding schools, and the solemn "lily procession" on the 8th of December each year. I still remember the lovely procession when I was in boarding school at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles. Each of us in white dresses, veils, and carrying a lily went before the statue of Our Lady and solemnly presented our lily saying (I think I have the words right but remember this was over sixty years ago), "O Mary, I give thee the lily of my heart; be thou its guardian forever." And this tradition was kept in all the Sacred Heart schools all over the world!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sophie's Journal-13

On the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, Mother Barat and Henriette Girard renewed their vows. The night before the Feast, Mother Barat told the novices that "if they could not yet consecrate themselves to Jesus forever by vows, they could do so by desire and give themselves entirely and generously to God following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary." They were to place themselves under her protection and ask her for the grace to be faithful to their vocation.
St. Francis Xavier had been chosen as patron of the house as Mother Barat had great confidence in his intercession. To prepare for his feast she proposed a double novena spending the nine days before the feast and the nine after it asking the saint for "the virtues which are most necessary to fulfill our vocation: humility, the spirit of recollection and zeal for the salvation of souls."
These are still the virtues needed for union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus in the spirituality of Madeleine Sophie.

I think that whatever our state in life we are called to have humility, a certain spirit of recollection, and zeal for the salvation of others. Where do I see this in my own daily, ordinary life? Maybe it would be good to make a novena asking Sophie to give me these necessary virtues and make it nine days before her feast and nine days after it. We need to begin soon as her feast is May 25.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 12

On the eve of the Feast of St. Stanislaus, Mother Barat gave the novices a conference, for she had chosen this young Jesuit saint as patron of the novitiate. They were to contemplate him from different viewpoints: "to look at what he had been in the world; what he accomplished in the six months from his entrance into the novitiate until his death; and what God had done for him, that is to say, all the graces God had given him because of his fidelity." God brought him to highest sanctity at only eighteen. Mother Barat recorded in her Journal that she was not proposing an extraordinary model to the novices because "Stanislaus did nothing extraordinary except love God in all his actions."

All the novices of the Society of the Sacred Heart have St. Stanislaus as their patron. How important it is to learn that lesson of doing all with love; we, too, are to love God in all our actions!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sopie's Journal continued -11

Let us return to the Journal of St. Madeleine Sophie that she kept in Poitiers in 1806. Mother Barat felt that recreation was an important part of the novices' life. It was a bit different from what we would call "recreation" today. They had formal times of recreation together every day and Sophie wanted them to be both joyful and spiritually stimulating. She encouraged the novices to share the stories of their vocations. The action of God was evident in many of the adventures suffered during the Revolution; the stories grew longer until time had to be measure for each by sticking a pin in a lighted candle.
Outside the hours of recreation, silence was to be kept. Therese Maillucheau's "notes" on the early days at Poitiers emphasize how strict Mother Barat was about silence. Stillness was to reign in the house; silence was conducive to interior life. Mother Barat taught by example.
Today, we need to build silence into our lives. We can still practice "silence of action" and many do. It was said of Reverend Mother Stuart that she studied each door knob so that she could go in and out without ever disturbing anyone by the slightest noise.

We do not stick a pin in a candle, but sometimes when RSCJs get together to share we have used egg timers!! Having a limit for sharing enables all to have time to be heard. It is good to be able to share our lives with others. With whom do you share?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Home Again

I am home again and have much to share with you. First, I want to say how happy I am to be home again. It is nice to travel, to see family, friends, new places, and take a break from routine, but I am always happy to return home. The only time I would like to prolong my stay is when I am in retreat; I must admit that I would like to stay in retreat.

I have been in Scottsdale, Arizona, Los Angeles,California, Gold Canyon, Arizona, Elgin, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, and back to Scottsdale. All my family are now in the western part of the United States; we grew up in St. Louis but only cousins are there now.

It was quite a trip and hard to pinpoint the highlights. Going to the national AASH meeting in California was a great experience for me. It was a delight to be met at the Los Angeles airport by a former student who really made the whole experience very special for me. One feels at home with Sacred Heart alums from all over. The meeting made me grateful for my Sacred Heart education, too. I also tried to get some of these alums interested in the International Online Program in Spirituality Studies.

I went to Elgin, Oregon, with my sister to be there for my grand-nephew's First Communion. My niece has four children who range from fourteen to four; there are three boys and one girl. Their home is lovely with beautiful vistas all around and deer who graze on the hillside. It is a very small town with only 25 Catholic families so they all celebrated the First Communion with a real pot luck party after the Mass. It was good to see the children again and their parents, but it was a bit hectic.

I am glad to be home; very glad, too, that I had some days with my brother and sister-in-law, saw my nephew and his wife, and had time with my sister and her husband.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Letter from Jenny from Scotland

This is a letter from one of my present students in Scotland who took me to Iona and gave me such wonderful memories - I thought you would enjoy hearing from her!

Letter from Scotland

Dear Helen,

I have been remembering our time on Iona. I had been to the island twice before but last year seemed very special somehow. I think it was because the time we spent in the abbey had a profound effect on me. The atmosphere seemed full of the spirit of the monks who had lived their simple lives of prayer, work and caring for the spiritual needs of the local people.
While we were in the church a member of the Iona community came quietly down the monks’ night stairs, it was almost as if one of the Celtic monks had entered to join his brothers for the night office. Again, a shadowy figure sitting praying in a corner chapel seemed like someone from the past. It was in the chapter room however, that I was most keenly aware of the abiding spirit of the men who had lived their dedicated lives in brotherhood which had been shared and deliberated on in that room.
This whole experience helped me to understand the monastic period we studied last term in your course. It was as if flesh had been put on the bones of history and I was able to live the experience of monastic life in the middle Ages and share the values that inspired and formed their lives.
I find we have so much to learn from the wisdom of the past it is worth taking time to seek out the saints and sages like Columba, Benedict and Augustine because what they taught is just as relevant today.

Your student, Jenny from Scotland

I will be home and sharing some of my trip to the West of the United States with you beginning tomorrow, hopefully.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 10

Every Wednesday and Sunday Mother Barat gave the novices formation through her instructions to explain the Rules. The Society of the Sacred Heart would not really write their Constitutions until 1815; they were using rules similar to those of the Sisters of Notre Dame since they were taken from the Jesuit Constitutions and adapted for women.

Mother Barat never lost sight of the original charism she had received to glorify the Heart of Jesus. It would take the lived experience of eight more years before this could be expressed in the Constitutions. Conferences to prepare the novices to celebrate different feasts within the Church's liturgical year also played an important role in the formation of the novices.

On the eve of the "great Saint Teresa of Avila" Mother Barat spoke of love of prayer and union with God. Teresa's love of prayer and her union with God enabled her to do great things for Him. Mother Barat reminded the novices that they were called to the same perfection, but were to work not only for their personal sanctification but also for the santification of others. Prayer and union are necessary for this. Mother Barat begs them to apply themselves to prayer. All their actions must be the result of prayer. They must have an "oraison pratique." She said: "Let us understand clearly that God means for us to do great things."

I will be back on May 9th and so will continue to share some of the Journal of Sophie later in this month. I hope you are enjoying these glimpses of the early days of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 9

In a conference given for the opening of the novitiate, Mother Barat named the dispositions she desired to find in the novices: generosity, devotedness, entire gift of self, courage, confidence and joy. They were to serve the Lord in joy and not allow their faults to discourage them. When aware of their faults, they were to humble themselves before the Lord and begin again with courage and joy.

A daily schedule of prayer, work, study and recreation, was soon established and different employments given to the novices. Mother Barat was available for personal direction and she noted that some came to speak with her every day and some more than once within the same day!

When I was in the novitiate, we were nearly one hundred novices and so I think I saw my mistress of novices about every four weeks. Later, I would see my superior as a young religious about every two weeks for spiritual direction.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sophie's Journal -8

Before opening a novitiate for Lydia, Josephine, and a third interested woman, Sophie had to go to Bordeaux where many young ladies had discovered their desire for religious life after listening to Father Enfantin preach. Six had left their families and taken shelter in a vineyard belonging to one of them. Mother Barat wrote in her journal: "I could not take all back with me, for they were over thirty in number, so the six who had been living under a rule, and whose case was most urgent, with two others, were received at once." Mother Barat sent them off in two groups, but kept Therese Maillucheau with her to visit the parents in order to reassure them about their daughters' welfare before leaving for Poitiers.

The official opening of the novitiate at Poitiers took place on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1806. Father Gloriot celebrated the Mass and Mother Barat carefully recorded the substance of his homily in her Journal as well as in her heart: "The Heart of Mary, having the experience of intimate union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, is on fire with a burning love for God and all of us; Mary, loving us ardently and having become the Mother of God for the salvation of souls, has, therefore, a very real concern for us and we can throw ourselves into her Heart with confidence. Jesus, who never refuses Mary, has given us this access to His Heart. True devotion to these hearts unites us to the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary. Through her Heart we can please Jesus; by uniting ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we can please the Father and glorify Him worthily."

Sophie believed this; the Religious of the Sacred Heart are consecrated to the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.

Let us stop and reflect in this month of Mary on how we are going through Mary to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 7

On the first morning after her arrival in Poitiers, Mother Barat inspected the old monastery. The house belonged to Lydia who had acquired it after the Revolution with the intention of forming a religious community. Josephine has joined her, but they were only two and could not keep up a boarding school. They had thought of selling when they heard about another possibility, that of joining the little family of Sophie Barat which was a new association called at that time "Ladies of Christian Instruction" as it was not yet safe to call themselves the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sophie came and realized that both Lydia and Josephine were well-formed in religious virtue and that "it only remained for them to take our spirit." She thought that "with the grace of God, they would quickly do so as they were very docile and submissive."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sophie's Journal -6

St. Madeleine Sophie described her arrival to make the foundation at Poitiers as follows: We rang, the door opened, and we saw at a distance an old servant who strongly stood her ground. I asked to see her mistresses; she said she would call them, and led us into a large room. The huge place seemed deserted; profound silence reigned in the souls of those who live there. These ladies did not appear at once, and I had leisure for some reflections. In the depth of my soul I felt my own weakness very acutely at the thought that I had come to govern this establishment. It disturbed me, but I leaned entirely on the help of God."

Here we have the secret of Sophie's extraordinary influence over others; she relied entirely on God's help.

When Lydia Chobelet and Josephine Bigeu finnally appeared, Sister Girard had to introduce Mother Barat as she felt it "hardly suitable that she speak for herself."

You can see Sophie's humility and also her sense of humor in her writings.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sophie's Journal -5

I shall try to summarize the journey from Grenoble to Poitiers. Henriette Girard, who was in her forties, was chosen to be Sophie's companion probably because she would lend status to the youthful superior general who was only twenty-six. The Journal entry for July 11, 1806 tells us that nothing extraordinary happened until Lyon. We know that Sophie had not been well. She told St. Philippine Duchesne in a letter: "You know in what state I left you. When I arrived in Lyon, the heat of the journey had made me even worse and I was more ill than last year.." She said that she complained to the Lord because of the difficulty of being ill on such a long journey and among people "who might notice it." Then she was at peace. She added: "Before I left Lyon, my illness had completely disappeared without any remedies. I am quite cured." This cure seems to have been permanent.

The rest of the trip is recorded in the Journal with obvious enjoyment. The last stage of the trip was made in an old wagon full of merchandise. They sat on their own bundles with a piece of canvas to give some protection. Mother Barat wrote: "I understand that God had allowed this to make me practice humility and holy poverty, and that I might resemble our Divine Savior somewhat as I entered Poitiers. I rejoiced interiorly and took this as a good sign." She added that her companion had some trouble accepting the strange wagon; for her sake they mounted outside the city.

The first day they covered only nine miles and arrived at ten o'clock that night at a poor inn. The next day was Sunday and, after learning that their driver could not keep his promise to reach a town where they could assist at Mass, Sophie confided this to the Heart of Jesus and asked him to arrange Sunday Mass for them. Her trust was confirmed when the Church bells began to ring as they entered a village.

The dilapidated cart broke down on the third day. This was Sophie's feast day and seemed to her to be Divine Providence intervening to give her "the consolation of receiving the Sacraments on her feast day." The last day of the journey began in pouring rain that increased in density the nearer they came to Poitiers. They were wet and bedraggled on their arrival. Tomorrow, the Journal will describe their reception in the old monastery that had been built in 1618 by Louis XIII for the Cistercians. It was now partly in ruins.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sophie's Journal 4


St. Madeleine Sophie gave the novices a formation that was strong, solid, scriptural and liturgical. Union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus were essential concepts in their formation. They were to become saints through total surrender to the Heart of Jesus. They were to be spouses of His Heart.

It is good to note that Sophie means the whole person of Jesus when she speaks of the Heart of Jesus. The heart symbolizes love and is the center of the person.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sophie's Journal -3

The picture above is of the Sacred Heart convent in Poitiers where Sophie wrote her journal. I spent several days there when doing research and there is a special spirit in the old convent even today.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is implicit in the entire Journal. There is a certain caution evident due to the disturbed political situation in France, but the essence of the devotion is at the heart of Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat's teaching. She speaks often of total surrender to Jesus, of the desire to belong wholly to him, to love and adore him in the Blessed Sacrament, to imitate his virtues, especially his obedience and humility. Zeal for the salvation of souls manifested itself in the work of education. The young superior's instructions stressed both interior life and zeal for souls.
Ignatian influence is evident in the conferences given in preparation for the celebration of feasts of Jesuit saints; it is even more evident in the formation given to make the novices wholly contemplative and wholly apostolic. This was a new conception of religious life for women. Ignatian spirituality called for contemplatives in action. Mother Barat directed her novices to study the Heart of Jesus and to do all in union with him. She wanted them to discover that union and conformity with Jesus would so integrate their lives that they would be "wholly apostolic and wholly contemplative."
How do we integrate our lives? Am I living an integrated life?