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Friday, June 5, 2009

Sophie walks with us still through her letters

Humility became one of the essential virtues in the spirituality of Mother Barat. She said in a circular letter written in November of 1864: "Let us never tire in our striving with firmness of will for the perfection of humility. In vain shall we call ourselves Religious of the Sacred Heart if this His favorite virtue does not, so to speak, exhale from us in all our actions." Then she added, "We must study our divine Model and do our best to reproduce His humility of Heart."

In one of her last circular letters written on March 10, 1865, Mother Barat again speaks of humility and says that it is to be prized, "for it unites us with the Heart of Jesus, and He will only recognize as His true Spouses the lowly and the humble."

Now let us turn to St. Madeleine Sophie's personal letters of direction. There are some great spiritual guides in Christian history who have left us letters of direction and Sophie is one of them. To give direction in writing is difficult. Sophie wrote thousands of letters in which she gave personal spiritual direction. A study of her letters shows us both the qualities of the director and the characteristics of her direction which aimed at bringing others to closer union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus.
Let us follow the path traced by a few of these letters as the Society of the Sacred Heart possesses over 14,000 letters of Sophie. Eleven volumes, containing about 2,704 letters, have been published. Five of these contain letters of personal direction to individual religious; another five volumes contain letters to superiors and one volume has letters address to the Mistress Generals, Assistants, and Treasurers. These letters were published for the Society of the Sacred Heart between 1922 and 1965.
Several thousand letters have been transcribed from the originals since 1983. These letters were available for me in the General Archives in Rome and I read them straight through, for the correspondence is arranged in chronological order by persons. This is a wonderful way to grasp the characteristics of Sophie's direction as she formed each according to her temperament, needs, and graces.

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