The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Blessed Madeleine Sophie Barat

detail of a statue of Saint Sophie Barat; 1934 by Enrico Quatrini; Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsIf one desires to see the spirit of a Saint Teresa alive in the nineteenth century, let him read the admirable life of the Blessed Madeleine Sophie Barat. He will be placed face to face, as it were, with proof that eminent sanctity is now found in the Church just as in ages past. She was born of simple but truly Christian parents on 12 December 1779, at Joigny in Burgundy. The Reign of Terror brought bitter grief to the Barat family. Their son Louis, then a deacon, was imprisoned in the Conciergerie in 1793 and only the fall of Robespierre saved him from the guillotine. When Louis was ordained to the priesthood he brought his sister Sophie, eleven years younger than himself, to Paris. He took upon himself her spiritual guidance and wisely and skilfully made her familiar with the principles of Christian asceticism. It was at Paris, the center of the Revolution, that the Blessed Sophie was to found a religious Society for the restoration and defense of the Kingdom of God. The devout Father Varin, superior of the Fathers of the Faith, directed her attention to the needs of the Church and to the misery of so many immortal souls that do not love Him whose love is alone able to give them happiness. He enkindled in her a zeal for souls which was to burn ever more strongly into the days of her old age, and which neither sorrow nor a great flood of bitter trials would succeed in extinguishing. On 21 November 1800, Sophie Barat, with several companions, solemnly consecrated herself to the Sacred Heart. Two years later she was allowed to take the vows of her Society and was obliged to assume the office of superior, which she filled for sixty-two years.

But it was a heavy and sharp-edged cross that was laid upon her shoulders. In the beginning God permitted that the Society of the Sacred Heart should be very severely tried, and this no one felt more keenly than the superior-general. But, as the cold, dull iron sparkles more brightly with light and glow the more it is penetrated by the fire of the forge, so in this fiery trial of suffering the splendid features of the founder’s character and her unshakable confidence in God triumphed; and it was her consolation to see her Society spread over the whole world, with nearly 4000 Religious calling themselves her daughters.

Her life was a living and active faith. The truths of faith were her consolation in all reverses of fortune. They alone decided her resolutions. This spirit of faith was so strong in her that it was endowed by God with the gift of miracles. She was also endowed with remarkable enlightenment, prudence, and a farsighted and intimate understanding of the times. There was nothing extravagant in her conduct. Her chief interest was centered in what the Divine Heart so much desires – the honor of the Heavenly Father, or what is practically the same, the salvation of immortal souls. Seeing that especially among the ranks of the wealthy many are alienated from God at an early age, Mother Barat made it a chief aim of her Society to impart to young ladies a good Christian education. As an excellent means toward the realization of this end she encouraged retreats and endeavored to procure that as many as possible might profit by this means of regeneration for mind and heart. Extraordinary favors from heaven were numerous during her life-time. She had marvelous success in converting obstinate sinners. Very remarkable are the miracles which took place after her death. Twenty-eight years later her body was found to be incorrupt although the coffin was decayed. Nearly one hundred miracles are recorded in detail in the acts of her beatification. She was declared Blessed in 1908, although her death had occurred on 25 May 1865. But God intends for her even higher exaltation. Since her beatification she has further manifested her power to work miracles and the process of her canonization has already been begun.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916