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Remembering St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Each year on May 25th, the Catholic Church and Sacred Heart Schools around the world celebrate the life and legacy of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. May 25th is observed as Sophie's official feast day by the Roman Catholic Church. As the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, she gave us a model of faith that is grounded in a loving, warm and tender God, as expressed in devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Over the years much has been written about her life, and in 2000, the Society of the Sacred Heart specially commissioned Sister Phil Kilroy, a member of the Religious Society of the Sacred Heart, to write the definitive biography of Madeleine Sophie. The biography was published by Paulist Press. In more than 500 pages it tells the story of Madeleine Sophie's incredible life journey from her birth in Joigny, France on December 12, 1779 to her death in Paris on May 25, 1865.

She lived a vibrant life, founding the Society in 1800 and serving as the Superior for over sixty-three years. In her lifetime, she opened more than one hundred houses and schools in twelve countries. Today the Society has a presence in over 41 countries around the world.

As a School of the Sacred Heart, Regis counts on Madeleine Sophie's intercession and guidance around living out our mission to boys. Saints are meant to be models of faith for us to aspire to. We are fortunate to have her example of faith and spirituality to guide our steps each day with our Regis boys. She demonstrated great courage in the face of a world in turmoil after the French Revolution. She was a dynamic woman who performed the incredible feat of "creating a new religious congregation, provided young women with a distinctive formation for the modern world, and as a saint displayed in her person and in her teaching a spirituality which blended contemplation with action."

What can Madeleine Sophie teach us today in our digital world with computer screens and cell phones dominating our daily lives? Her emphasis on fidelity to human relationships is what marks the Society of the Sacred Heart with a distinct charism. Personal face to face relationships that are loving, caring and tender help us to form and build community. This past school year we celebrated the end of the Bicentennial year of Sacred Heart education coming to the Americas. At the root of that celebration was the friendship of St. Philippine Duchesne's relationship with Madeleine Sophie. Together they influenced hundreds of their fellow sisters by living the charism of expressing the love of Christ in their day to day relationships.

Today we know it is difficult to take action around principles we truly believe in unless we also make time for contemplation. To be apostolic and contemplative is a fine art in our 2019 daily lives. Our world has many more distractions than 18th century France. Someone or some advertisement or product is always bombarding us with flashing signs or endless promotions. We all need the skill to be intentional about inviting reflection and quiet into our day.

Madeleine Sophie's goal was to educate children so that they could have a transforming influence in society. To be a child of the Sacred Heart comes with certain responsibilities centered on transforming our world in places where there is suffering or injustices. Madeleine Sophie was known to write often and consistently to her religious sisters. Perhaps her greatest message is a call to honor children's spirit when she said:

"Let us respect childhood; let us honor the soul of that small creature of God who can already make choices of the best if we take the time to awaken their reason and make them use their judgment."

"For Madeleine Sophie education was never the end. Rather it served as the means for educators and students to come to know and experience God's love. To learn in our school culture means to allow our lives to be shaped by an active faith. Ours is a sacred imperative to educate the whole child and through the dynamic of this education, we and the students come to experience being loved by and loving God. Sophie hoped that education within her schools would be profound enough to inspire people to rebuild, renew and transform society, wherever they lived. As her intuition matured, developed, and expanded, she came to see education as the means and the way to renew society (Phil Kilroy, Madeleine Sophie Barat, a Life)."

Happy Feast Day Madeleine Sophie, and thank you for inspiring our Regis mission with your courage!