Friday, April 8, 2016

Saint Julie Billiart: Finding Inspiration to Serve

Marie Rose Julie Billiart was born in Picardy in 1751. An intelligent and devout child, she was forced to perform heavy manual labor to support her impoverished family. After making a private vow of chastity when she was fourteen, she worked among the poor children within her parish, teaching catechism and visiting the sick.

In 1773, she witnessed the attempted murder of her father, and as a result she developed a nervous paralysis that gradually prevented her from walking and caused her severe pain. She was an invalid by the age of thirty, but from her bed she carried on an apostolate of prayer and spiritual counsel to the many men and women who sought her advice and direction.

During the French Revolution she was accused of harboring priests, but she was saved from the authorities by friends who helped her escape to Compi├Ęgne. Her illness continued to worsen, and for several months she was unable to speak. Following the end of the Revolution, Julie resumed her teaching and, gathering together a small group of women, she established the Congregation of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, dedicated to teaching the children of the poor.

In 1804, Julie was cured of her illness after one of her religious sisters made a novena in honor of the Sacred Heart. As she regained her strength she was able to more effectively govern her congregation and assist the work of the “Fathers of the Faith,” a group standing in for the suppressed Society of Jesus. From 1804 until her death on April 8, 1816, Julie was constantly traveling, supervising the construction of nineteen schools in France and Belgium. Remembered as being kind and warm-hearted, and for her complete reliance on Providence, Saint Julie Billiart was canonized in 1960.

Saint Julie Billiart both experienced great psychological and physical anguish herself and she also saw firsthand the suffering that war and civil unrest can cause. Rather than turn in on herself, however, she allowed these experiences to inspire her to help alleviate the suffering of others, especially by providing quality educations and opportunities for the poor. In this way, she continued the saving mission of Jesus.

Pray today for all those women and men religious who have dedicated their lives to teaching and forming young people and to serving the poor. Ask that God will bless the Church with many new religious to continue this mission.

How are you supporting those religious communities and civic organizations that help the poor?

Prayer +
O God,
You willed that through blessed Julia's invincible love of Your Cross
she should enrich Your Church
by the establishment of a new congregation
dedicated to the teaching of poor children.
May her intercession help us to endure suffering courageously,
so that we may attain to the happiness of eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal [1962])

This reflection was originally written for www.Aletiea.org and published on their site on April 8, 2016.

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