Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in France in 179, the daughter of a cooper (barrel-maker) and vineyard worker. In her day, most girls of such humble background were unable to receive a good education. But Madeleine's older brother Louis was a school teacher, and he taught her science, history and the classics. From the age of 15, she studied the Bible and theology.
Christian schools did not survive post-revolutionary France. So, in the early 1800's, Madeleine began her lifelong commitment to education. She taught at a school for girls in Amiens, which would become the first convent of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Soon a school for the poor was started nearby, and at age 23, Madeleine was appointed superior, a position she held for the next 63 years.
Sacred Heart Foundations spread throughout France, fostering and implementing the ideal that women should be educated in order to exert a positive influence on society. Wishing to secure unity among them, Madeleine applied for approval and recognition from the Pope for the Society's efforts. He grant his approval in 1826.
Madeleine continued to organize new foundations and visit old ones, communicating her hopes and views for the education of women, community and society. Indeed, in her lifetime, more than 3,500 nuns in 86 houses throughout Europe and the United States followed her example.
Two hundred years later, the Society of the Sacred Heart reaches out to women with schools and service organizations all over the world, thanks largely to Madeleine's vision and leadership.
O most holy Heart of Jesus,
fountain of every blessing,
I adore You,
I love You,
and with a lively sorrow for my sins,
I offer You this poor heart of mine.
Make me humble,
and wholly obedient to Your will.
Grant good Jesus,
that I may life in You and for You.
Protect me in the midst of danger;
comfort me in my afflictions;
give me health of body,
assistance in my temporal needs,
Your blessing on all that I do,
and the grace of a holy death.
- Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
back to top | home