Easter: May 29th
The legacy of Madeleine Sophie Barat can be found in the more than
100 schools operated by her Society of the Sacred Heart,
institutions known for the quality of the education made available
to the young.
Sophie herself received an extensive education, thanks to her
brother, Louis, 11 years older and her godfather at Baptism.
Himself a seminarian, he decided that his younger sister would
likewise learn Latin, Greek, history, physics and
mathematics—always without interruption and with a minimum of
companionship. By age 15, she had received a thorough exposure to
the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and
theology. Despite the oppressive regime Louis imposed, young
Sophie thrived and developed a genuine love of learning.
Meanwhile, this was the time of the French Revolution and of the
suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young,
particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. At the same
time, Sophie, who had concluded that she was called to the
religious life, was persuaded to begin her life as a nun and as a
teacher. She founded the Society of the Sacred Heart, which would
focus on schools for the poor as well as boarding schools for
young women of means; today, co-ed Sacred Heart schools can be
found as well as schools exclusively for boys.
In 1826, her Society of the Sacred Heart received formal papal
approval. By then she had served as superior at a number of
convents. In 1865, she was stricken with paralysis; she died that
year on the feast of the Ascension.
Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized in 1925.