St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, Foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, was born in December, 1779, in the village of Joigny in the region of Bourgogne, France. At that time French society was devastated and in chaos due to the French Revolution. Even though Madeleine Sophie was born during those times, she attained a high level of learning. She received a strict education, similar to that in a seminary, from her brother who was eleven years older and studying to become a priest.
Ever since she had prayed before an image of Jesus when she was still very young, Madeleine Sophie had gradually deepened her devotion to the Sacred Heart. She wanted to spend her life in prayer and wanted to enter the contemplative Carmelite Order. Then, a priest friend of her brother, Louis, approached her about founding a congregation for the education of women. They thought that what was really needed in a confused society was the education of women.
Madeleine Sophie responded to this request with courage and confidence in God, and began the Society of the Sacred Heart, which she called, 'this little society'. She was then only twenty years old. "There are two loves burning in my heart: love for God and love for children." For Madeleine Sophie, the Heart of Jesus was a symbol of the infinite love of God.
Madeleine Sophie, who was seized by a passion to communicate this love of the Heart of Christ to the ends of the world, was elected Superior General when she was only 23 years old. For 63 years, until her death at the age of 85, she continued to respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit with courage. When Madeleine Sophie died in 1865, there were 122 Schools of the Sacred Heart. They had been founded first in France, then in 16 countries across Europe and North and South America.
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