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Statuary St. Madeline Sophie Barat

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St. Madeline Sophie Barat

St Madeline Sophie Barat (1779 –1865) was a French saint of the Catholic Church and was the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Madeline Sophie and her family, the Barats were Jansenist Catholics, and Jansenism is often said to have shaped Sophie's spirituality profoundly.

Early life and family

Madeleine Sophie was born on the night of December 12, 1779, in Joigny, France, in the raging fire. The stress and terror of the fire caused Sophie's mother, Madame Madeleine Fouffe Barat (1740–1822), then pregnant with her third child, to go into labor. Born two months premature, Madeleine Sophie was considered so fragile that early the next morning, she was baptized in St. Thibault Church, located just a few yards from the Barat family home. Although her parents had arranged godparents in advance, there was no time to call them to the church, and so at 5:00 a.m. on December 13, 1779, Louise-Sophie Cedor, a local woman on her way to early Mass, and Sophie's older brother, Louis, stood in as her godparents.

Madeleine Sophie was born into a financially comfortable family, whose ancestors had lived in Joigny for generations and were proud of their roots in the Bourgogne. Her father, Jacques Barat (1742–1809), was a barrel maker and wine-grower. Both of these professions were considered to be noble trades, with centuries of French culture and spirituality behind them.

Madeleine Sophie's older brother, Louis, was born on March 30, 1768. Two years later on August 25, 1770, her older sister, Marie Louise was born. As no medical records exist for this period, it remains unknown why there was such a large gap between the births of the two Barat sisters. Despite her difference in age, Madeleine Sophie was welcomed into her family with joy. Sophie was a vivacious child and drew the warm affection and protective love of her parents. Sophie loved to knit and sew, she adored music, and she often enjoyed helping her father in the vineyards.


Sophie's older brother was a serious boy and a brilliant student. His parents encouraged his interest in studies and employed a tutor for him at home. Shortly after entering the College St. Jacques in Joigny at age nine, Louis decided to become a Catholic priest. In 1784, at the age of sixteen, Louis left Joigny to begin his studies for the priesthood at the seminary at Sens. Louis was ordained a deacon, but, because he was too young to be ordained a priest, he was forced to return home until he was twenty-one. Louis worked as a teacher at his old school and, noticing that his eight-year-old sister was clearly very intelligent, decided to take on Sophie's education. Louis taught her to read and write and schooled her in Scripture, Latin, and mathematics, providing Sophie with an education rarely available to contemporary young women and girls. He would often give Sophie the same exams he gave his own students at the College, and Sophie consistently scored higher marks than any of her brother's male students.

The French Revolution

At the dawn of the French Revolution in 1789, Louis became involved in the debate surrounding the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, passed in July 1790 and demanding all priests swear allegiance to the new revolutionary state. Louis took this oath of loyalty in January 1791, but upon learning that the pope had condemned the Constitution, he renounced his oath in May 1792. This renunciation had immediate effects. Louis first tried to hide in his family's attic but soon fled to Paris, for the danger had become too great for both himself and his family. There, he was arrested in May 1793, imprisoned for two years, and only escaped the guillotine through the courage of a friend. Over the period of a few years, Sophie's entire life had changed. Her studies were halted, and she no longer had time to sew or help her father in the vineyards. After her brother was released in 1795, he briefly returned home to Joigny. Louis then went back to Paris to seek ordination and exercise his ministry in secret. He brought Sophie with him in order to further her education. After arriving in Paris, Sophie and Louis lived in a safe house belonging to Madame Duval. Louis continued to say Mass and teach Sophie the Fathers of the Church, mathematics, Latin, and the Scriptures. While living in Paris, at about the age of eighteen, Sophie decided to become a Carmelite nun, however this would be impossible, for the Carmelites, among many other religious communities, had been abolished at the beginning of the Revolution in 1790. Nevertheless, by passing on to Sophie what he had learned in the College St. Jacques in Joigny and in Sens and Paris, Louis prepared her for a different life and a different way of being, even if this did not mean becoming a Carmelite. In 1800, Sophie briefly returned home to help her family with the grape harvest. During this time, Louis met a priest named Joseph Varin, a man who would change Sophie's life forever.

The Founding and Expansion of the Society of the Sacred Heart

When Sophie returned to Paris, she was introduced to Varin, a priest belonging to the Society of the Fathers of the Faith, a new group of priests that would eventually merge with the Jesuits. Varin wanted to create a women's order devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and involved in the education of young women that correlated with the Fathers of the Faith. Upon meeting Sophie, he saw in her a wholeness of spirit and heart he knew would enable her to complete the task. On November 21, 1800, at the age of twenty-one, Sophie gave up her dream of becoming a Carmelite and, along with three other women living in the Paris safe house, made her vows as one of the first members of this new religious congregation, marking the foundation of the Society of the Sacred Heart. However, because devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had been banned by the French government, the society was initially known as Dames de la Foi or de l'Instruction chretienne.

In September 1801, the first school was opened in Amiens, and Sophie traveled to this small French town in order to teach. The new community and school grew quickly, a school giving classes to the poor of the town was opened, and in December 1802, Sophie, although the youngest of the Sacred Heart Sisters, was named superior, thus making her the leader of the Society of the Sacred Heart at Amiens. Her first act was to kneel and kiss the feet of each of her sisters.

In November 1804, Sophie traveled to Sainte-Marie-d'en-Haut, near Grenoble to receive a community of Visitation nuns into the Society. Among them was Philippine Duchesne, who would later bring the Society to America. A second school was thereby established at Grenoble, followed by a third at Poitiers. Father Varin envisioned an entire network of such schools, and after these first establishments, foundations began to mushroom, not only in France but also in North America (1818), Italy (1828), Switzerland (1830), Belgium (1834), Algiers (1841), England (1842), Ireland (1842), Spain (1846), Holland (1848), Germany (1851), South America (1853), Austria (1853), and Poland (1857).

In January 1806, at the age of twenty-three, Madeleine Sophie was elected Superior General of the entire Society of the Sacred Heart by a majority of one vote. Sophie's wisdom and humility quickly won her submission in all Sacred Heart establishments. In 1820, she called all the superiors together in a council at Paris in order to establish a uniform course of studies for the quickly expanding network of Sacred Heart schools. These studies were to be serious, to cultivate the mind, and to create young women devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and who would do good things on behalf of God. As foundations continued to multiply, Sophie saw the need for a greater degree of unity and thus sought the approval of the Vatican in Rome. By 1826, the Society of the Sacred Heart had received Rome's seal of approval.

In 1840, Sophie fended off a potential schism between the Vatican and the archbishop of Paris. While all her sisters pressured her to choose sides, Sophie refused to do so and was able to successfully heal the breach. Over the course of her sixty-five years as superior general, Sophie and her Society survived the regime of Napoleon, saw France undergo two more revolutions, and witnessed Italy's struggle to become a full-fledged nation.

The Sacred Heart schools quickly gained prestigious reputations and to this day retain an image of educating the aristocracy. However, this was far from Sophie's original intent; she dreamed of educating both children of means and those not of means. For almost every new school established, a corresponding "free" school was opened to provide the poorer children of the area with a quality education.


Beloved by her daughters and venerated by many, Madeleine Sophie Barat died at the general motherhouse in Paris on May 25, 1865, Ascension Day. In 1879, she was declared venerable and beatified on May 24, 1908. On May 24, 1925, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI.

Her mortal remains are located in an ornate reliquary in the church of St Francois Xavier, Paris, France.

One of her earliest biographers was Louis Baunard (in his Histoire de la venerable Mere Madeleine-Sophie Barat, fondatrice de la Societe du Sacre-Coeur de Jesus, Librairie Poussielgue Freres, 1ere edition en 1877, 4e edition en 1879)


Said by Sophie:

"We don't live with angels; we have to put up with human nature and forgive it."

"Show by charity how to meet a crisis."

"Before making any change take counsel…. Prudence and a wise slowness are necessary in the beginning."

"More is gained by indulgence than by severity."

"Be humble, simple, bring joy to others."

"For the sake of one child, I would have founded the Society."

"Your example, even more than your words, will be an eloquent lesson to the world."

"And what is God? Supreme happiness. That is all."

"Give only good example to the children; never correct them when out of humor or impatient. We must win them by an appeal to their piety and to their hearts. Soften your reprimands with kind words; encourage and reward them. That is, in short, our way of educating."

Said of Sophie:

"It was her way to think well of people until forced to do otherwise."

"She loved people through their faults to the core of their best selves."


Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois, was named after Mother Barat and it merged with DePaul University from 2001 until 2005. In 2005, however, DePaul decided to close the school and focus its financial resources towards their other campuses in Chicago and surrounding suburbs where they had a satellite campus. The final class at Barat College finished June 11, 2005, exactly 100 years to the day the first class graduated.

� Sophie-Barat-School Hamburg (Germany) which is an independent, non-fee-paying, co-educational grammar school, was founded and named after her. The school is run by the Society of the Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur).

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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Title: 4' Carved Wood Or Marble Statue Of St. Madeline Sophie Barat
Item Number: KRNM-A737
KRMUS-737: Hand carved wood statue of St. Madeline Sophie Barat with high relief details. Shown with an extra rich finish, can also be painted or polychromed to your spe...