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St. Madeline Sophie Barat

Facts

Feastday: May 25
Birth: 1779
Death: 1865

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Madeleine Sophie Barat, RSCJ (12 December 1779 - 25 May 1865), a French saint of the Catholic Church, was the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, a global religious institute focused on education.

Early Life and Family:

Barat was born on the night of 12 December 1779, in Joigny, France, during a neighbor's house fire. Born prematurely, she was baptized the next morning. Raised in a financially comfortable, devout Jansenist Catholic family, she was deeply influenced by her parents' values and willingness to help others.

Education:

Her older brother, Louis, a serious and brilliant student, became her tutor and later a priest. He played a crucial role in her education, teaching her a range of subjects rarely available to young women at the time.

French Revolution:

During the French Revolution, Louis faced challenges due to his refusal to swear allegiance to the new revolutionary state. Sophie, now sixteen, joined him in Paris, working as a seamstress while Louis continued teaching and practicing his ministry in secret.

Founding of Society of the Sacred Heart:

Introduced to Joseph Varin, who aimed to establish a religious order devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barat abandoned her dream of becoming a Carmelite nun. On 21 November 1800, she, along with three others, took vows, marking the foundation of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Initially known as Dames de la Foi or de l'Instruction chrétienne due to restrictions on devotion to the Sacred Heart, the society flourished.

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Expansion:

Barat's leadership led to the establishment of schools and communities across Europe, North and South America, North Africa, and beyond. Despite challenges, she maintained unity and sought Vatican approval, receiving approbation in 1826. Her educational vision extended to free schools for poorer children.

Death:

After 65 years of leadership, Barat died on Ascension Day, May 25, 1865. The Society of the Sacred Heart had grown to over 3,500 members, dedicated to educating women globally. She was declared venerable in 1879, beatified in 1908, and canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

Legacy:

Barat's legacy is evident in the more than 100 schools operated by the Society of the Sacred Heart, known for providing quality education. The Sophie Barat School in Hamburg, Germany, and Barat College in the United States are among institutions continuing her educational mission. The Barat Education Foundation preserves and adapts the Barat legacy, and various scholarships and tributes carry her name.

In Popular Culture:

The French children's toy Sophie the Giraffe indirectly bears Barat's name, as the first toy went into production on May 25, 1961, St. Sophie's day.

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