st julieSt Julie Billiart our Patron Saint:

Julie Billiart was a woman who was completely immersed in the love of God. Julie has a special place in the life of the Catholic Church, not only as a saint but also as a visionary woman who responded to the needs of the suffering world around her.

Her life was a very common one, with perhaps more personal suffering than many would ever guess. She survived numerous hardships, including the loss of several siblings to illness.

She went to work at the age of 16 to help support her family, and at the age of 23 was paralysed by the trauma of nearly being shot in her father’s store. She spent more than 20 years confined to her bed and unable to care for even her most basic needs.
Julie knew what it was like to live not only as an invalid but also as a refugee, to suffer religious persecution, to be shunned as an outcast, and to be the subject of mean-spirited rumours. In spite of her suffering, she clung to God and at the age of 53 she founded the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Julie reached out to the poor and forgotten; she brought comfort and hope to those around her; she brought faith to the seeking and the lost, and more than anything else, she was a witness to the deep loving goodness of God.
The impact that Julie had on the world continues to live on in the sisters who claim her heritage.

On July 12, 1751 in a small village in Cuvilly, France, Francois and Marie Antoinette De Braine gave birth to the fifth of seven children. The child was baptised that same day and was given the name of Marie Rose Julie.
Her family were peasant farmers, who also owned a little shop at Cuvilly in Picardy. When Julie was only 8 years old, she would take on the role of teacher of catechism and Sacred Scripture while playing, and the children of her own age, and older ones, listened enraptured.

The pastor of the village recognised the spiritual gifts of the child and taught Julie how to pray. When she was 9 years old, she secretly made her first communion.

In spite of their meagre income, the Billiarts were a happy family. But repeated losses brought about real financial pressure and thieves broke into their shop creating further devastation. When Julie was only 16 years of age she had to earn her living. She was obliged to work, to join the harvesters in the fields. She used this as an opportunity to teach the other field workers about their duties as Christians.
One evening while Julie was in conversation with her father in the old store, a shot came through the window pane. Julie’s nerves were so badly shaken that her walking and movement were severely impaired. At the age of 23 she was reduced to the condition of an invalid. Refusing to give into despair, Julie found a way to overcome her trials. She lived a life of even closer union with God and taught catechism to the children of the village. With the aid of crutches she would visit the sick and hold vigils beside their beds. When she was 31, her paralysis became complete. For long hours she conversed with Jesus, absolutely oblivious of what went on around her, absorbed. She began to receive students at her bedside and teach them catechism.

Then came the French Revolution, and with it the Civil Constitution for the Clergy. All priests were remanded to take an oath of allegiance to the revolutionary authorities. Those priests who did not, were hunted down. Julie tried to organise the townspeople to reject the “constitutional” priest sent to replace their pastor and helped to find hiding places for fugitive priests who rejected the taking of the oath.
When the authorities learned of her activity, they wanted to burn her alive, causing her to flee and go into hiding. She fled to Compiegne, hidden in a cartload of straw. She suffered much from the situation and had to keep moving to stay alive. In spite of her suffering, Julie clung to God.

In the first lull which followed the end of the Reign of Terror, an old friend rescued Julie and brought her to Amiens to the house of Viscount Blin de Bourdon. Francoise Blin de Bourdon was henceforth to be her close friend and her associate in all her work. In the sickroom of Julie, mass was offered daily and a little party of women who were inspired by Julie’s suffering soon gathered around her.

However, this calm was not meant to last, and a recurrence of persecution caused the group to scatter. Julie and Francoise landed at the house belonging to the Doria family at Bettencourt. During their stay here, they were visited by Fr Joseph Varin who was immensely struck by the personality and capabilities of Julie. He was convinced that God intended her to do great things. Under his direction, the foundations of the Institute of Notre Dame were laid. The Institute was to devote itself primarily to the spiritual care of poor children, the Christian education of girls of all classes, and to the training of religious teachers.
During a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on June 1, 1804, Julie was miraculously cured. She was 53 years old.

Three torches lit up the path of Julie Billiart: a lively faith, a boundless charity and a keen sense of the goodness of God. “Ah! How good is the good God!”
In January 1816, Julie became seriously ill. On April 8, while she was repeating the Magnificat, Julie died and entered eternal life. Julie was 65 years old when she died.