Feast Day : May 25
Madeleine Sophie Barat was born on December 12, 1779, in Joigny, Burgundy, France. She was educated by her brother Louis, who took her to Paris. There Abbé Joseph Varin d’Ainville persuaded her to reorganize a group of women living under a religious rule; this group became her congregation in 1800. Madeleine and the group went to Amiens and formed a school in 1802 with Madeleine as superior general and principal. In 1804 Madeleine founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in Grenoble. She admitted to the order Blessed Rose Philippine Duchesne, who took the society to America in 1818. In 1826, the order received formal approval from Pope Leo XII (r. 1823–29). The society spread quickly through Europe and America—hundreds of institutions existed by the time of Madeleine’s death—but the organization was fraught with internal dissension. Madeleine maintained control, and in 1830 moved the headquarters to Switzerland to escape the political instability in France. Madeleine foretold her own death and died on Ascension Thursday, May 25, 1865, at the society’s motherhouse in Paris. In 1893 she was exhumed. Though the coffin was damp and her garments were mildewed, her body was incorrupt and even her tongue was flexible. She was reclothed and reinterred in a tomb in the chapel of Our Lady of Dolours above the crypt where she previously had been buried. From 1901 to 1908, religious suppression was widespread in France, and 46 of the society’s convents were closed. Madeleine’s body was removed to Jette, Belgium, where it remains enshrined. The body was exhumed again in 1908, the year of her beatification, and was found still incorrupt. So well preserved was the body that no relics were taken; the face and hands were covered with silver. A special shrine in the Sacred Heart Convent in Jette was built in 1934, and the body was placed in a reliquary beneath the altar. The shrine is popular with pilgrims, especially on the first Sunday of the month.