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April 8

St Julie Billiart - April 8

Saint Julie Billiart

Nun, Educator, Founder

(1751 – 1816)

“Be like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun, and keep your eyes always turned toward our good God.

Saint Julie Billiart

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life

Mary Rose Julia Billiart was born on July 12, 1751, in Cuvilly, a village in Picardy, in northern France. Her father, Jean-François Billiart, and her mother, Marie-Louise-Antoinette Debraine, were peasant farmers. Both parents provided strong Christian guidance to Julie. Her childhood was remarkable.  Julie was poorly educated, compared to other school children, but was highly educated in her Christian faith. Julie knew the catechism by heart by the age of seven, when she began teaching it to her friends.

Her Teenage Life

At the age of 14, she took a vow of chastity. Then, she devoted her life to serving the sick and the poor. Julie knew that she wanted to enter the religious life. Julie was admired for her beautiful embroidery and lace.  She sold these items in her family’s store and donated to local churches and to the nearby Carmelite convent. Growing up, Julie was known as the “Saint of Cuvilly” for her virtues and piety.

Surviving Hardships

The Billiart family survived many hardships, including the deaths of several children. When Julie was 16, she went to work as a teacher to help support her family. One night, robbers invaded her home and shot her father as she stood by helplessly. He recovered from the incident. But, the trauma caused Julie, who was then 23, to become paralyzed and a complete invalid. In addition, her paralysis that took away her ability to speak. Julie spent twenty-two years confined to her bed. However, she continued to do God’s work. During this time, she received the Eucharist daily and spent four or five hours in contemplative prayer, Julie spent the remainder of her day making altar linen and lace for the altar. She also taught the village children catechism in preparation for First Communion from her bed. 

Religious Persecution 

Besides her physical and emotional distress, Julie suffered religious persecution. During the French Revolution, Julie opened her home as a hiding place for loyal priests, which forced her to flee and hide from danger. Throughout her suffering and trials, she steadfastly trusted in God’s goodness. Her motto was: “Oh, qu’il est bon, le bon Dieu” (Ah, how good the good God is!”). A group of her friends helped organize the work she’d started.

Miraculously Healed

After her confessor instructed her to pray a novena, Julia was miraculously healed of her paralysis on June 1, 1804, and resumed her work. At the age of 53 on October 15, 1804, Julie and her very good friend, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, along with two other women, made their vows as Sisters of Notre Dame in Amiens, France. Her organization became the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame (Institute of Notre Dame; Sisters of Notre Dame), dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists.

Order Moved to Belgiun

A variety of difficult circumstances caused her to move her congregation to Namur, Belgium, several years later. Today these sisters are known as the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. By the time the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was approved by an imperial decree on June 19, 1806, it had 30 members. In a few years, the order was founded in various towns in France and Belgium, the most important ones in Ghent and Namur. In 1809, the Namur convent became the order’s motherhouse. Between 1804 and 1816, Billiart founded 15 convents, made 120 long hard journeys all while carrying on a close correspondence with her spiritual daughters. 

Her Death

In January 1816, Julia became ill.  After three months of pain that she patiently endured in silence, she died praying on April 8, 1816 in Namur, Belgium in the motherhouse at the age of 64. By the time of her death, her order had 15 convents. As of 2020, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur worked in 16 countries on five continents.

Born:                   July 12, 1751 in Cuvilly, Picardy, France

Died:                   April 8, 1816 in Namur, Belgium

Beatified:           May 13, 1906 by Pope Pius X

Canonized:        June 22, 1969 by Pope Paul VI

Feast Day:         April 8

Patron Saint:    Against Poverty; Bodily Ills; Disease; Sick People; The Poor

Source:

Reflection

Saint Julie Billiart did not let confinement to a bed make her a “helpless cripple” even with a speech impediment. Instead, she used this confinement to spend four or five hours a day in contemplation and receive the Eucharist daily. In addition, she taught poor peasants and prepared village children for their First Communion. Imagine being bedridden and receiving a vision to start a new religious congregation. Her deep faith and loving spirit did not stop Saint Julie Billiart from eventually making her vows. Eventually, she did found the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame who were dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists. She truly shows that joy is found even in a life filled with sorrow. Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.

What “handicap” do you think you have that is stopping you from doing God’s will? With a deep faith, a strong prayer life, and a loving spirit, like Saint Julie Billiart, you can accomplish more than you think doing’s God will. 

Prayers

Saint Julie Billiart, through your incredible devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus, you were miraculously cured.  You continued doing God’s will with your new found order just as you did God’s will bedridden, teaching the faith to others.  By your powerful intercessions, obtain for us, above all things, a greater trust in God. In all the difficulties of life, intercede for us so that we have the strength to accomplish all things in God’s will. 

Saint Julie Billiart, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Julie Billiart

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 8 April – St Julie Billiat

Angelus – Saint of the day: Julie Billiart

A Reason2BCatholic – Saints Alive! | St. Julie Billiart

Catholic Exchange – St. Julie Billiart

Catholic Fire – St. Julie Billiart, patron of the sick and poor

Catholic News Agency – St. Julie Billiart Feast Day: Apr 08

Catholic Online – St. Julie Billiart

Loyola Press – Saint Julie Billiart Feast day April 8

New Advent – St. Julie Billiart. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – The Story of Julie Billiart

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Julie Billiart (1751-1816)

Saint of the Day – April 8 Saint Julie Billiart

uCatholic – Saint Julie Billiart

Wikipedia – Julie Billiart

Video Link

St. Julie Billiart | 8th April – YouTube Video (Atmadarshan TV)