Julie Billiart was born into tempestuous times as France tinkered on the brink of revolution and civil decline. As it was in 1751 Julie was born into a devout family who loved their Catholic Faith and their country.
Julie was to become acquainted with the piquancy of life when several of her beloved siblings died at young ages which brought great suffering to the Billiart family, this suffering seemed to strengthen the Faith that held this loving family together. This studious young girl loved to study and had a great intellectual curiosity about her Faith and the world around her, which enabled her to excel in her studies and impressed her parish Priest. Due much to her maturity of nature her Priest allowed Julie to receive her first Communion at a very young age before the accepted norm which was 13 years old. When she was only 16 years old Julie gained employment in order to help with the family finances as difficulties arise in the family. Within the bosom of her family Julie was known to be a loving and compassionate girl who tried her best to help out when things needed to be done.
Julie's disposition was such that many admired her ability to work harder than anyone else in order to help her parents look after her family. What impressed many people was Julie's selflessness and gentle compassion to all irrespective of their backgrounds. This young girl who had made a private promise to God to maintain a chaste life became renowned for her prayerfulness and kindly nature. So it came as a surprise that when an extraordinary violent incident occurred within her own family it was to change Julies life forever.
France was quickly heading down the road of insurrection as many had become disaffected with their government and also the Church which some of the more political elements used to try and persecute the Catholic Church within France. This revolutionary terrorism would strike at the heart of the Billiart home when an assassin's bullet missed Julies father by only inches. This was such a shock to Julie that it affected her nerves in a very bad way and she was confined to bed, unable to work or to do anything at all. Though this terrible incident affected her nervous disposition still Julie strove by her prayers to help her family and her beloved France.
It was during this time that Julie's spiritual life gained ground and she grew in wisdom so much so that many came to seek her advice about various situations in their own lives. Though Julie was struck down with this mysterious ailment she did not allow it to embitter her but rather became even more prayerful and turned directly to God for her solace. Even Priest's sought out her wisdom to help them in their arduous vocation most especially during these dangerous years.
Then came one of Julie's biggest dreads her beloved France rose up and so began the infamous French Revolution which would also persecute her beloved Catholic Church. Though the leaders of the revolution tried to destroy the Catholic Church they did not succeed and their own attempts at a 'quasi church' met with disdain from the faithful! This persecution also led this courageous lady into hiding as she was paralyzed, and unable to defend herself for she would not submit to this 'quasi church' and allied herself totally with the Roman Catholic Church and to the Pontiff!
Julie would travel to various places including a short stay in Compiegne the scene of a terrible massacre of some heroic Carmelite Nuns. Julie then moved on to Amiens and in 1794 she stayed with the Vicomtesse Francoise de Bourdon after the terrorist revolutionaries had done their worst.
Julie's presence brought much comfort to the Vicomtesse who had been lucky to escape execution by the revolutionaries! Everybody was affected by this truly horrendous persecution of the wealthy classes, the Church and all those who opposed the revolutionaries reign of terror. Everyone was in a state of nervous tension as France endured the persecutors hatred and many of the faithful were forced to go underground in order to receive the Sacraments of the Church. While Julie stayed with Vicomtesse de Bourdon Mass was often held secretly within her home as Julie continued with her strong prayer life as France and its people were in grave need of God's Mercy and protection.
It was here that the first beginnings of a new Religious Order came to be as many in the area were drawn to Julie's particular strong devotion to prayer and her Faith. It was also here that a very holy Priest would visit and through his prayerful novena which Julie also prayed with him, she was cured of her paralysis, such is the power of prayer.
Through the intervention of Father Varin and with approval of the Bishop of Amiens a school would be opened to help aid the poor children many of whom had been orphaned during the terror of the French revolutionaries. It was also at this time that Julie Billiart took her Vows to join the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame. The emphasis with Julie's Order was education of the young many of whom were abandoned by their parents or were made orphans because of the revolution.
As the reputation of the Sisters of Notre Dame grew for its excellent instruction and care of the young, more Houses were opened under the Rule of the Order. This Rule would turn into an open dispute when a Priest decided to try and impose his own rules which had a different Charism than what Mother Julie Billiart had intended but rather than become embroiled in arguments, Mother Julie chose instead to leave Amiens and begin in Ghent.
Mother Julie Billiart's Order grew as its reputation became widely known and admired. The personality of Mother Julie also played an important part as many could see her obvious piety and holiness with an inherent cheerfulness, there was nothing dour in Mother in Mother Julie. This made her loved and admired by one and all.
Though Mother Julie worked hard the effort to maintain the charism of her Order and its standards of excellence led her to neglect her own health. Mother Julie became ill and with her usual patience she bore all with peace of heart and tranquility.
Mother Julie Billiart died in the year 1816.
Saint Julie Billiart was canonized in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.
Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.