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Saint of the Day - Saint Julie Billiart (April 8)

I am certain that very few of us can speak in terms of how much we owe to a particular saint, especially one whose intercession we have never sought. But I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Saint Julie Billiart because she is the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, thew order of sisters that taught me from kindergarten through eighth grade. She had an interesting life. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

Image retrieved from and used as being in the public domain.

Saint Juliet Billiart was born on July 12, 1751 at Cuvilly, a village in Picardy, in northern France. She died April 8, 1816. She spent a significant portion off her life both bedridden and as a hunted lady.

Her parents were Jean-François Billiart and Marie-Louise-Antoinette Debraine. They were known to be very strong Christians. As a result, Saint Julie knew the Catechism of thew Catholic by heart by the time she was seven. That was when Saint Julie began teaching the catechism to her friends. Apparently, she was quite the remarkable child and was very close to Christ even as a child. Saint Julie received her First Communion at the age of nine. This is remarkable because the standard age for receiving one's First Communion at that time was thirteen. She was also confirmed at the same time AND took a vow of perpetual virginity. THAT is a lot for a nine-year-old to handle. By comparison, I was eight when I received my First Communion in 1974. I was confirmed when I was 14 (and for both was taught by sisters from the Teaching Sisters of Notre Dame da Namur). Saint Julie was known for her embroidery work and her lace, which she sold in her family's store. When the family store was robbed, the family was never able to recover financially. As a result, Saint Julia found work as a farm worker. There, she taught songs, Bible verses and stories about saints to the other farm workers, all the while knowing that she wanted to enter religious life.

In 1774, Julie witnessed the shooting of her father in the family store. This was a very traumatic experience for Saint, Julie, who was diagnosed with a "mysterious illness. This mysterious illness resulted in Saint Julie becoming bedridden for 22 years because of the trauma of an assassination attempt on the life of her father. Despite being bedridden, Saint Julie was known for her embroidery skills, he charitable works among the poor and her education of young girls without regard to whether they were from nobility or from the poor. She was known for spending four or more hours a day in contemplative prayer.

In 1789, the French Revolution started. Saint Julie did her fighting from her bed. She would often allow priests to stay in her home in order to hide therm from the government. She refused to cooperate with priests loyal to the government. As a result, with the help of one of her students, escaped to Compiègne. She was so hunted that she had to hide under a mound of hay.

While in Compiègne, Saint Julie received a second paralysis that left her unable to speak. It was in Compiègne that she was given the vision of a group of young lady and told that they would be her daughters to form a new religious order with.

She moved to a small apartment in Amiens in October of 1794. It was there that she met the French nun (who was also of nobility), Françoise Blin de Bourdon. Saint Julie recognized Françoise as one of the ladies from her dream.

The /Reign of ?Terror was in full force in 1797 when Saint Julie, de Bourdon, and the Abbé Thomas escaped from hiding to Bettencourt, an area in northern France for about six long years until they were able to return to Amiens in 1803.

On February 2, 1804, Saint Julie together with de Bourdon, and another woman, Catherine Duchâtel made vows of chastity and dedication to the education and care of young girls. Thus, the Sister of Notre Dame were founded in Amiens, France. This group would eventually become the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Above is the cross worn by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

June 1, 1804 was the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After praying a novena at the direction of her confessor, she was cured of her paralysis. This gave her the ability to travel. She made a journey to St. Valery-sur-Somme and Abbeville. Her efforts ended in success.

Between 18014 and 1816, Saint Julie made more than 120 journeys, many of which were long and arduous. During this time, she founded 15 convents of sisters dedicated to the teaching of children.

Saint Julie died on April 8, 1816 as she was praying the Magnificat.

Saint Julie, pray for us!



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