Sophie's story (digital version)

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  • 1 | Chapter 1 | Born Into Fire

    Sophies Story 1779 1865Kylie Swanson & Mary Shanahan RSCJ

    Sophies Story1779 1865Kylie Swanson & Mary Shanahan RSCJ

  • Kylie Swanson & Mary Shanahan RSCJ 2007

    First edition 2007 Second edition (electronic) 2015

    Published by the Society of the Sacred Heart Australia New Zealand Province 52 Awaba Street, Mosman NSW 2088 Australia.

    Society of the Sacred Heart, 2015.

  • Sophie Barat, we believe, is a woman for our time and we wanted to tell her story in a way that would appeal to our younger generation in particular.

    Sophies Story was created with the help of many. We would like to thank Felicity Permezel and Natalie Cox for their invaluable encouragement and suggestions. Special thanks to Trina Del Vecchio our wonderful editor who gave this project so much of her time. We were lucky to be surrounded by so many women of spirit throughout our journey to tell Sophies story.


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    This introduction to the life of Madeleine Sophie Barat was produced in 2007 for the celebration of 125 years of the presence of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Australia. It seems fitting that this second, electronic, edition be released in 2015 the year in which we celebrate 135 years of the Societys presence in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Sophies Story continues to be a useful resource for those who are new to the ministries of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and for those who would like to enter more deeply into its story. Trina Del Vecchios foreword to the first edition explains:

    Sophies Story situates Sophies life and work within a social, political and religious framework. It outlines Sophies childhood and education by her elder brother, Louis, leading up to her negotiations with the state and church and her eventual founding of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which she guided for the rest of her life.

    Sophies life was marked by fire, in the form of political and religious turmoil and her own unending passionate spirit. The devastation Sophie experienced intensified her vision of love revealed through the Heart of Christ, a vision which she was committed to fulfil throughout most of her life. Sophie is a woman of strength and foremost a woman of God. In sharing Sophies story, we can be sure that her spirit will be kept alive amongst present and future generations. (Trina Del Vecchio, Editor, 1st Edition.)

    Sandie Cornish Province Director of Mission 25 May 2015


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    Chapter 1 Born into Fire

    that brought her to an early birth soon became a


    that stretchedaround the world.



  • 3 | Chapter 1 | Born Into Fire

    Madeleine Sophie Barats story spans across time and space from her birth in Joigny in 1779 to her death in Paris in 1865. During her life she faced many challenges that came from the political and church situation in France, the founding of religious congregations following the French Revolution, and the evolution of her own congregation, the Society of the Sacred Heart.

    When friends of her mother asked Sophie what brought her into the world they were always delighted when she replied fire. On 12 December 1779, a fire raged in Joigny, a town in the centre of a wine-growing area in Burgundy, France. The fire came close to a house on the Puits Chardon where Madeleine Barat was pregnant with her third child. Terrified by the threat of danger and by the shouts of people in the street, Madeleine gave birth prematurely to a daughter who was christened Madeleine Sophie, though she would always be known as Sophie to her family and friends. Sophie had two siblings, Marie Louise, nine years her senior, and Louis, who was eleven years older. Louis was her godfather and came to play a prominent role in her life.

    Sophie was drawn to the

    love of Jesus Christexpressed through the

    Sacred Heart

  • | 4Chapter 1 | Born Into Fire

    Sophie was born at a time of political crisis in her country. In 1787 the King had run out of money and as a result tried to impose a tax on the members of the 1st and 2nd Estates as well as a further tax on the 3rd Estate. The 1st and 2nd Estates were comprised of the clergy and the nobles who owned the land and did not pay taxes. The middle class and peasants who formed the 3rd Estate were required to pay taxes. The King called the Estates General, a gathering of representatives from all three Estates, to announce his proposal. It was, however, met with disapproval from all parties. The 3rd Estate represented 95% of the population and in an earlier Assembly was outvoted by the combination of the clergy and nobles, the other 5% of the population. The question facing the Estates General was whether the voting on the proposed taxes would be by Estates or by individuals. Indecision on this issue led to talk of the 3rd Estate forming a National Assembly and taking the law into its own hands. Some of the 3rd Estate were lawyers and came into prominence at this time through their writings. Given that the meetings of the 3rd Estate were open to the public, this group gained widespread popularity and in 1789 they established a National Assembly and declared themselves rulers of the country. Their struggle for power soon became violent and, on 14 July 1789, angered by weeks of debate and rising grain prices, the crowds stormed the Bastille a protest that resulted in considerable loss of life. Following this, the 1st and 2nd Estates were stripped of their power and many ended up on the guillotine, including the King, Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette.

  • The Revolution inspired many of the people in Joigny to stand against the injustice they were facing. One of the churches, St Jean, was named the Temple of the Goddess of Reason and the people were encouraged to gather there to celebrate the Revolution by singing patriotic songs. The church where Sophie was baptised, St Thibault, was used for town meetings and closed to Christian worship for a year. Priests either gave up their ministry or took the oath to abide by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790, which subordinated the Church to the State by having the citizens elect their bishops and parish priests and limiting the Popes jurisdiction in spiritual matters. Sophies brother, Louis, a cleric not yet ordained, followed the lead of his archbishop and other priests, and took the oath, but after a time, again following the archbishop, realised its implications and chose to renounce it. For this Louis was imprisoned and faced death by the guillotine. Sophie lived amongst uncertainty, not only in the political arena but also in the Church. A Dutch theologian, Cornelius Jansens, who died as Bishop of Ypres, France in 1638, preached a theology known as Jansenism. He taught that Christ had not died for all and only the predestined

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  • would be saved. Jansenism emphasised the innate evil within the human being and maintained that God was a severe judge whom it was impossible to please. For many, happiness was thus sought in the next life. This form of spirituality became influential in France from the early 17th century and it profoundly challenged Sophies spirituality. Despite these Jansenistic influences, Sophie was drawn to the love of Jesus Christ expressed through the Sacred Heart. The pierced Heart of Christ became a strong symbol that made her life mission clear.

    The story of the salt doll speaks to Sophies journey from the darkness of Jansenism to the light and love of the Heart of Jesus. This doll journeyed across the world seeking enlightenment as to who she was. When she came to the sea, the doll asked it, Who are you? Come and see, the sea replied smiling. The doll did so and as it moved further and further into the sea it gradually dissolved. Just before the last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed with joy, Now I know who I am. Rather than the sea, it was the fire of love that helped Sophie realise her true identity and overcome the early influences of Jansenism.

    It was the

    fire of lovethat helped Sophie realise her

    true identity

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  • From the late Middle Ages onwards the freedom of the French people as children of God was undermined by another doctrine in the church known as Gallicanism. It had three basic ideas: the independence of the King of France in the temporal order; the superiority of general councils over the Pope; and the union of the king and clergy in France to limit Papal intervention within the kingdom. Although the Pope was recognised as supreme in spiritual matters, he had no absolute and infinite power in France. In later life Sophie came up against members of the church hierarchy imbued with these ideas and had to patiently and firmly maintain her authority, particularly in her dealings with the archbishops of Paris.

    While represented some of the difficulties in Sophies life, it gave her fire

    immeasurable strength

    7 | Chapter 1 | Born Into Fire

  • While the fire represented some of the difficulties in Sophies life, she also carried this fire in her heart and it gave her immeasurable strength.

    Sophie grew up in a loving family and as a young child enjoyed playing with friends among the vineyards in the lovely Burgundian countryside. She described herself as the daughter of an artisan, a barrel maker. While her father worked and entertained his friends in the cellar, her mother invited friends to the kitchen where they discussed the ideas, events and gossip of the day. The dividing influence of Jansenism would have been the centre of much of this discussion. While some of the women opposed its harsh doctrine, others suc