A question on Facebook today was, “Will you still serve God if Christianity becomes a felony?” That might seem a farfetched question at first. But in view of the chaos in our country recently—vandalized religious statues, attacks on churches; attempts to eliminate God in schools, in the Pledge of Allegiance, and on our coins—the question is warranted. In other countries Christianity is outlawed. And at other times in history it has been.
Julie Billiart lived when it was a crime to practice the Catholic faith in France. Priests and even holy, harmless Carmelite nuns were executed. Julie herself narrowly escaped being thrown into a bonfire. After the French debacle, Julie and the women who followed her faced the daunting task of rekindling the faith in people who had forgotten it.
A biography of St. Julie that I wrote for children, St. Julie Billiart: The Smiling Saint, has been republished and improved with pictures. The book is available on Amazon both as a paperback and an ebook. Julie’s life parallels ours today in several ways.
During this COVID-19 epidemic, countless people are enduring physical suffering. Julie could identify with them, having been afflicted with neurological pain, frequent illnesses like malaria, toothaches, threat of blindness, and, most harrowing, no less than 23 years of paralysis when she could not walk and sometimes couldn’t talk. Nevertheless, Julie courageously and selflessly continued to nurture the faith in others.
Julie can sympathize with women who are oppressed and denied their rightful place in the world. After she founded the Sisters of Notre Dame, a priest declared himself its founder and usurped her place in guiding her community. In his eyes, Julie was just a woman and from a lower class of society. He and the local bishop made life miserable for Julie.
When the local bishop evicted Julie from his diocese in France, she and her Sisters found refuge in Belgium, where they didn’t even know the language. They were immigrants.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Julie and her Sisters in Belgium lived in fear. They could hear the battles, and barred doors were not always successful in keeping away marauding soldiers. We too are no strangers to violence in our streets.
Although I originally wrote my book on Julie for children, adults are reading it too. Since then I also wrote an adult version of Julie’s life, a novel called St. Julie Billiart: The Walking Love of God. It too can be found on Amazon or purchased from me.
An exclamation often on Julie’s lips was, “How good is the good God!” She urged people to imitate the sunflower that always faces the sun, following it across the sky. We are always to face the Son. If you are not acquainted with this remarkable woman, you might learn more about her through either of these books.
• Who is your favorite saint?