Although St. Julie Billiart lived from 1751 to 1816, several aspects of her life parallel our current world. My latest book is her biography in the form of a novel: The Walking Love of God: St. Julie Billiart. (It contains colored photos, which makes it more expensive, but I thought it was worth it.) Here are some features of this saint’s life that are relevant:
Julie was an immigrant, a refugee. She was born in France and began her religious community, the Sisters of Notre Dame, there. But when the bishop evicted her from his diocese, she fled and took refuge in Belgium. She did not speak the language (Flemish), and at first people in Belgium were leery of having French sisters teach their children.
Julie lived when people’s faith and hope needed to be restored. During the French Revolution, the Catholic faith was attacked. Churches and monasteries were closed. Priests and women religious (like the Carmelites) were beheaded. For years the faith was no longer practiced or passed on.
Julie focused on teaching women and children, especially the poor. Hundreds of orphans wandered the streets of France. Julie established boarding schools and free schools for the poor. At missions at French cathedrals, she taught mostly women and children.
Julie suffered psychological abuse from the clergy. A priest usurped her role as founder and superior general of her religious congregation. He spread slanderous tales about her to bishops and priests. Her own bishop banned her from his diocese.
Julie accomplished marvels as an elderly person. She began the Sisters of Notre Dame when she was fifty-three years old. After a miraculous healing, she established numerous schools and convents and made one hundred and twenty journeys, often walking for miles in all kinds of weather.
Julie’s family was the victim of violence. Robbers stole goods from the family store, a crime that sent the Billiarts into poverty. Later, while Julie and her father were in the shop, a rock was hurled through the store window and a shot was fired.
Julie fled for her life. While she was paralyzed, French revolutionaries hunted her, intending to burn her on a bonfire. She escaped by being hidden under hay in a farm wagon.
Julie was disabled for twenty-three years. Besides being paralyzed and bedridden, at times she could not speak.
Julie experienced the dark night of the soul, when she lost all sense of God’s comforting presence.
Remarkably, Julie never lost faith. Through all the ups and down of her life, her constant expression was “How good is the good God!”
If you would like to learn more about St. Julie, you might read my book. Please purchase it directly from me. Send a check for $20.00 (which includes shipping) to Kathleen Glavich, SND, 13000 Auburn Rd., Chardon, OH 44024. Questions to go with the book can be found at https://kathleenglavich.org/articles/questions-for-the-walking-love-of-god-st-julie-billiart/
What connection, if any, do you have with the Sisters of Notre Dame, the Coesfeld or Namur congregations?