Theme 2 -
Sophie Barat and Joseph Marie Favre (1791-
At the General Council in 1815 Sophie Barat was confirmed as the founder and leader of the Society of the Sacred Heart. As the Society grew and expanded rapidly Sophie’s task became ever more demanding and she progressively found it difficult to manage her energies. She became ill frequently, but in 1823, during a visit to Grenoble in the south of France, Sophie Barat collapsed and became seriously ill.
It took her many months to recover and in the following year, during her retreat in Chambery, Sophie Barat met Joseph-
Sophie Barat was 45 in 1824. Accepting Joseph-
Sophie Barat in 1838
To Sophie’s sorrow, Joseph-
Texts for reflection
Letters of Joseph Marie Favre to Sophie Barat
God is calling you to an intimate union with Him. You must overcome all that impedes this relationship. YOUR CONTACTS WITH PEOPLE are not the least of these obstacles. Keep them to a minimum and only when necessary. Let go of everything which does not absolutely require your involvement in the exercise of your responsibility. By being united to God you will do more in a quarter of an hour than in a whole day’s pouring out of frenzied activity. Neither is ENTHUSIASM the least of obstacles: restrain yourself and moderate your actions in such a way that you are more attentive to God than to the chaotic nature of your occupations, which, however necessary, are less important than your great spiritual ideal. Furthermore, your duty to God and to yourself comes before your duty to your neighbour. And you can only give out of what you have. Go to communion as often as you can; your poor soul needs it so much; every day would be best.
The pains, scruples and worries of your dear mother are partly due to her temperament and partly due to the false guidance she has been following for a long time. But they are due most of all to the devil who aims solely to make her waste precious time by useless self-
Trust and the love of God gladden the heart, uplift the soul and make it capable of the greatest undertakings, whereas fear and mistrust depress and sadden the soul, shrink the heart, dull the spirit, ruin the health of the body and disturb rhythm of the spiritual life. God did not come down upon the earth to be feared but to be loved. How can you mistrust a God who infinitely loves you, who wishes only for your health and happiness? How can you mistrust your dear, kind brother Jesus who has suffered so much to save you, who has made so many sacrifices, so that you could share in his glory and his treasures? How can you mistrust this loving and gentle heart that only wishes to be loved and to give love? Such mistrust can only come from the devil. Let it never be intentional.
I am troubled and greatly saddened to see you still the unfortunate slave of anxiety, mistrust and fear. All these weaken your soul, undermine your courage, harden your heart and take up your time needlessly and painfully with your poor self. This ruins everything, distracts you from your essential duties, and deprives you of the ability to communicate and of that gentleness of approach which wins people. It will undermine health both of mind and body, with no benefit to God, to yourself or to your good neighbour. In the name of our kind and loving Saviour cast all your fears, all your anxieties into his Heart which burns with love for you.
Are you in the right place and doing what God wishes?
Who could doubt this since you are called to it by God and the Society? It is for you to stay where you are and discharge your role to the best of your ability. Cast aside as genuine illusion all thoughts of abandoning this responsibility which God has entrusted to you, for this would be to follow a path of selfishness. Look back no longer, lest you risk, like Lot’s wife, being turned into a pillar of salt.
I invite you, I beg you, to set out on the path of love, obedience, trust and holy liberty. No more worries, no more deliberate turning back. Only joy, trust, love and courage in our good and loving Jesus who for so long has been asking for your heart. He only awaits the moment when you will quite gently, simply and lovingly, like a little child, abandon yourself to his sacred and loving care, with total, childlike trust, so that He can unlock and bestow upon you the indescribable treasures of his Heart which burns with love for you.
You will expand the shrivelled heart of your beloved superior, you will advance the glory of the Sacred Heart and the prosperity of your new-
In the normal course of Providence God only creates saints by saints. So you must become holy in order to make others holy. We can only give out of our abundance, so that we do not empty ourselves completely. A mother who neglects her own nourishment kills herself and kills her children.
I have learnt with great sorrow that you are in very poor health. Take some rest and relaxation as well as the remedies prescribed. Allow them [doctors] to treat you as they think best and not according to your own wishes. Do you not need robust and vigorous health to fulfil the greatly increased and varied obligations, so complicated and exhausting, as those for which you are responsible? Heavens above, Mother, in running down your health by overwork, sleepless nights and mortification, are you not also weakening the whole Society?
You must realise that only by a miracle of grace can your worthy Mother give up her long-
Process for reflection on the inner life of Sophie Barat, 1815-
Read the Summary and the Texts which accompany this theme
As you reflect on the life of Sophie Barat from 1815-
Pointers which could help your reflection.
Sophie Barat became critically ill in 1823 and during her convalescence she met Joseph Marie Favre.
Think of times of illness in your life. What happened to you then? What effects did the events have on you?
How do events in your own life help you understand the experiences of Sophie Barat?
Further reading: Madeleine Sophie Barat. A Life; The Society of the Sacred Heart in 19th century France
In the evening time, take time to speak with Sophie Barat about your life and your concerns at this time; about her life and her experience. Bring this reflection into sleep. In the night hours while we are asleep the spiritual world is open and present to us. Sophie Barat belongs to that reality. As a transformed being, she is alive, active and ready to help us.