St. Julie Billiart, patron of the sick and poor
The saint of the day for April 8 is St. Julie Billiart, a French religious leader who founded, and was the first Superior General of, the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. St. Julie Billiart is the patron saint of the sick and the poor.
Saint Julie was born in Cuvilly, France, on July 12, 1751 to a affluent farm family. Her family provided a loving environment and nurtured her spiritual growth. At the age of 14, she took a vow of chastity and devoted her life to serving the sick and the poor.
She was a woman of serenity, despite the great personal suffering she endured. The Billiart family survived many hardships, including the deaths of several children. When Julie was 16, she went to work as a teacher to help support her family. One night, robbers invaded her home and shot her father as she stood by helplessly. He recovered from the incident, but the trauma caused Julie, who was then 23, to become paralyzed and a complete invalid. Julie spent more than twenty years confined to her bed. However, she continued to do God’s work. During this time, she received the Eucharist daily, spent four or five hours in contemplative prayer, and spent the remainder of her day making altar linen and lace. She also taught the village children catechism in preparation for First Communion from her bed.
Besides her physical and emotional distress, Julie suffered religious persecution. During the French Revolution, Julie opened her home as a hiding place for loyal priests, which forced her to flee and hide from danger. Throughout her suffering and trials, she steadfastly trusted in God’s goodness. Her motto was: “Oh, how good God is!”
At the age of 53, Julie and her very good friend, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, along with two other women, made their vows as Sisters of Notre Dame in Amiens, France. The new order was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists.
A variety of difficult circumstances caused her to move her congregation to Namur, Belgium, several years later. Today these sisters are known as the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
A short time after the founding of the order, Julie was miraculously cured and walked again for the first time in over 20 years. She died peacefully in 1816 at the age of 64. Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1969.
I cannot tire of wondering at the goodness of my God.
-St. Julie Billiart
Prayer to St. Julie Billiart
Saint Julie, through your great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you were miraculously cured and favored by many graces. By your powerful intercession, obtain for us above all, great trust in God in all difficulties of life, the strength to accomplish in all things the precious will of God and the special grace we now humbly ask of you. Amen.