All posts by snddenGW

ABOUT This blog is an experiment from our initial Good Works blog on WordPress (snddenGW). Good Works is our printed international Mission Support magazine. It is published three times a year by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur’s Congregational Mission Office. A link to our downloadable, full edition .pdf file is available on our main website: or our Good Works – International Magazine Archive. We are experimenting with this “2014 Theme″ template that is designed to automatically scale for desktop, tablet, and smart phone size screens. From your past feedback, we are learning that over 60 percent of you are sending prayer intentions from our mobile websites (if on a smart phone) and 40% from our main site from desktops and tablets. This blog edition will be “tweeted” and announced on Facebook when we are ready to “go pubic.” Please add your feedback in the comment section on any page. It will really be helpful and we move ahead with our social media efforts.

Saint Julie and Françoise, Sisters of Notre-Dame, two friends and educators


Françoise Blin de Bourdon (Mother Saint-Joseph between 1816 and 1838).

This is the story of the great friendship between Julie Billiart, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, without which the Congregation would never have seen the light of day!

One of the gifts that the Congregation considers as its most precious is the fact that it is born of a deep friendship between two women.  This is one of those friendships that can figure among the greatest in religious life. 

Françoise possessed an immense capacity for friendship.  We are going to speak especially of that which united her to Julie.

The story of 22 years of friendship between Julie and Françoise (between 1794-1816)

Born in the middle of the 18th century (Julie in 1751 and Françoise in 1756), in the north of France, from very different backgrounds, the first 40 years of their lives are not alike in their exterior circumstances but offer great similarities with respect to their relationship with God.  They both had a rich interior life.  Julie dies in 1816, after 22 years of friendship and collaboration with Françoise.  The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur is founded on an UNPREDICTABLE friendship between two very DIFFERENT French women.  [Julie and Françoise had very different personalities:  the first joyful, extroverted; the other more reserved.  They also differed in their origins and education:  the one from a modest milieu and who attended the village school; the other from the aristocracy with an excellent education.  However, we will see how Julie and Françoise resembled one another in their way of living for God.

 1. The Life of Françoise Blin de Bourdon before meeting Julie

In four words:  Aristocratic, well-educated, chatelain and Carmel.

  • Aristocratic:  A noble birth in a wealthy family, fruit of the union between the Blin de Bourdon and the Fouquesolles families.  Françoise’s family was one of the oldest in Picardy, in the north of France.  It traced its heritage to the eleventh century.  In the Middle Ages there was an adage with respect to the name.  When something was considered good, people said that it was “good as a Blin.” 
Françoise Blin de Bourdon, Lady of Gézaincourt

When her parents married in 1748, her father, Pierre-Louis Blin de Bourdon, was 42 years of age and her mother, Marie-Louise-Claudine de Fouquesolles, was 17.  Born on March 8, 1756, and preceded by a brother, Louis-Marie-César and a sister, Marie-Louise-Aimée, she was the third and last child and was baptized the day after her birth, on the feast of Sainte Françoise Romaine.  Only 25 years of age and with two other children, 2 and 3 years old, Françoise’s mother was encouraged to leave the newborn with her parents at Gézaincourt, a vast and beautiful country manor with gardens (about 19 miles from Amiens).   Aside from a few trips to Bourdon where her parents possess a chateau, she spends her childhood at Gézaincourt with her maternal grandparents, the baron and baroness de Fouquesolles.  Françoise’s grandmother, with the assistance of a governess, Mademoiselle Ursula, introduces the young child to her first educational experiences, religious and secular.  Françoise is raised with love.  She was an obstinate and strong-willed child. 
* Well-educated
At the age of six, Françoise became a boarder with the Benedictines in Doullens.  It was there that she was confirmed when she was eight years of age.  In 1768, she was sent for two or three years to the Ursulines in Amiens to complete her education.   At 19, in order to prepare for her introduction into French society, she frequents the salons of Paris and is presented to the Court at Versailles.  She was a friend of the sister of King Louis XVI, Madame Élisabeth.  

Illustration by T.J. Bond dans Mother St. Joseph by SND, Sands and Co, Glasgow, 1964.

Françoise was 25 when her sister and brother marry and she now finds herself alone with her parents at Bourdon.  This is a sacrifice for her since she got along well with her brother who was a true friend and confidant.  He establishs himself in Amiens where he buys a town home on the rue des Augustins. 

Three years later, at age 28:  her maternal grandfather and her mother died (her grandfather on February 24, 1784, and her mother on April 2).  Her mother was 53 when she died, 10 months after a carriage accident.

Françoise suffered greatly from these losses.

  • Chatelain and Carmel:

Françoise doesn’t stay long with her father because her duty calls her to Gézaincourt.  She must assist her grandmother and assume her duties as chatelain of the vast domain.  She gives herself to her grandmother and the villagers and she distributes alms to the poor.  There she manages the vast domain and its dependencies.  She also visits the sick and cares for them by means of medicinal herbs that she cultivates; the villagers freely ask advice of the “good young lady.”  The pastor later affirms that Françoise went each day to Mass, prayed at length and received communion often.  [Françoise seemed to be aware that she was preparing herself to manage the future Congregation by becoming a good administrator in order to make good decisions and expand the Institute. [Cf.  Mémoire de Cécile Dupont for the purpose of obtaining her Masters in History:  The SND de Namur, Educational  Entrepreneurs (1804-1842), Louvain-la-Neuve, 2014]. 

In her writings are found notes that show a deep commitment to God.  In these personal notes, she had written, in 1783, “partial conversion; imperfect light” and, in 1785 (age 29), “full or complete conversion with the unshakeable resolve to remove from my life all that could separate me from my end or goal.”   She wanted to enter a Carmelite monastery. 

In 1789, the Revolution breaks out.  Françoise, because of her social standing, will suffer terribly during the French Revolution.

Illustration by T.J. Bond dans Mother St. Joseph by SND, Sands and Co, Glasgow, 1964.

In 1793, the members of the Blin de Bourdon family (her father, more than 80 years of age, and Françoise’s brother) were among those falsely accused of having fled the country, were imprisoned.  In February of 1894, Françoise is arrested in place of her grandmother – who dies on March 18 – and is conducted to prison in Amiens.  Because of overcrowding in the prisons, prisoners were given the option of begin transferred to the Carmelite monastery where the Carmelites were being held captive.  Only Françoise accepted the transfer.  [Françoise will not encounter them but she hears them pray.]  It is only after the death of Robespierre that they will all be freed on August 3 and 4, 1794; Françoise then rejoins her brother at the Hotel Blin, in Amiens.  The Viscount leaves for Bourdon; Françoise stays in Amiens.
It is there that she will meet Julie. 

A few words on Julie’s life:
As for Julie, she suffers terribly during the French Revolution because of her fidelity to the Church and her deep faith.  Forced to flee her village that she had never left, at 40 years of age, paralyzed, having lost the use of speech, having known several dwellings in Gournay-sur-Aronde and in Compiègne, she was retrieved in October of 1794 by an aristocrat well known in Cuvilly, the Countess Baudoin. 

2. The Meeting

A Little after Julie’s arrival at the Hotel Blin (cf. April’s theme), Madame Baudoin proposes to Françoise that she meet Julie. 

Comic of Saint Julie, Editions du Signe, 2000.

Françoise, who didn’t have too many occupations at the time, accepts.  Françoise was to write later about this encounter in her Memoires:

            “This young woman had leisure in abundance and was quite willing to come, though when she found she could not understand the invalid’s labored speech the visits seemed less attractive….  Finally, in spite of a natural repugnance which she had at first experienced, a friendship grew between them, as events will show.” 

Julie is immediately drawn to Françoise.  She had already seen her in a vision (see the theme for the month of May) and recognizes her.

In the beginning, the encounter with Julie (43 years old) and Françoise (38) is difficult:  Julie could hardly express herself and Françoise does not understand her.

It is interesting to note that it is Françoise who ministers to Julie.  She makes the decision to perform an act of charity, a work of compassion.  According to Saint Francis de Sales, the love of friendship is not merely a feeling but a resolute effort following a decision….  What begins with an act of compassion is transformed into one of the most beautiful examples of spiritual friendship between two women.

One of the foundations of friendship is that it should grow in time.  Very quickly, then, the bonds of affection grew between the two women.  Visits become more and more frequent.  Both had an affinity for things spiritual. 

3. In the friendship between Julie and Françoise, we can see 3 stages.

The first state is situated between 1794-1799.

The friendship begins

  • with a resemblance between the two women.  (The two women had been tested by the SUFFERING endured during the height of the French Revolution –  Julie, paralyzed, and Françoise tested by the deaths of her mother and her grandparents and by a period of terrifying imprisonment.  Both emerged from their sufferings more FAITH-FILLED and committed to growth in goodness.

The friendship between Julie and Françoise is the only perfect kind of friendship, the Ancients would say:  it is based on goodness or virtue.  Julie and Françoise resembled one another in their goodness.  And, the RECIPROCITY in the recognition of the GOOD proper to each one is evident.  There is a mutual benevolence which expresses itself by the fact that each desires growth in the love of God for the other.   It is a “Jesus-centered affectionate friendship.”  We can say that, from the beginning, the friendship between Julie and Françoise was of a spiritual order.

Saint Augustin writes that he would feel the need to approach, to know and to bind himself in friendship to a person whose love for Christ had been proven in some trial or persecution.  Such was the case for Julie and Françoise whose love for Christ had been tested before their encounter.

Soon, a little community forms around Julie’s bedside.  In addition to Françoise, the daughters of Madame Baudoin invited their friends, the young women of the Méry and Doria families.  Father Thomas, in hiding at the Hotel Blin, guides the group and celebrates the Eucharist.  Children are baptized and confirmed in Julie’s room.  But this association had only an ephemeral existence.  Françoise remains as Julie’s only companion.

Françoise stays one year in Amiens.

Between 1795 and 1797, Françoise travels to Gézaincourt and to Bourdon to be near her sick father.  During these two years of separation, Françoise and Julie write many letters to each other.  Françoise returns to Amiens after the death of her father.  The letters from Julie to Françoise are saved:  33 letters where one can discover the affection that they had for one another.  They expressed their friendship.  And, as Saint Francis de Sales said:  the lack of communication (union of hearts) can end a friendship.

  • Julie quickly becomes the “Mother” in their correspondence.  While Françoise is the one of social standing and the first to offer her assistance, it is Julie who becomes the spiritual director in whom there is complete trust. 

After the death of her father, Françoise was free to consecrate herself to God as she wished.  But, she had doubts as to the shape of the project:  she was hesitating to become a Carmelite.  It is then that Julie informs her what she had seen in a vision when she was hiding in Compiègne:  some women religious and among them was  the face of Françoise that Julie did not recognize at the time.   Françoise returns to Amiens with confidence. 

The end of 1797, a new “Terror” breaks out.  Father Thomas, pursued into the Hotel Blin, escapes his aggressors on June 15, 1799.  The next day, Father Thomas, Françoise, Julie and her niece, Felicity, seek shelter in Bettencourt.  Together, they evangelize the village.  Julie’s health improves and she begins to speak. 

In every friendship, there is a second and a third phase: 

  • Between 1799-1803 (this is the second stage of their friendship relationship):  Happy period where they live together in Bettencourt – the friends share their interior life and each shares in the qualities of the other.

    Importance of communication: ) cf. Aristotle:  “”If friends are not able to be present to one another and if they are not able to communicate, the friendship will die.”)  Friendship has to be worked at and takes time.

    There begins the time that Saint Francis de Sales calls, “the gentle struggle of friendship”.  Friendship requires frankness; misunderstandings are inevitable (and there will be some between Julie and Françoise, notably due to the distance between them and their exchange of letters when one will be in Amiens and the other at Namur). 

    Friendship is strengthened through many shared difficulties, patience exhibited, tenderness, consideration, sharing of burdens.

    There is a visible change in Julie and Françoise’s relationship from director and directee to that of a mutually recognized equality. 

In February, 1803, Father Thomas, Julie and Françoise return to Amiens.  The two friends receive some orphan girls in a modest house on the rue Neuve.

  • The third and last stage in the development of true friendshipis its perfection:  union in diversity.  Friends at this point communicate every aspect of themselves becoming one of heart and soul.   As Aristotle said:  “One soul in two bodies.” 

    Testimonies abound related to the obvious union of Julie and Françoise who were in total harmony despite striking temperamental differences (cf. Memoires, Blin):  “Mère Julie, in a spirit of humility and Christian prudence, which never relies on itself alone, consulted [Mother Blin] as collaborator and friend… and the two were one in heart and soul.”  “Mère Julie’s character was very different from Mother Blin’s but they were so united that there was never any real disagreement between them.”  Julie was rather extroverted, quick to act; Françoise was reserved, introverted. 

On February 2, 1804, Julie, Françoise and Catherine Duchâtel (who will die a few months later) make their vow of chastity and commit to consecrate their life to Christian education.  They take the name, Sisters of Notre Dame, and received a rule from Father Varin.  Françoise, as was the custom at the time, takes the name Sister Saint Joseph.

On October15, 1805, Julie, Françoise, Victoire Leleu and Justine Garson make their religious vows.  The next day, Mère Julie is elected superior general.  On June 18, 1806, the statutes of the Association called Notre Dame are approved by Napoleon.  The opening of free schools is authorized.  Françoise brings her wealth to the Congregation.

A conflict breaks out in Amiens with the superior of the Congregation, Father de Sambucy.  He demands that Sister Saint Joseph bequeath the totality of her fortune to the house in Amiens exclusively.  The two foundresses refuse these propositions.  Father de Sambucy skillfully influences the Bishop of Amiens, Monsignor Demandolx, and succeeds in obliging Julie to leave the diocese of Amiens on January 12, 1809. 

Illustration by T.J. Bond dans Mother St. Joseph by SND, Sands and Co, Glasgow, 1964.

During this conflict, Françoise gives witness to her deep friendship for Julie (sharing of burdens).

The first Sisters of Notre Dame are established in Namur on July 7, 1807, at the request of Monsignor Pisani de la Gaude.  The Bishop of Namur welcomes them with great kindness and offers them a house near the bishopric.  Sister Saint Joseph is named superior of the community.  Thanks to Françoise’s fortune, the Sisters buy a larger house, rue des Fossés (the actual Motherhouse).  Namur become the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Many schools are established.

4. After Julie’s death (After 22 years of friendship, Françoise will live another 22 years without Julie)

In 1816, after Mère Julie’s death, Mother Saint Joseph is elected superior general and will remain so until the end of her life.  She faithfully continues the work of her friend; she edits the rule, completes foundations in Liège and Dinant, creates those at Thuin, Verviers, Philippeville and Bastogne.

Her great concern will be to preserve the unity of the Congregation under the Dutch regime between 1815-1830.  By forbidding all foreign teaching authority, William I, is the source of many worries for Mother Saint Joseph. 
-King William fixes the number of sisters authorized to be in each house.
-The Sisters are obliged to take an examination before a Committee of Instruction.
-Françoise wants to resign as superior general in favor of a sister of Flemish origin for the good of the Congregation.

Finally, in December of 1824, she receives the document of naturalization and becomes a citizen of the Netherlands.

[After having caused so much worry, King William 1 comes to Namur in 1829.  He visits the school and leaves saying to her “Madame, a woman like you should never die!” (cf.  the Annals of the Congregation)]
-Meanwhile, Mother Saint Joseph had accepted to take responsibility for hospices since the schools were no longer viable. 

Mother Saint Joseph and King William I, illustrated by T.J. Bond dans Mother St. Joseph by SND, Sands and Co, Glasgow, 1964.

In 1835, in spite of the opposition of some sisters, she keeps intact the spirit of the Institute.  This is what is called the great trial; a sad trial that came from her own daughters who threatened the existence of the Institute.  One sister plotted the Reform of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame (18 sisters were in on the secret, one of whom was the Mistress of Novices). Their intention was to establish two membership categories:  lay sisters who would be responsible for the domestic tasks and choir sisters for teaching.  The intended goal of this new organization was to educate in the boarding school girls of the leisure class.  This project directly targeted two of the original three essential founding purposes of the Institute: 
-equality of the sister
-dedication to the instruction of the poor

The preservation of the general government had already earned for Julie an expulsion from Amiens. 

With the assistance of Sister Ignace Goethals, Mother Saint Joseph prevailed in this struggle but at the price of great suffering.  Three sisters left the Institute; the others recognized their errors and, after public reparation, were readmitted.  Françoise died at Namur, at the age of 82, (February 9, 1838). 

5. Conclusion

What touches us particularly with Françoise is the contrast between this woman of the nobility who tried to live simply (in the Congregation, there is no distinction between lay and choir sisters).  And, this was not easy for her or her family.  In Amiens, when she went into town dressed in a religious costume, this caused an embarrassment, to the discomfort of her family.  Françoise came from the highest ranks of French aristocracy but she never used her fortune to exert any influence or power over others.  As Sister Jo Ann Recker explains, her true power of influence resided, rather, in her ability to transform the life of others by means of friendship.  And Françoise possessed a tremendous capacity for friendship.  She had the unique ability to forget self and to be sincerely concerned about the welfare of the other:  from her grandmother whom she loved so much, to her childhood friend, (Jeanne de Franssu with whom she remained close until her death), to her friend, Julie Billiart, and her dear sister in religion, Sister Anastasia Leleu.  She was able to see the greatest good in each person she encountered.  God drew Julie and Françoise together for something special.  He led them to a unity in diversity to make possible the development of the Institute.

May this example of friendship between two women be a source of inspiration for you!


Jo Ann RECKER (SNDdeN) PWPT “A Treasure beyond Price,”  FVP, 2016

Jo Ann RECKER (SNDdeN), Julie, Françoise and Our Heritage of Friendship: A Treasure without Price,” Julie Renewal, 1997.

Jo Ann RECKER (SNDdeN), “Françoise Blin de Bourdon –  Woman of Influence: The Story of the Co-foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur” (Paulist Press, 2001).

Jo Ann RECKER (SNDdeN), “Très affectueusement, votre mère en Dieu : Françoise Blin de Bourdon, French Aristocrat, Belgian Citizen, Co-Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur,” (Peter Lang Publishers, 2001). 

Marie-Francine VANDERPERRE (SNDdeN), Julie and Françoise, Nov. 3, 2008.

Magdalen LAWLER (SNDdeN), « Pathways to God’s Goodness,” ,2004, p. 22.

Myra POOLE (SNDdeN), “Prayer, Protest, Power, 2001, pp. 52-69.

What are sources to become acquainted with this friendship?

  1.  Memoires of Mother Saint Joseph
  2. The first Letters of Julie to Françoise
  3. Testimonials of the Sisters who knew them



La SIMPLICITE nous parle à nous, Sœurs de Notre Dame de Namur.

La simplicité, Julie, jeune fille de Cuvilly, ne l’a-t-elle pas vécue en tant que simple paysanne de Picardie avant de nous en parler ?

Julie parmi les moissonneurs, dessin de Sr Callista McEechan.

Julie choisit de beaux symboles de la nature comme le tournesol qu’elle admirait dans les champs autour d’elle ou le cristal qu’elle utilise également pour exprimer comment elle comprenait cette caractéristique qu’elle souhaitait pour chaque sœur.

« Celles qui ne sont pas simples ne sont ni les enfants de Dieu, ni les miens » Julie Billiart

« La simplicité est comme un cristal très pur que le soleil de Justice pénètre, éclaire et réchauffe », Julie Billiart

Sœur Mary Linscott développe l’idée :

« L’analogie du rayon de soleil brillant à travers le cristal suggère la pénétration complète et l’irradiation par lesquelles Dieu influe sur l’homme à travers la simplicité, en même temps que la transparence qui est la disposition humaine donnée en retour…

La simplicité de la lumière blanche ne signifie pas un manque de couleur, mais la potentialité de toute la gamme de couleurs non réalisée aussi longtemps qu’il n’y a pas d’objet pour réfracter son éclat »

Mary Linscott, toute imprégnée de l’esprit de Teilhard de Chardin, le cite :

« Jusqu’ici adorer a signifié préférer Dieu aux choses en les référant à Lui. Maintenant adorer signifie abandonner notre âme et notre corps à l’action créatrice. ..Unir cette activité à la sienne et conduire le monde à son accomplissement. » (Christologie et évolution)

« La simplicité impliquait Julie dans les problèmes de son temps. En effet, il lui était difficile de concevoir un christianisme se tenant à l’écart des tourments de la vie. »

Quel est le tourment actuel exprimé avec force notamment par la jeunesse du monde entier et répercuté dans l’encyclique du Pape Laudato Si ?

N’est-ce pas justement : l’urgence d’une conversion écologique à tous les niveaux ?

Référons-nous à un passage ou l’autre du Laudato Si à lire et surtout à chercher à appliquer dans notre vie avec notre charisme particulier de la simplicité.

«N° 222 : La spiritualité chrétienne propose une autre manière de comprendre la qualité de vie et encourage un style de vie prophétique et contemplatif ,capable d’aider à apprécier profondément les choses sans être obsédé par la consommation. …La spiritualité chrétienne propose une croissance par la sobriété…C’est un retour à la simplicité qui nous permet de nous arrêter pour apprécier ce qui est petit, pour remercier des possibilités que la vie nous offre. »

Autre exemple N°227 : « S’arrêter pour rendre grâce à Dieu avant et après le repas est une expression de cette attitude. Je propose aux croyants de renouer avec cette belle habitude et de la vivre en profondeur. Ce moment de bénédiction, bien qu’il soit très bref, nous rappelle notre dépendance de Dieu pour la vie, il fortifie notre sentiment de gratitude pour les dons de la création, reconnaît ceux qui par leur travail fournissent ces biens, et renforce la solidarité avec ceux qui sont le plus dans le besoin. » Pape François dans Laudato Si

Sœur Mary Linscott de continuer :

« C’est l’Esprit, planant sur les eaux qui donna vie à la création et qui, en couvrant Marie de son ombre réalisa l’incarnation. Son action transforme l’âme et l’amène à la vie de mysticisme actif et pratique que Julie décrit. C’est pourquoi elle recommande souvent son œuvre à l’Esprit, elle presse les sœurs de l’invoquer, de laisser sa lumière les envahir, illuminer leur travail. »

Les Sœurs de Notre-Dame participent activement à la conversion écologique.

N’est-ce pas, ouvertes à l’Esprit, que nos chapitres généraux successifs ont pris au sérieux ce tourment actuel de notre monde ?  Dans l’article 65 de nos Constitutions, nous lisons « Sachant que Dieu a créé toute chose bonne, nous lui sommes reconnaissantes et nous respectons toutes les ressources de la terre. Nous veillons à les utiliser et à les gérer pour améliorer la vie de tous »

En 2014, la Congrégation s’exprima ainsi « Poussée par la crise écologique, nous examinons chaque facette de notre relation avec la communauté de la création. Tous les membres et toutes les Unités de la Congrégation s’engagent à passer à l’action sur cette question brûlante de notre temps »

Que d’actions concrètes sont menées à travers le monde notamment par des Sœurs de Notre Dame, à différents niveaux concernant cette préoccupation majeure dans le souci intégralement conjoint de préserver la terre et par là de sauvegarder l’humanité comme nous le rappelle si clairement le Pape : « L’intime relation entre les pauvres et la fragilité de la planète ; la conviction que tout est lié dans le monde ».

Energies propres, panneaux solaires, assainissement de l’eau, nourriture saine, méthodes respectueuses de la terre…  Une sœur a même donné sa vie dans le martyr pour la cause : pensons à Dorothy Stang défendant la forêt Amazonienne  au Brésil, la lutte continue après elle.

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Plus près de Namur, prenons l’exemple de Jumet en Belgique où le grand parc va permettre la permaculture avec son principe « rien ne se perd tout se transforme ».  Pour en savoir plus sur la reconversion du couvent de Jumet (fondé par sainte Julie en 1808) en une ferme urbaine de permaculture, cliquez ici :

Photo du parc de Jumet, Belgique

Un autre aspect qui rejoint notre charisme est l’accent mis sur l’éducation.

Le pape François nous le rappelle : « Nous sommes devant un défi éducatif ».

N°213 de l’encyclique Laudota Si : «  Les milieux éducatifs sont divers : l’école, la famille, les moyens de communication, la catéchèse et autres. Une bonne éducation scolaire, dès le plus jeune âge, sème les graines qui peuvent produire des effets tout au long de la vie. »

Julie n’avait-elle pas ce sens éducatif lorsqu’elle dit « Préparons des jeunes filles pour la vie »

Dans les perspectives du projet bio à Jumet nous lisons : « L’éducation constitue l’un des axes principaux du projet. La présence d’une école primaire sur le site est un atout pour sensibiliser les enfants à l’alimentation naturelle. Nous pourrions aussi accueillir des étudiants de toutes disciplines en stage. »

Terminons par le sens que donne si admirablement le pape François à L’Eucharistie :

N° 236 : « Dans l’Eucharistie, la création trouve sa plus grande élévation.  Le Seigneur, au sommet du mystère de l’Incarnation, a voulu rejoindre notre intimité à travers un morceau de matière. Non d’en haut mais de l’intérieur, pour que nous puissions le rencontrer dans notre propre monde… L’Eucharistie est en soi un acte d’amour cosmique. L’Eucharistie est toujours célébrée en un sens, « sur l’autel du monde ». (Cf Teilhard de Chardin cité lui aussi par le Pape François)

Pour en savoir plus :

  • Mary Linscott (SNDde N), Au ciel à pied, 1969 (traduction française, 1990).
  • Mary Linscott (SNDde N), Le 4ème essentiel, 1971.



SIMPLICITY relates to us as Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

Simplicity, didn’t Julie live it as a simple Picard farm girl of Cuvilly, before we began to speak of it? 

Julie among the harvesters, drawing made by Sr Callista McEechan.

Julie chooses beautiful symbols from nature such as the sunflower that she admired in the fields around her or crystal that she also used to express how she understood this characteristic that she wished for each sister.

“Those who are not simple are neither children of God, nor mine.”  Julie Billiart

“Simplicity is like a clear crystal which the rays of the Sun of Justice penetrate, light and warm.” Julie Billiart

Sister Mary Linscott develops the idea:

“The analogy of sunlight shining through crystal suggests the complete penetration and irradiation by which God influences human beings through simplicity, and the transparency which is the human disposition in reply….

The simplicity of white light is not lack of colour but the potentiality for the full range of colours, unactualized so long as there is no object to refract its prismatic brilliance.” 

Mary Linscott, impregnated with the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, quotes him: 

“’Til now, to adore has meant to prefer God to things by referring them to him….  Now adoration means the giving of our body and soul to creative activity, joining that activity to him to bring the world to fulfilment.”  (Christologie et évolution)

“Julie’s simplicity involved her in the problems of her time.  Indeed, it was difficult for her to conceive of a Christianity that would not involve itself in the sufferings of life.” 

What is today’s suffering that is powerfully expressed by youth of the entire world and echoed by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si?

Is it not precisely:  the urgency of an ecological conversion at all levels?

Let’s refer to a passage or two from Laudato Si, to read and, above all, to attempt to apply to our life with its particular charism of simplicity:

“#222.  Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption….  Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation….  It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us….”

Another example #227.  One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals.  I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom.  That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.”

Sister Mary Linscott continues:

“It was the Spirit whose brooding over the waters gave life to creation, and whose overshadowing of our Lady brought about the incarnation.  His action transforms the soul in the life of active, practical mysticism which Julie describes.  She therefore often commends her work to him, urging the sisters to invoke him and to let his light shine through them, illuminating their work….” 

The Sisters of Notre Dame actively participate in ecological conversion.

Haven’t our successive General Chapters, open to the Spirit, taken seriously the current suffering of our world?   In article 65 of our Constitutions, we read: “Gratefully aware of the goodness of God’s creation, we reverence the resources of the earth, and we are careful to use them in a spirit of stewardship to foster the life of all people.” 

In 2014, the Congregation explained itself in this way: “Impelled by the ecological crisis, we examine every facet of our relationship with the community of creation.  All members and units of the Congregation commit to take action on this defining issue of our time.” 

How many concrete actions have been undertaken across the world, notably by Sisters of Notre Dame, concerning this major preoccupation in this entirely shared concern to preserve the earth and safeguard humanity!  We recall so clearly the Pope: “The intimate relation between the poor and the fragility of the planet; the conviction that all is connected in the world.” 

Clean energy, solar panels, water purification, healthy food, methods respectful of the earth….  One sister has even given her life in martyrdom for the cause:  let’s remember Dorothy Stand defending the Amazon forest in Brazil; after her, the struggle continues.

Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Closer to Namur, let’s take the example of Jumet, in Belgium, where the large park is going to permit permaculture with its principle: “nothing gets lost all is transformed.”  To learn more about the redevelopment of the Jumet convent (founded by Saint Julie in 1808) into an urban farm,  click here:

Photo of the Jumet park, Belgium.

Another aspect that links our charism is the emphasis that is put on education

Pope Francis reminds us: “We are faced with an educational challenge.”

#213 of the encyclical Ladato Si: “Ecological education can take place in a variety of settings:  at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere.  Good education plants seed when we are young, and these continue to bear fruit throughout life.”

Didn’t Julie have this educational meaning when she said: “Let’s prepare girls for life.”

With respect to the biological project at Jumet, we read:  “Education constitutes one of the principal axes of the project.  The presence of a primary school on the site is an asset in order to heighten the awareness of children to natural food.  We will be thus able to welcome students from all the disciplines for onsite training.”  

Let’s close with the meaning that Pope Francis so admirably gives to the Eucharist:

#236: “It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.  Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures.  The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter.  He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours….  Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love….  The Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.”

To learn more:

Mary Linscott (SNDdeN),To Heaven on Foot, 1969 (French translation, 1990).

Mary Linscott (SNDdeN), The 4th Essential, 1971.

the persecution of the church (the carmelites of compiègne guillotined)


 Saint Julie Billiart and the persecution of the Church at the time of the French Revolution

In Cuvilly, Julie becomes such an example of confidence and steadfastness in the faith that the revolutionary forces see her as a threat.  In 1791, persecuted because of her stance with respect to “constitutional priests” (those who took the oath of allegiance to the nation), Julie was forced to flee from her village and hide, first to Gournay-sur-Aronde, then, in Compiègne and, later, in Amiens.

Julie is in Compiègne at the time of the height of the politics of dechristianization (September 1793 – September 1794).  Dechristianization, during the French Revolution has for its goal to suppress Christianity in the daily life of the French; priests are deported or assassinated, religious are forced to renounce their vows, churches are closed or transformed into temples of Reason or of Liberty (as in Compiègne), crosses and pious images are destroyed, religious holidays forbidden, programs abolished, public and private worship is prohibited. 

In order to deal with the many counter-revolutionaries and French monarchists, Robespierre implemented exceptional measures that would later be called the “Terror.”  The most well-known is the terrible Law of Suspects which required the identification of all those who served the Revolutionary cause.  Nearly 20,000 people, suspected of sympathizing with the counter-revolutionaries, were executed.  It is in this context that 16 Carmelites are guillotined in July of 1794.

Relations between Julie and the Carmelites of Compiègne

  1. Julie living in CUVILLY is in contact with the Carmelites of Compiègne.

Julie, living in Cuvilly, knew the Carmelites of Compiègne whom she visited in order to provide them with cloth and embroideries.  Let’s study the General Archives of the Congregation in Namur.

The two older biographies of Julie written by Father Charles Clair, in French. (1895) and by Father James Clare, in English, (1909) mention Julie’s visits to the Carmelites of Compiègne. 

Father Charles Clair based his book on the “recollections of her first companions” of which we keep copies in the Namur Archives. 

  • On October 7, 1881, Sr. Marie Victoire Carez writes :  « […] At the height of the Revolution, she [Julie] sought refuge in Compiègne; there she was looked upon as a saint.  She was in contact with the saintly Carmelites, who died on the scaffold. […]. “
  • In her deposition of January 25, 1883, taken at Chimay, Sr. Marie Claudine (in the world as Julie Godefroit) notes:  “She [Julie] was in contact with the saintly  Carmelites, who died on the scaffold.” 

As for Father James Clare, he finds information in the Annals of the Congregation written in 1844 by Sr. Stephanie Warnier: “Around the age of 18 […], she [Julie] visited at that time the Carmelites of Compiègne who instilled in her heart the love of God and zeal for the salvation of souls.”

Father Charles Clair and Father James Clare add interesting details that are not found in written sources:

  • The reasons for Julie’s visits with the religious of Compiègne: “with respect to the sacred vestments that she had embroidered put her in contact with the Carmelites of the city” (Father Clair)
  • The talent of this girl.  Her skill in church embroidery, to which we have already alluded, took her from time to time to the Carmelite Convent of Compiègne, renowned at that time through all the countryside for its strict observance and the holy lives of its inmates.  Thus she formed an intimacy with that band of noble women who, a few years later, were one and all to win the martyr’s palm; and the annals of her life note that their saintly conversation fanned to yet brighter flame her ardour in the service of God.  Surely it was not a mere chance, but rather God’s eternal seal upon that friendship, that eight days after the hand of Pius X had placed the coronet of the Blessed on the brows of the Virgin of Cuvilly, it was lifted again to set it on those of the martyrs of Compiègne.”   (Father James Clare, pp. 20-21)

Here is another proof of the relationship between Julie and the Carmelites of Compiègne.

Abbot A. Odon (pastor of Tilloloy) written around 1887:

“When circumstances permitted, it was for her a sweet recreation, on Sundays and holidays, to go to visit the Carmelites of Compiègne.  Julie was so happy to speak with an open heart to the holy daughters of Saint Thérèse through their blessed grilles!  What a joy for her soul to pour out her feelings to these seraphic souls, so well formed to understand her!  Could she have drawn from a better source the desire of perfection, the attraction for the religious life, and this robust faith, this valiant love for Our Lord, this generous ardour, this ardour […] that came to be the distinctive character of her holiness and a mark of the profound imprint on the work that she was called to found?” 

2. Julie, refugee in COMPIÈGNE, has connections with the Carmelites by means of her niece and Abbot de Lamarche.

Julie is in contact with the Carmelites through her niece, Felicity, who accompanied her on the road of exile.  We know this thanks to a letter written by Mother Henriette de Croissy.  This note from the Carmelite, written between 1792 and 1794, unsigned and undated, but recognized as authentic, is interesting and delivers some details on Julie’s life:  the room that she will soon occupy permits her to receive visits.  We learn that Felicity did the Carmelites laundry (or that Julie and Felicity’s laundry was done in the Carmelite convent).  A name is evoked by Mother Henriette de Croissy:  it’s that of a certain Madame Gabriel to whose home Julie would be transported.  She suffered at the time from rather violent toothaches. 

“[… ] Felicity had just come to get the laundry that she thought was here but she was not able to take the time to go to your place as it was necessary that she go to the druggist.  Julie has a very bad toothache and tomorrow she will be transported to Madame Gabriel’s home; she would not be able to keep the (?) crippled without suffering from her great sensibility.  The surgeon thinks that she will have a rotten fever; in her new dwelling she could be visited but she will not be able to keep anyone.  This happy inconvenience is not frequent… […]  Felicity will gladly see that you send her the laundry through Thérèse, if that can happen.”

Letter (between 1792-1794) from Mother Henriette de Croissy, Carmelite guillotined in Paris in 1794. Arch. Dép. Q. FFI no. 50. Click to enlarge the image.

Julie is in contact with the Carmelites also by means of Abbot de Lamarche, priest at Compiègne.  He met Julie in 1793 when “he ministered to some of the faithful and, notably, to the Carmelites.  It is he who, disguised as a workman, will bless each Carmelite going to her death.  The testimony left by Abbot de Lamarche expresses his admiration for the faith and strength of soul of Julie in spite of her paralysis and the threats associated with the “Terror.” 

“February 2, 1820.  It was not until 1793 that I made the acquaintance of Julie.  She had left Cuvilly, her native place, and taken to Compiègne for greater safety in the troubles which at that time agitated France.   I was ministering to the spiritual needs of some faithful souls who dwelt there, notably the Carmelite nuns.  Julie was living in retirement in a small room with one of her nieces who took care of her.  I went to visit her; she did not speak or rather she only spoke by signs.  When she went to confession, I had to give her an hour’s notice.  She then prepared herself with intense fervor and obtained, as she owned to me, the grace of articulating distinctly.  It was only after absolution that she fell back into speechlessness.  It seemed clear to me that it was by no effort by nature that she was able to express herself in confession, but that she obtained this favor by her lively faith.  I saw her from time to time for about a year. I was more and more astonished at her progress in perfection.  She offered herself continually to God as a victim to appease His anger.  Her resignation was perfect; always calm, always united to God.  Her prayer was so to speak unceasing… […]”

It is through Father de Lamarche that Julie must have learned that the Carmelites of Compiègne offered themselves as a holocaust to appease God’s anger, so that peace might return to the Church and to the State.

When the Carmelites were guillotined in Paris in 1794, Julie had been in Compiègne for two years.  The news of their death was without doubt very painful for her.  As Sr. Roseanne Murphy (SNDdeN) says: “their heroic deaths made a profound impression on Julie; she often referred to them years later.  She felt the loss of her friends for they had been a prayerful support for her since she was a child.” 

The Martyrdom of the Carmelites of Compiègne

The 16 Carmelites of Compiègne

In the context of dechristianization, on September 14, 1792, the Carmelites are expelled from their convent by the civil authorities.  They then lived their vocation in different houses in Compiègne, where they were separated into 4 groups.  They pronounce each day a “vow of total consecration to the Divine Will” – even were it at the price of their life – to obtain the end of the massacres of the Terror and peace for the Church and the State.

Commenorative plaque affixed on one of the three houses where the Carmelites sought refuge in Compiègne.
Church of Saint Anthony in Compiègne where Abbot Jean-Baptiste Courouble (or Caroube) celebrates Mass – with the authorization of the constitutional pastor Thibaux – for the Carmelites expelled from their convent and who resided in houses near this church.

They were arrested on June 22-23 1794 and incarcerated in a former convent of the Visitation, converted into a prison.  The Reign of Terror is then at its apex and affects, notably, religious orders.   Thus, at Arras, on June 26, four religious of the Daughters of Charity are executed and in July, 32 religious, Ursulines, Sacramentarians, Bernardines, as well as 30 priests are guillotined.

On July 12, 1794, the 16 Carmelites are transferred from Compiègne to Paris, where they are judged on July 17 under accusation of “plotting against the Revolution.”  The act of accusation is drawn up by Fouquier-Tinville.  They are condemned to death and executed that very day as “fanatics and insurrectionaries.” 

On July 17, while walking toward their martyrdom, they pray and sing the Miserere, the Salve Regina and the Te Deum.  At the foot of the scaffold, they intoned the Veni Creator and renew their baptismal promises and their religious vows.  Sister Constance de Jésus (Meunier), a novice, is called first.  She asks the Mother Prioress, Thérèse de Saint-Augustin Lidoine) for her blessing and her permission to die.  She then climbs the steps of the scaffold while singing the Laudate Dominum omnes gentes.   The same scene is produced for the other sisters.  The prioress is sacrificed last.  They are then buried in a common grave in the cemetery of Picpus. On May 27, 1906, they are beatified by Pope Pius X

“What happiness to die for one’s God!” cried out one of them.  “Let’s be the last to die.”  In effect, ten days after this sacrifice, the turmoil, which during two years had spread on French soil the blood of France’s children, ceased.  (Decree of Beatification)

The Carmelites of Compiègne were beatified two weeks after Julie had received this honor on May 13, 1906.

Like the Carmelites of Compiègne, Julie, humbly, participates in the mystery of love of a God wounded by the world’s suffering.  In spite of the danger of the troubles tied to the French Revolution, her deep conviction in the Goodness of God, is unshakeable.  Entirely paralyzed and not able to express herself, she gives meaning to her life by offering herself as a victim and by presenting to Christ her life as a woman dispossessed of all activity and of any possibility of service.  This abandonment leads her to an absolute confidence.  She will later write:

A sign was given to Julie, as a response and also as a call to an absolute gift (see the theme for May):

If the cross is present, Julie knows that it is the expression of the infinite goodness of God and his immeasurable love.

la persécution contre l’eglise – les carmélites de compiègne guillotinées



A Cuvilly, Julie devient un tel exemple de confiance et de fermeté dans la foi que les forces révolutionnaires voient en elle une menace.  En 1791, persécutée à cause de sa prise de position vis-à-vis des “prêtres constitutionnels” (ceux qui ont prêté serment de fidélité à la nation), Julie est contrainte de fuir son village natal et de se cacher d’abord à Gournay-sur-Aronde, à Compiègne et plus tard à Amiens.

Julie est à Compiègne au moment de l’apogée de la politique de déchristianisation (septembre 1793-septembre 1794).  La déchristianisation, pendant la Révolution française, a pour but de supprimer le christianisme de la vie quotidienne en France : prêtres déportés ou assassinés, religieux contraints à abjurer leurs vœux, églises fermées ou transformées en temples de la raison ou de la liberté (comme à Compiègne), croix et images pieuses détruites, fêtes religieuses interdites, agendas supprimés, et interdiction du culte public et privé.

Pour faire face aux nombreux contre-révolutionnaires et monarchistes français, Robespierre met en place des mesures exceptionnelles qui seront appelées plus tard la « Terreur ».  La plus connue est la terrible loi des suspects qui impose de recenser tous ceux qui desservent la cause de la Révolution.  Près de 20 000 personnes, suspectées de sympathie pour la contre-révolution, sont exécutées.  C’est dans ce contexte que seize carmélites de Compiègne sont guillotinées en juillet 1794.

Relations entre Julie et les carmélites de Compiègne

1. Julie vivant à CUVILLY est en contact avec les carmélites de Compiègne

Jeune fille à Cuvilly, Julie connait les carmélites de Compiègne chez qui elle se rend pour leur procurer du linge et des broderies.  Analysons les archives générales de la congrégation à Namur…

Les deux biographies anciennes de Julie écrites par le Père Charles Clair en français (1895) et par Father James Clare en anglais (1909) mentionnent les visites de Julie aux carmélites de Compiègne. 

Le Père Charles Clair se base sur les « souvenirs de ses premières compagnes dont nous gardons les copies dans les archives de Namur:

–  Le 7 octobre 1881, Sr Marie Victoire Carez écrit : « […]  Au plus fort de la Révolution, elle [Julie ] se réfugia à Compiègne ; elle y était regardée comme une sainte.  Elle eut des rapports avec les saintes carmélites, qui moururent sur l’échafaud. […] »

–  Dans sa déposition du 25 janvier 1883 à Chimay, Sr Marie Claudine (dans le monde Julie Godefroit) note : « Elle [Julie] eut des rapports avec les saintes carmélites, qui moururent sur l’échafaud. » 

Quant à Father James Clare, il trouve l’information dans les annales de la congrégation écrite en 1844 par sœur Stéphanie Warnier: « Vers l’âge de 18 ans […].  Elle [Julie] visitait à cette époque les carmélites de Compiègne qui infusèrent en quelque sorte l’amour de Dieu et le zèle du salut des âmes dans son cœur. »

Père Charles Clair et Father James Clare ajoutent des détails intéressants qu’on ne trouve pas dans les sources manuscrites :

–  les raisons des visites de Julie aux religieuses de Compiègne : « ce fut à propos des vêtements sacrés qu’elle avait à broder qu’elle entra en rapport avec les carmélites de cette ville » (Père Clair)

–  le talent de la jeune fille.  « Her skill in church embroidery, to which we have already alluded, took her from time to time to the Carmelite Convent of Compiegne, renowned at that time through all the countryside for tis strict observance and the holy lives of its inmates.  Thus she formed an intimacy with that band of noble women who, a few years later, were one and all to win the martyr’s palm; and the annals of her life note that their saintly conversation fanned to yet brighter flame her ardour in the service of God.  Surely it was not a mere chance, but rather God’s eternal seal upon that friendship, that eight days after the hand of Pius X had placed the coronet of the Blessed on the brows of the Virgin of Cuvilly, it was lifted again to set it on those of the martyrs of Compiègne. » (Father James Clare, pg 20-21)

Voici une autre preuve de la relation entre Julie et les carmélites de Compiègne.

L’abbé A. Odon (curé de Tilloloy) écrit vers 1887 :

« Quand les circonstances le permettaient, c’était pour elle une douce récréation, les dimanches et les jours de fêtes, d’aller visiter les carmélites de Compiègne.  Comme Julie était heureuse de s’entretenir à cœur ouvert, à travers leurs grilles bénies, avec les pieuses filles de Sainte Thérèse ! Quelle joie pour son âme de s’épancher dans ces âmes séraphiques, bien faites pour la comprendre !  Pouvait-elle puiser à meilleure source le désir de la perfection, l’attrait pour la vie religieuse, et cette foi robuste, ce vaillant amour pour Notre-Seigneur, cette ardeur généreuse, cet ardeur […] qui devaient être le caractère distinctif de sa sainteté et marquer d’une empreinte profonde l’œuvre qu’elle était appelée à fonder ? »

2. Julie, réfugiée à COMPIÈGNE, a des liens avec les carmélites par l’intermédiaire de sa nièce et de l’abbé de Lamarche.

Julie est en relation avec les carmélites par sa nièce Félicité qui l’avait accompagnée sur le chemin de l’exil.  On le sait grâce à une lettre écrite par Mère Henriette de Croissy.  Ce billet de la carmélite, écrit entre 1792 et 1794, non signé et non daté, mais reconnu authentique, est intéressant et livre quelques détails sur la vie de Julie : la chambre qu’elle occupera bientôt lui permettra d’accueillir de la visite.  Il nous apprend que Félicité lave le linge des carmélites (ou que les linges de Julie et de Félicité sont lavés chez les carmélites).  Un nom est évoqué par Mère Henriette de Croissy : il s’agit d’une certaine Madame Gabriel chez qui Julie sera transportée.  Elle souffre alors de maux de dents assez violents.

« […]  Félicité vient de venir pour chercher le linge qu’elle croyait ici mais elle n’a pas pu prendre le temps d’aller chez vous, il fallait qu’elle allât chez l’apothicaire.  Julie a bien mal aux dents et c’est demain qu’on la transporte chez Mad. Gabriel, elle n’aurait pu garder le ( ?) estropié sans souffrir de sa grande sensibilité.  Le chirurgien juge qu’il va avoir une fièvre putride, dans sa nouvelle demeure elle pourra être visitée mais elle ne pourra garder personne.  Cet heureux embarras n’est pas fréquent… […] Félicité verra avec plaisir que vous lui envoyez le linge par Thérèse, si cela se peut.

Lettre (entre 1792-1794) de Mère Henriette de Croissy, Carmélite guillotinée à Paris en 1794. Arch. dép. Q, FF1 n°50.  Cliquez pour agrandir l’image.

Julie est également en lien avec les carmélites par l’intermédiaire de l’abbé de Lamarche, prêtre de Compiègne.  Il fait la connaissance de Julie en 1793 alors «qu’il rendait des services de religion» à des personnes pieuses et notamment aux carmélites.  C’est lui qui, déguisé en ouvrier, bénira chacune des carmélites allant à la mort.  Le témoignage laissé par l’abbé de Lamarche exprime son admiration pour la foi et la force d’âme de Julie malgré sa paralysie et les menaces liées à la « Terreur » :

« Ce 2 février 1820.  Ce n’est qu’en 1793 que j’ai commencé à connaitre la Mère Julie.  Elle avait quitté son village de Cuvilly.  On l’avait transportée à la ville de Compiègne comme étant un lieu plus sûr, à cause des troubles dont la France était alors agitée.

J’allais alors rendre des services de religion aux âmes vertueuses qui y demeuraient, spécialement aux carmélites.  La Mère Julie vivait retirée dans une chambre, avec une de ses nièces qui la servait.  J’allais la visiter, elle ne parlait pas, ou plutôt elle ne parlait que par signes.  Pour la confesser, il fallait qu’elle fût avertie au moins une heure d’avance.

Elle s’y préparait avec une ferveur extrême et obtenait, comme elle me l’avoua elle-même, la grâce de s’expliquer clairement.  Ce n’était qu’après avoir reçu les Sacrements qu’elle reprenait son silence.  Il m’a paru que ce n’était pas par effort naturel qu’elle s’expliquait en confession mais qu’elle obtenait cette faveur par l’effet d’une foi vive.  Je l’ai suivie, par intervalles, environ une année ; j’admirais de plus en plus les progrès qu’elle faisait dans la piété.  Elle s’offrait continuellement comme victime à Dieu pour apaiser sa colère.  Sa résignation était parfaite ; toujours calme, toujours unie à Dieu, son oraison était presque continuelle. […] »

Témoignage de Monsieur de Lamarche, prêtre, 2 février 1820.

C’est par le Père de Lamarche que Julie a dû apprendre que les carmélites de Compiègne s’offraient en holocauste pour apaiser la colère de Dieu, pour que la paix soit rendue à l’Eglise et à l’Etat.

Quand les carmélites sont guillotinées à Paris en 1794, Julie est à Compiègne depuis 2 ans.  La nouvelle de leur mort fut sans doute très douloureuse pour Julie.  Comme le dit sr Roseanne Murphy (SNDdeN), « leur mort héroïque fit une profonde impression sur Julie ; elle y fit souvent référence des années après.  Elle souffrit de la perte de ses amies car elles avaient été pour elle un soutien de prières depuis qu’elle était enfant. »

Le martyr des carmélites de Compiègne

Les seize carmélites de Compiègne.

Dans le contexte de déchristianisation, le 14 septembre 1792, les carmélites sont expulsées de leur couvent par les autorités civiles. Elles vivent alors leur vocation dans différentes maisons de Compiègne, où elles sont réparties en quatre groupes. Elles prononcent chaque jour un « vœu de consécration totale à la Volonté Divine » — fût-ce au prix de leur vie — pour obtenir la fin des massacres de la Terreur et la paix pour l’Eglise et l’Etat.

Plaque commémorative apposée sur l’une des trois maisons où les carmélites se sont réfugiées à Compiègne.
Eglise Saint-Antoine à Compiègne où l’abbé Jean-Baptiste Courouble (ou Caroube) célèbre la messe – avec l’autorisation du curé constitutionnel Thibaux – pour les carmélites expulsées de leur couvent, et qui résident dans des maisons proches de cette église.

Elles sont arrêtées les 22-23 juin 1794 et incarcérées à l’ancien couvent de la Visitation, transformé en prison. La Terreur est alors au plus fort et touche notamment les ordres religieux. Ainsi à Arras, le 26 juin, quatre religieuses des Filles de la Charité sont exécutées et en juillet, 32 religieuses, Ursulines, sacramentaires et bernardines, ainsi que 30 prêtres, sont guillotinés.

Le 12 juillet 1794, les seize carmélites sont transférées de Compiègne à Paris, où elles sont jugées le 17 juillet sous l’accusation de « machiner contre la Révolution ». L’acte d’accusation est rédigé par Fouquier-Tinville. Elles sont condamnées à mort et exécutées le jour même comme « fanatiques et séditieuses ».

Le 17 juillet, en marchant vers leur martyre, elles prient et chantent le Miserere, le Salve Regina et le Te Deum.  Au pied de l’échafaud, elles entonnent le Veni Creator et renouvellent les promesses de leur baptême et leurs vœux religieux.  Sœur Constance de Jésus (Meunier), novice, est appelée la première.  Elle demande à la Mère prieure (Thérèse de Saint-Augustin Lidoine) sa bénédiction et la permission de mourir.  Elle gravit ensuite les marches de l’échafaud en chantant le Laudate Dominum omnes gentes.  La même scène se produit pour les autres sœurs.  La prieure est immolée la dernière.  Elles sont ensuite inhumées dans une fosse commune au cimetière de Picpus.  Le 27 mai 1906, elles sont béatifiées par le pape Pie X.

« Quel bonheur de mourir pour son Dieu ! » s’était écriée l’une d’elles.  « Soyons les dernières à mourir. » En effet, dix jours après ce sacrifice cessait la tourmente qui, pendant deux ans, avait répandu sur le sol de France le sang des fils de France » (Décret de Béatification)

Les carmélites de Compiègne furent béatifiées deux semaines après que Julie eut reçu cet honneur le 13 mai 1906.

Comme les carmélites de Compiègne, Julie, humblement, participe au mystère d’amour d’un Dieu blessé par la souffrance du monde.  Malgré le danger des troubles liés à la Révolution française, sa conviction intime en la Bonté de Dieu est inaltérable.  Entièrement paralysée et ne pouvant s’exprimer, elle donne un sens à sa vie en s’offrant en victime et en présentant au Christ sa vie de femme dépossédée de toute activité et de toute possibilité de service.  Cet abandon la conduit à une confiance absolue.  Elle écrira plus tard :

Un signe fut donné à Julie, comme une réponse et aussi comme un appel à un don absolu (voir le thème du mois de mai) :

Si la croix est présente, Julie sait qu’elle est l’expression de l’infinie bonté de Dieu et de son incommensurable amour.

The Universal Call to Holiness



In 2019, the Sisters of Notre Dame, forming a large international family, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the CANONIZATION of their foundress, Saint Julie Billiart.

The General Archives of the Congregation and the Heritage Center produced an EXPOSITION in order to understand the process as to how Julie became a saint.  Several panels displaying some of the documents of the time tell you, by means of a timeline, the events between 1881 and 1969. 

The exposition is accessible during the hours when the Heritage Center is open (Motherhouse of the Sisters of Notre Dame, 17, rue Julie Billiart in Namur, Belgium):  Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (weekends, holidays and groups as requested).

Holiness by Popes Paul VI and Francis. Click and read the document.

Pictures of the exposition in the Heritage Center in Namur.

Illustration1a edited

Illustration1b edited

Illustration1c edited

Illustration1d edited

Illustration1e edited

The 6 stages of the process of the canonization of Julie Billiart:

1.  The diocesan inquiry into establishing the reputation of holiness (1881-1889)
2.  Acceptance of the “dossier” by the Vatican; Julie becomes Venerable (1889)
3.  The apostolic process (1890-1897) and the endorsement of three miracles (1905).
4.  Julie becomes Blessed (1906)
5.  The resumption of the cause and approval of two miracles (1924-1968)
6.  Julie becomes a saint (1969)

Investigation in the ARCHIVES on the canonization of Julie Billiart 

50 years later, how does Julie’s holiness still serve as an example?  How does she inspire all those who walk in her footsteps:  the sisters, volunteers, friends, teachers and students? 

  1: THE SMILING SAINT. Click to read or download


Illustration2-editedMother Aloysie, 6th Superior General (1875-1888)

Illustration3 editedMonsignor Gravez, Bishop of Namur (1867-1883)

Illustration4 editedLetter of Monsignor Gravez, Bishop of Namur, which accepts the request of Mother Aloysie with respect to the introduction of the causes of Julie and Françoise.

Illustration5 editedNote of invitation to the diocesan process

Illustration6-edited-2Three large related volumes with all the letters of postulation for the purpose of the Introduction of Julie’s cause, General Archives of the Congregation, Namur.

Illustration7Cabinet with all the official documents related to Julie Billiart’s cause, General Archives of the Congregation, Namur.

Illustration8 editedLetter of postulation to introduce Julie’s cause signed by the Queen of the Belgians, Marie-Henriette (wife of King Leopold II), 1888.

     2: VENERABLE JULIE. Click to read or download


Illustration9 editedTestimony of Sister Marie Adele Claus deposed at Clapham (Great Britain), July 15 1882, for the purpose of Julie’s beatification.

Illustration10_1889_DecretDecree of introduction of Julie’s cause, 1889.  Julie becomes Venerable.

 3: BLESSED JULIE. Click to read or download


Illustration11Shrine of Saint Julie exposed in the Heritage Center at Namur. To know more:  mort-de-Julie/chasse

Illustration12-editedPope Pius X, Cardinal Ferrata (Protector of the Institute in Rome). Monsignor Heylen (Bishop of Namur) and Mother Aimée de Jésus with their crest.

Illustration13-editedOrigin and meaning of the crest of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Illustration14Poster of the celebrations in Namur for the beatification of Julie, May 17-21, 1906.

Illustration15Picture of the celebrations in Namur, 1906.

 4: SAINT JULIE. Click to read or download


Illustration16-editedReverend Ugo Märton, O. Praem., Postulator of the Cause, thanks Pope Paul VI for Julie’s canonization.

Illustration17-editedCanonization in Rome by Pope Paul VI.

Illustration18-editedOfficial decree (in parchment with illuminations) signed by Pope Paul VI, June 22, 1969.  Julie Billiart becomes a saint.


In his homily of June 22 (1969), Pope Paul speaks to us of holiness and miracles:

“This is hagiography, the study of saintliness.  This very praiseworthy study has often turned its passionate gaze upon the MIRACULOUS ASPECTS of saintliness; and it has been so engrossed but the latter as to fix attention on observation of miracles, almost equating saintliness and miracle.

Thus sometimes, IN OTHER AGES, devotion to saintliness was considered as having leave to adorn it with IMAGINARY MIRACLES AND AMAZING LEGENDS, not, perhaps, with the intention of offending historical truth, but as a gratuitous and conventional tribute, a floral and poetic one.

NOW it is no longer so.  Miracles remain a proof, a sign of saintliness; but they do not make up its essence.  Now the study of saintliness is focused rather on HISTORICAL VERIFICATION OF THE FACTS and the documents that bear witness to it, and on the exploration of the PSYCHOLOGY of saintliness.”

To be recognized as blessed, Venerable Julie must have accomplished at least one miracle after her death.

The recognition of a miracle is subject to strict rules. A medical investigation is conducted on people to prove their miraculous healing through the intercession of Venerable Julie.

In 1905, three miracles are attested by the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

  1. In 1882, 16-year-old Armand Hubin (Liège) was miraculously cured after his mother went to Julie’s grave and applied a relic to the ulcer of his leg.
  2. Jean Noël Grégoire (from Namur), aged 20, suffered for many years at one of his legs following a bad fall. In 1881, in desperation, a novena was begun at Julie and a relic was applied to his wound. From the first day, he found a perfect health.
  3. Louis Waëlens (from Bruges), 28, suffered from an ulcer in the stomach. He was unable to eat for years because of the pain and was wasting away. In 1886, his wife went to the sisters to explain the suffering of her husband. They gave him a relic and suggested starting a novena to Venerable Julie. That night, Louis Waëlens was able to eat without pain for the first time in years.

Illustration19-editedLouis Waëlens miraculously healed by the venerable Julie in 1886.

Illustration20-editedDecoration of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, May 13, 1906


The sisters received hundreds of letters attesting to miraculous cures by means of the intercession of Blessed Julie.  Among the hundreds of files, only four had been examined by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (and two will be finally recognized in 1958 and 1967).

The first miracle recognized is that of Otacilio Ribeiro.  The story takes place in Campos Novos, in Brazil, on September 29, 1950.  Otacilio Ribeiro, a young farmer of 29 years, is taken to the hospital by his father because of a tumor in his lower abdomen.  They are welcomed by Sister Maria Bardona and Sister Mary Ludivine, of the Cosfeld Sisters of Notre Dame.  Having performed an incision, Doctor Janh Martins Ribeiro determines it to be impossible to proceed with the removal of the tumor which is inaccessible and he pronounces the patient doomed.  “Sister,” says the doctor, “he will not live an hour longer.”

The two sisters of Coesfeld and a third, Sister Maria Adelaide, then begin to pray to Blessed Julie.  The next day, Otacilio revives; Sister Ludivine invites him to join in their prayers and she applies a relic of Julie to the site of the incision.  The doctor only gives him three days to live.  However, a few days later, Otacilio calls to sister:  “Sister, there is something unusual.  I can’t explain it but it’s different.”  The next day, Otacilio is able to sit up.

A week later, Otacilio is cured.  His parents offer to the sisters 3 1/3 lbs. of wax for candles and Otacilio promises to name his daughter Julie if he has one someday.

In 1957, Mother Mary Verona, the assistant to the Superior General of the Coesfeld Sisters of Notre Dame, writes to Sister Ludivine in Brazil so that she might submit Otacilio Ribeiro’s miracle to the Sacred Congregation of Rites.  On January 17, 1958, the miracle is authenticated.

As for the second miracle, it is recognized by the Vatican on March 10, 1967.  It concerns the miracle of Homère Rhodius, dating from 1919.  At that time, Homère Rhodius was 69 years of age.  He suffered from a uremic crisis that, in but a few days, reduced him to a critical state.  The doctors judged the illness to be incurable. Homère Rhodius’ daughter, Sister Marie Ludovica, was a Sister of Notre Dame of Namur; she began a novena in the Garden Chapel where Julie was interred.  A relic was applied on the site of the malady and, instantly, the condition of the patient improved significantly.  In less than a month, he was perfectly cured.

Submitted in 1924, at the time of the resumption of Julie’s cause, this miracle had not been validated by the Vatican.  It is the first time that a lawyer at the Consistory, Giovanni-Battista Ferrata, succeeded in obtaining a reversal of the first ruling of the Medical Consultation.

Illustration21-editedMr. Otacilio Ribeiro (miraculous cure) and his daughter, Julie. 

Illustration22-editedPositio Super Miraculis listing the two miracles of the canonization, 1968.

Illustration23-editedBanner made by Missori en 1968 for the canonization of Saint Julie.  On can see Saint Julie with a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and two “cousins” (a Sister of Notre Dame of Amersfoort and a Sister of Notre Dame of Coesfeld who claim the same spirit and follow the same rule but without juridical ties with the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur), surrounded by children from all the nations.

l’appel universel à la sainteté



En 2019, les Sœurs de Notre-Dame qui forment une grande famille internationale célèbrent le 50ème anniversaire de la CANONISATION de leur fondatrice, sainte Julie Billiart.

Les archives générales de la congrégation et le centre d’héritage ont réalisé une EXPOSITION pour comprendre comment Julie est devenue sainte.  Plusieurs panneaux avec des documents d’époque vous racontent sous forme de frise chronologique les évènements entre 1881 et 1969.

L’exposition est accessible aux horaires d’ouverture du centre d’héritage (Maison mère des SND 17, rue Julie Billiart à Namur – Belgique) : du lundi au vendredi de 9h00 à 12h00 et de 13h00 à 16h00 (week-end, jours fériés et groupes sur demande).

Sainteté par les papes Paul VI (1969) et François (2018). Clic et lire le document.

Photos de l’exposition au Centre d’héritage à Namur.

Illustration1a edited

Illustration1b edited

Illustration1c edited

Illustration1d edited

Illustration1e edited

Les 6 étapes du processus de canonisation de Julie Billiart:

  1. Enquête diocésaine pour établir la réputation de sainteté (1881-1889)
  2. Acceptation du « dossier » par le Vatican ; Julie devient Vénérable (1889)
  3.  Procès apostolique (1890-1897) et approbation de trois miracles (1905)
  4.  Julie devient bienheureuse (1906)
  5.  Reprise de la cause et approbation de deux miracles (1924-1968)
  6.  Julie devient sainte (1969).

Enquête dans les ARCHIVES sur la canonisation de Julie Billiart

50 ans après, comment la sainteté de Julie est-elle encore un exemple ?  Comment inspire-t-elle tous ceux qui marchent dans ses pas : les sœurs, les associés, les volontaires, les amis, les professeurs et les élèves ?

                         1: La Sainte qui sourit. Cliquez ici pour lire et télècharger la ligne du temps.


Illustration2-editedMère Aloysie, 6ème supérieure générale (1875-1888)

Illustration3 editedMgr Gravez, évêque de Namur (1867-1883)

Illustration4 editedLettre de Mgr Gravez, évêque de Namur qui accepte la requête de Mère Aloysie à propos de l’introduction des causes de Julie et Françoise, 18 mars 1881.

Illustration5 editedBillet de convocation au procès diocésain, 4 octobre 1881.

Illustration6-edited-2Trois gros volumes reliés avec toutes les lettres postulatoires en vue de l’Introduction de la cause de Julie, Archives générales de la congrégation, Namur.

Illustration7Armoire avec tous les documents officiels liés à la cause de Julie Billiart, Archives générales de la congrégation, Namur.

Illustration8 editedLettre postulatoire pour l’Introduction de la cause de Julie signée par la reine des Belges, Marie-Henriette (épouse du roi Léopold II), 1888.

                                     2: Vénérable Julie. Cliquez ici pour lire et télècharger la ligne du temps.


Illustration9 editedTémoignage de la Sœur Marie Adèle Claus déposé à Clapham (G-B) le 16 juin 1882 en vue de la béatification de Julie.

Illustration10_1889_DecretDécret d’introduction de la cause de Julie, 1889.  Julie devient Vénérable.

                                  3: Bienheureuse Julie. Cliquez ici pour lire et télècharger la ligne du temps


Illustration11Châsse de sainte Julie exposée au Centre d’héritage à Namur.  Pour en savoir plus :

Illustration12-editedPape Pie X, le Cardinal Ferrata (Protecteur de l’Institut à Rome), Mgr Heylen (évêque de Namur) et Mère Aimée de Jésus avec leur blason.

Illustration13-editedOrigine et signification du blason des Sœurs de Notre-Dame de Namur.

Illustration14Affiche des célébrations à Namur pour la béatification de Julie, 17-21 mai 1906.

Illustration15Photo des fêtes à Namur, 1906

                                      4: Sainte Julie. Cliquez ici pour lire et télècharger la ligne du temps.


Illustration16-editedRévérend Ugo Märton, O. Praem., Postulateur de la Cause, remercie le Pape Paul VI pour la canonisation de sainte Julie.

Illustration17-editedCanonisation à Rome par le Pape Paul VI.

Illustration18-editedActe officiel (en parchemin avec enluminures) signée par le Pape Paul VI le 22 juin 1969 : Julie Billiart devient sainte

                       5: MIRACLES DE LA BÉATIFICATION

Dans son homélie du 22 juin 1969, le Pape Paul VI nous parle de la sainteté et des miracles.

« L’hagiographie, qui est l’étude de la sainteté, s’est souvent intéressée avec passion aux ASPECTS MIRACULEUX de celle-ci, au point d’identifier la sainteté par le miracle. 

C’est ainsi qu’AUTREFOIS la sainteté a parfois été agrémentée de MIRACLES IMAGINAIRES ET DE LÉGENDES FANTASTIQUES.  On voulait par-là, non pas porter atteinte à la vérité historique, mais rendre au saint un hommage gratuit, conventionnel, poétique. 

MAINTENANT, il n’en est plus ainsi : le miracle reste une preuve, un signe de sainteté, mais il n’en constitue pas l’essence.  Aujourd’hui, l’étude de la sainteté s’intéresse surtout à la VÉRITÉ HISTORIQUE des faits et des documents qui l’attestent, et aussi à l’exploration de la PSYCHOLOGIE des saints. »

Pour être reconnue bienheureuse, la vénérable Julie doit avoir accompli au moins un miracle après sa mort.

La reconnaissance d’un miracle est soumise à des règles strictes.  Une enquête médicale est menée sur les personnes afin de prouver leur guérison miraculeuse par l’intercession de la vénérable Julie.

En 1905, trois miracles sont attestés par la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites.

  1. En 1882, Armand Hubin (de Liège), âgé de 16 ans, guérit miraculeusement après que sa mère se rendit au tombeau de Julie et appliqua une relique sur l’ulcère de sa jambe.
  2. Jean Noël Grégoire (de Namur), âgé de 20 ans, souffrait depuis de nombreuses années à l’une de ses jambes suite à une mauvaise chute. En 1881, en désespoir de cause, on commença une neuvaine à Julie et une relique fut appliquée sur sa blessure.  Dès le premier jour, il retrouva une santé parfaite.
  3. Louis Waëlens (de Bruges), 28 ans, souffrait d’un ulcère à l’estomac. Il était incapable de manger depuis des années à cause de la douleur et dépérissait.  En 1886, sa femme se rendit chez les sœurs pour leur expliquer les souffrances de son mari.  Elles lui donnèrent une relique et suggèrent de commencer une neuvaine à la vénérable Julie.  Cette nuit-là, Louis Waëlens fut capable de manger sans douleur pour la première fois depuis des années.

Illustration19-editedLouis Waëlens guérie miraculeusement par la vénérable Julie en 1886.

Illustration20-editedDécoration de la basilique Saint-Pierre de Rome le 13 mai 1906


Les Sœurs ont reçu des centaines de lettres attestant de guérisons miraculeuses par l’intercession de la bienheureuse Julie.  Parmi ces centaines de dossiers, seuls quatre ont été examinés par la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites (et deux seront finalement reconnus en 1958 et 1967).

Le premier miracle reconnu est celui d’Otacilio Ribeiro.  L’histoire se déroule à Campos Novos, au Brésil, le 29 septembre 1950.  Otacilio Ribeiro, un jeune fermier de 29 ans, est emmené à l’hôpital par son père à cause d’une tumeur dans le bas ventre.  Ils sont accueillis par Sœur Maria Bardona et Sœur Mary Ludivine, des SND de Coesfeld.  Après avoir pratiqué l’incision, le Docteur Janh Martins Ribeiro juge impossible de procéder à l’ablation de la tumeur qui est inaccessible et condamne le malade.  « Ma sœur, dit le médecin, il ne vivra pas une heure de plus. »

Les deux sœurs de Coesfeld et une troisième, Sœur Maria Adélaïde, commencent alors à prier la bienheureuse Julie.  Le lendemain, Otacilio revient à lui ; sœur Ludivine l’invite à se joindre à leurs prières et applique une relique de Julie à l’endroit de l’incision.  Le médecin ne lui donne pas trois jours à vivre.  Pourtant, quelques jours plus tard, Otacilio appelle la sœur : « Sœur, il y a quelque chose d’inhabituel.  Je ne peux pas expliquer mais c’est différent. »  Le lendemain, Otacilio pouvait s’asseoir.

Une semaine plus tard, Otacilio est guéri.  Ses parents offrent aux sœurs un kilo et demi de cire pour les bougies et Otacilio promet d’appeler sa fille Julie si il en avait une un jour.

En 1952, Mère Mary Verona, l’assistante de la supérieure générale des SND de Coesfeld, écrit à Sœur Ludivine au Brésil afin qu’elle soumette le miracle d’Otacilio Ribeiro à la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites.  Le 17 janvier 1958, le miracle est authentifié.

Quant au second miracle, il est reconnu par le Vatican le 10 mars 1967.  Il s’agit du miracle de Homère Rhodius, datant de 1919.  A cette époque, Homère Rhodius était âgé de 69 ans.  Il souffrit d’une crise d’urémie qui le réduisit en quelques jours à un état très grave.  Les médecins jugèrent la maladie inguérissable.  La fille d’Homère Rhodius, Sœur Marie-Ludovica, était SND de Namur ; elle entama une neuvaine dans la chapelle du jardin où Julie était enterrée.  Une relique fut appliquée sur le malade et aussitôt, l’état du malade s’améliora sensiblement.  Et en moins d’un mois, il était parfaitement guéri.

Soumis en 1924, au moment de la reprise de la cause de Julie, ce miracle n’avait pas été validé par le Vatican.  C’est la première fois qu’un avocat du Consistoire, Giovanni-Battista Ferrata, réussit à obtenir un changement du premier jugement de la Consultation Médicale!

Illustration21-editedMonsieur Otacilio Ribeiro (miraculé) et sa fille Julie. 

Illustration22-editedPositio Super Miraculis reprenant les deux miracles de la canonisation, 1968.

Illustration23-editedBannière réalisée par Missori en 1968 pour la canonisation de sainte Julie.  On y voit Sainte Julie avec une SND de Namur et deux « cousines » (une SND d’Amersfoort et une SND de Coesfeld qui se réclament du même esprit et suivent la même règle mais sans lien juridique avec la congrégation des SND de Namur), entourée des enfants de toutes les nations.