Saint Julie Billiart
Saint Julie was the sixth of seven children and was born on July 12th, 1751, in Picardy France. She was extremely bright as a child and had the catechism memorized by age 7. She could often be found sitting with other children who would ask her to recite it to them while they prompted her with questions. The local parish priest, Father Dangicourt, recognized this brilliance in learning and spiritual knowledge and allowed her to take both First Communion and Confirmation at he age of only 9. Five years later, at 14, she took a vow of chastity.
For the next several years her reputation as a pious, intelligent and virtuous woman spread and people began to call her "the saint of Cuvilly". At twenty two though, her life drastically changed when her father was shot and killed by an unknown assailant. This incident so shook Saint Julie to her core that it brought a nervous shock to her that paralyzed her lower limbs. She was confined to her bed for several years. This time, though terrible it must have been for her physically, brought on a new desire for holiness. She began receiving Holy Communion daily and would spend five hours day in silent contemplation and prayer. Her reputation as a great teacher of the catechism continued as children continued to gather at her bedside for instruction and questions.
During the nightmarish conditions for clergy and religious during the French Revolution, Saint Julie took refuge with Countess Baudion at Amiens. It was here she met the Viscountess of Gizaincourt, Francoise Blin de Bourbon. The group began to learn from Saint Julie on prayer, introspection and religious life. A large number of French noble women formed around Saint Julie and Francoise but one by one they began to leave as they found the discipline and lifestyle not to their taking. Soon only Franoicse and Saint Julie were left. In 1803 Saint Julie formed the foundation of the Institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame, a society dedicated to the salvation of poor children. Eight orphan children formed their first pupils. On June 1st, 1804, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Saint Julie completed a novena that was made by the order of her confessor. Miraculously, her paralysis left her and she found herself fully in control of her body once again.
In the new order, with a change to tradition, religious sisters and lay sisters both performed work according to their own abilities and education. There was no longer a great divide in rank or stature between the two groups. Franoicse took vows and became known as Mother St. Joseph. On July 19th, 1806, the order was approved. On the date of it's approval the group already numbered 30 years. In 1809, the convent was moved to Namur and became the mother house of the institute.
The Bishop of Ghent, Msgr De Broglie, wrote that Saint Julie saved more souls by her inner life of union with God than by her outward apostolate. This is an immense statement since in the span of only twelve years Saint Julie founded fifteen convents, one hundred and twenty journeys and kept in constant spiritual correspondence with her sisters. She fell ill in January of 1816 at the motherhouse. She would pass away from this illness on May 13th, 1816 in Namur, surrounded by her sisters. Many of the schools she founded are still in existence today, including the Notre Dame de Namur University.
Saint Julie was canonized in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.