Saint Julie Billiart
Born in France in 1751, Julie Billiart had a strong desire from an early age to pursue a religious vocation. However, while still a young woman, she saw her father shot during a robbery of the store he worked in. This led to an increasing set of medical disorders (which today we might call PTSD) that were made worse by the treatments prescribed by the primitive medical science of the day. At the age of 33 she became paralyzed and confined to her bed. Even so, she prayed often, received the Eucharist daily, and worked to help and teach those around her in what ways she could from her bed.
As the French Revolution swept over France and brought religious persecution to faithful clergy, Julie Billiart and her relatives helped to conceal priests who were hunted by the authorities. In 1804, after twenty-two years of paralysis, Julie‚Äôs confessor encouraged her to pray a novena to the Sacred Heart, and at the end of it, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, she was fully cured of her paralysis.
Freed from her bed, Julie Billiart sought to fulfill her dream of founding a religious order. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were dedicated to education, especially of girls. Soon there were convents of the sisters throughout France, Belgium and the United States. Today the order operates in sixteen countries on five continents.
Julie Billiart was canonized on June 22, 1969. Her feast day is April 8th. She is the patron saint of educators and teachers. In a prayer St. Julie Billiart wrote, she said:
To be simple
Is to be like sunflower
All the movements
Of the sun and
Ever turns towards it.
In this icon she is shown with the sunflowers mentioned in her prayer, and with the coat of the Sister of Notre Dame.
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