Friday, March 08, 2024

Selected Lenten Reflections: Mother St. Joseph , Noblewoman sold it all

Mother St. Joseph, SNDdeN, also known as Marie Louise Françoise Blin de Bourdon was born 8 March 1756, Gézaincourt. Françoise Blin de Bourdon, a wealthy French noblewoman and a close friend of St. Julie Billiart, together co-founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Françoise grew up with a doting grandmother, a home on a luxurious estate, and access to the upper echelons of 18th-century French society. As a member of the nobility, she was taught by the Bernardine Sisters and later the Ursuline Sisters.

Françoise, whose family belonged to the French aristocracy and nobility, had been presented at the court of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Versailles. French revolutionists imprisoned and guillotined the king and queen. Then they began executing members of the aristocracy and clergy. Françoise herself was imprisoned, while awaiting execution. Just one day before her date with the guillotine, Maximilian Robespierre, the mastermind of the French Revolution, fell from power, and Françoise was freed.

When her mother died in 1784, it was a life-changing experience: she attended daily Mass and spent her time on charitable works.

She returned to visiting the sick and the poor and that led her to St. Julie Billiart who, paralyzed and bedridden, was a guest in the home of Françoise’s brother in Amiens.

At first, Françoise found visiting the sick woman distasteful. Gradually a strong friendship grew between them. With St. Julie’s guidance, she spent her whole life letting go of anything that could come between her and God. Eventually Francoise told St. Julie of her dream to join the Carmelites.
Francoise never become a Carmelite, instead she and St. Julie co-founded the Sisters of Notre Damede Namur, a religious community that educated poor, young girls and trained teachers.

Francoise wrote the “Memoirs” that tell us so much about St. Julie and the early history of the Congregation. Françoise also provided a spiritual foundation by writing the first “Rule,” which described the spirit of the religious congregation and the way of life for the Sisters. She was the Congregation’s first “donor,” providing the financial support from her family inheritance which enabled the Sisters to expand during the early years. She succeeded St. Julie as the superior general (worldwide leader) of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Saint Mathew tells us: " 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. 22 When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions" Chapter 19

Before her death, Mother St. Joseph had given away all her material goods.

Mother St. Joseph, pray that we may learn to store treasure in heave.

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