Mesrop Mashtots v. Madeleine Sophie Barat

Welcome to the first and only Saturday matchup of Lent Madness 2022. Today Mesrop Mashtots faces off against Madeleine Sophie Barat. And, yes, that's Barat not Borat -- that's something else entirely. Haven't heard of these two saints? Meeting some new spiritual companions is, of course, one of the joys of Lent Madness.

Yesterday Kateri Tekakwitha trounced Olaf 72% to 28% to advance to the next round.

We're testing out a new even-more-secure voting system today, so casting your vote will look sightly different. But fear not! We still support universal (one vote) suffrage.

Enjoy the First Sunday in Lent tomorrow (make sure to talk about Lent Madness with all your friends at coffee hour) and we'll look forward to seeing everyone back here first thing Monday morning as Hilary of Poitiers faces Melania the Elder. Now go exercise your God-given right to vote (once) in Lent Madness!

Mesrop Mashtots

If you like words, reading, and sharing good news, you will love Mesrop Mashtots. In 405 CE, he invented the Armenian alphabet and translated the Bible into Armenian, bringing the Word of God to the people of Armenia.

After serving in the military and the Armenian royal court, Mashtots joined the Christian church and worked as a missionary in southern Armenia. As a student of Greek, he could read the Bible but realized that most people could not. He believed that the ability to read the Bible would be an excellent tool for encouraging people to join the church. But Mashtots couldn’t make this happen alone. Where could he find help?

Fortunately, Vrampshapuh, the ruler of the Armenian dynasty, was Christian. He sponsored the project along with the head bishop of the Armenian church, Sahak the Great. Beyond enlightening their people about God’s story, they had goals of securing Christianity as the main religion in Armenia, and they wanted to build national community and unity. With this backing, Mashtots got to work.

As he spent time traveling and researching different languages to adapt to the new alphabet, Mashtots realized he’d have to start from scratch. Mashtots worked with Rufinus, a Greek calligrapher, to create an alphabet with 36 symbols to cover all the sounds in the Armenian language.

He and Bishop Sahak translated the Bible, obtaining an official copy from Constantinople and checking it against other versions to create their Armenian version. Mashtots put together a team of linguists to translate canons of the church councils, liturgies, and other important texts. The alphabet, with the addition of two letters, is still used today.

Armenians responded enthusiastically to the ability to read in their own language. Mashtots continued to translate and write Armenian hymns and other works until he died in 440. He chose this verse from Proverbs 1:2 for his first sentence of translation: For learning about wisdom and instruction.

Collect for Mesrop Mashtots

O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Mesrop Mashtots, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Miriam Willard McKinney

Madeleine Sophie Barat

You could say Madeleine Sophie Barat was baptized by fire. On the night of December 12, 1779, a house fire raged next door to the Barat family home in Joigny, France. Terrified and exhausted, Madeleine Fouffé Barat went into premature labor; the fragile baby Sophie was baptized at her local church early the next morning, with her 10-year-old brother, Louis, by the font.

That her brother was her spiritual guardian from the first was fitting: Louis felt a strong call to the priesthood from an early age. As he studied, Louis shared all that he was learning with his little sister. It was an education that a young woman would otherwise never receive, and it stoked both Sophie’s passion for learning and her deepening faith. A seminarian at the start of the French Revolution, Louis took the dangerous stance of opposing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and was eventually arrested and jailed for two years. After his release, Sophie boldly followed him to Paris, where they lived in a safe house so they could continue to practice their faith. Unable to explore a religious vocation for herself due to the abolition of most religious communities in France, Sophie secretly taught catechism to local children and tried to keep busy with prayer, study, and helping her family in their vineyard.

In the early 1800s, Sophie could no longer wait. Inspired by local Jesuits’ desire to organize more religious education for women, Sophie and three other women in her safe house consecrated themselves to God on the evening of November 21, 1800, pledging their lives to “make known the revelation of God’s love.” While devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus remained illegal in France, the Society of the Sacred Heart was born. Madeleine Sophie Barat was only twenty years old.

Sophie and her sisters in Christ established schools across France focused on the education of girls and young women, offering academic rigor regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Barat’s faith was a coherent philosophy of education: children needed guidance to grow, and education is meant to “reveal the heart of Christ.” Mother Barat served as superior of the Society of the Sacred Heart for 65 years and was beloved for her strong life of prayer, her mentorship of others, and her collaborative leadership style.

Collect for Madeleine Sophie Barat

O God, by whose grace your servant Madeleine Sophie Barat, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Eva Suarez


Mesrop Mashtots: Hovhannes, artist of the XVIII century, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Madeleine Sophie Barat: Thomon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons



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235 comments on “Mesrop Mashtots v. Madeleine Sophie Barat”

  1. One can only express admiration
    For this man whose work lettered a nation.
    Armenians would get
    A brand-new alphabet,
    Leaving Persia in some consternation.

    1. I saw the permanent spinning dots when I tried to vote earlier. Try again - it worked for me!

  2. Those in the Society of the Sacred Heart will always get my vote. Someday I hope to see Janet Erskine Stuart in the line up! She was an inspiration to me when I was a young nun.

    1. Or St Margaret! The St Margaret who had such devotion to the Sacred Heart. I have had the Sacred Heart displayed wherever I lived since childhood and she was the saint who converted me to hold a devotion for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

      That said, I voted for the man who created an alphabet and then transcribed the Bible with it. Wow! I'm wordless!!

  3. Admirable work and an amusing name (only to a speaker of modern English, of course) so I couldn't resist voting for Mashtots.

  4. This was a tough one. Had to go with Mashtots. Making it possible for people to read the scriptures in their own language was a wonderful gift.

    1. Oh good. I wanted to vote for both too. I finally chose Madeleine Sophie Barat but I'll feel happy that you voted for Mesrop Mashtots

  5. I went to a Sacred Heart convent in England so I’m voting for Madeline Sophie, but Mesrop Mashtots has a name to conjure with and might have got the vote if he was up against any other Saint

    1. I agree with Brixham Beth. This was a difficult vote as reading the Bible in one's language is so important but being a former educator, I had to go with Sophie

  6. Your new voting system is so secure it told me I already voted. I read both and got to the bottom and made the discovery. I would have voted for Mashtots for spreading the word.

  7. I voted for Mashtots. Anyone with a name like that just has to be remembered for his Letters and his Hymn Writing. But! I also suspected that Dear Sophie would probably prevail.

  8. Two very worthy saints are matched up here. With an eye to March being Women's History Month, I cast my vote for Madeline.

  9. Is there ever a tie??? Both of these people and their accomplishments are /were amazing!

  10. The Religious of the Sacred Heart, as Madeleine Sophie Barrett’s order is now called, long worked in the US as educators of girls & young women. If my family had remained in Seattle rather than moving back East, our daughter would have attended their excellent schools. Go, Madeleine!!

  11. I started my education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Winnepeg, Madeline Sophie was held up before us a the way to live. We also were taught to stand up to the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis, so while Mashtots is worthy, Madeline Sophie gets my vote.

  12. Having been taught by the Visitation sisters who also were dedicated to teaching girls, I have to go with Madeline Sophie Barat.

  13. My vote was "not allowed". I am wondering if it is because my husband and I both do this and we are on the same ISP. Often, we disagree on our choices, but I guess from now on we will have to choose the same person. Bummer!

    1. How about giving yourself a new @ address. Resolves the issue of one system households...I think. Ask the supreme guys.

  14. Two quotes from Madeleine Sophie
    “Let us leave acts not words, no one will have time to read us”

    “Give only good example to the children; never correct them when out of humor or impatient. We must win them by an appeal to their piety and to their hearts. Soften your reprimands with kind words; encourage and reward them. That is, in short, our way of educating.”

  15. He's neither a clerk nor debater,
    but rather a language creator:
    approaching holistic
    all matters linguistic,
    is "Mashtots" some kind of potater?

    1. This one makes me giggle! And I was totally pronouncing Mashtots in my head way differently before I started reading comments! HA!

  16. I was unable to vote either. It said "thank you for your vote" before I even voted. ????
    I would have voted for Sophie.

    1. It did the same for me. But then I closed out my browser and when I went back I could vote.

  17. Literacy AND a bible in the common language of the people in the 5th century? Mashtots gets my vote today. (Though "Mashtots" sounds like two ways to serve potatoes.)

    Mother Sophie is also a worthy candidate, and I will not grieve if she comes out on top today.

    1. And because of when and where Mesrop was born and lived his life, he would have no idea what a potato is. Poor man.

  18. You must realize the lasting impact that Mesrop had on the Armenian people and their devotion to Christ and his Church....Huge!

  19. What a tuff choice. Two worthy saints that I had not heard of. Went with Mashtots because he had to start from
    scratch and create the alphabet. Easily could have gone with Sophie. Both very impressive , important and devout.

  20. It’s a coin toss. However, my vote goes to Mashtots who develops an alphabet so a people can read and understand scripture. Definitely God inspired.

  21. I wanted to vote for both. While I am wholly in favor of women's education, I am mindful that Armenia like Ukraine, is situated between land-hungry powers that do not want it to have independence. Russia is so often a villain in these stories. And I am impressed that Mesrop developed a national alphabet to suit the native tongue. Language is the foundation of education, and of identity. I vote for Mesrop, and in honor of another national tongue and identity: Slava Ukraini!

  22. Both so very worthy, but the quotations from MSB in Lisabeth's comment above swayed me to vote for her.

  23. This bio speaks a lot more about Louis than Sophie. Sophie brought such caring to the world and participants here should know that. She wrote, " Be humble, be simple, and bring joy to others." Her devotion to the Sacred Heart, holy and yet pierced and open to the brokenness of the world, helped her reconcile two distinct calls, to be "wholly apostolic and wholly contemplative": to give praise, but also act to heal the world's problems. But mostly she was dedicated to giving girls a quality education, irrespective of ability to pay, in a world that mostly did not value that. Through her work, girls are being educated today in 42 countries. And lastly, she believed in cake. She knew that children who were hungry could not concentrate on absorbing knowledge, and because her students were a mix of poor and more well off, she did something about it. She and her sisters started serving a mid-morning snack (gouter, which kind of means cake, but was more of an enriched brioche) to all students.

      1. Am I the only one who laments the lack of Saintly Sprinkles? For a few years the Scorecard featured recipes inspired by some of the saints in the lineup and I loved those. I would be willing to work on those if the SEC wants to bring them back.

      2. The gouter tradition has continued at many Sacred Heart schools, sometimes white cake with pink frosting (at least at the school my daughter attended. ) The word actually refers to a little snack. "Cake" was used in a connotation sense, not a denotation sense. However, my daughter has worked in the Sacred Heart archives, actually sat at Sophie's desk, and has done research. It is most likely they served an enriched brioche, to which nuts or dried fruit can also be added. The recipe could be something like this.

    1. "gouter" means "to taste" and just refers to any snack; since bread is essential to a French repast, the children undoubtedly got some form of bread