The madcap Elate Eight continues today as Origen faces Madeleine Sophie Barat. To make it this deep into the bracket, Origen defeated Hilda of Whitby and Juana Ines de la Cruz, while Madeleine took out Mesrop Mashtots and Columbanus.
Yesterday in YET ANOTHER tightly contested battle of Lent Madness 2022, José Hernández squeezed past James Holly 52% to 48% to snag the second spot in the Faithful Four.
Certainly, I can show you the many times theologians both ancient and modern that have written dissertations discussing the influence of Origen on the church.
But really what Origen would want for me to show you so the Bible. To truly understand God, you must seek God’s presence, God’s faithfulness and God’s consistent love in the pages of the Bible that Origen spent his life studying.
Madeleine Sophie Barat
So begins each story in Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline series. The vine-covered home is in fact a boarding school, where Madeline and her classmates are watched over by Miss Clavel. The school is supposedly modeled on a Sacred Heart academy; even the way that Miss Clavel is a “miss” and not a “sister”--sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus preferred their students to call them Madame, the common practice of other French orders of the period (though Bemelmans thought calling a nun “Miss”, as in Mademoiselle, would make more sense to American readers than the technically correct “Mrs.”)
Madeleine Sophie Barat lived a difficult life in a tenuous time–and despite her more modern (at least by the standards of Lent Madness!) pedigree, she hasn’t exactly generated much in the way of kitsch. But the powerful legacy of her pedagogy, and the Sacred Heart schools that still credit her inspiration today, make this little connection to the famous book series seem like the right place to start. And just like Madeline, Madeleine Sophie Barat was herself the smallest (read:youngest) of the sisters committing themselves both to the education and nurture of young women, and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And just like Madeline, Madeleine Sophie was intrepid and indefatigable, and unafraid of everything, even her own scars.
Madeleine Sophie had to be brave from her first breath. This author of this young adult novel imagines herself into Barat’s life story (as a childhood companion) to tell the story of Madeleine’s life–from her premature birth in a house fire, to practicing her Christianity “underground” in the midst of revolution, to championing her new religious order to open schools all over France, then Europe, and then the world.
While struggle makes some people bitter, understanding hardship made Mother Barat sweet. Rather than making poor children try to learn while they were hungry, Mother Barat and her Sisters instituted snack time, or goûter. While some sources describe the meal they provided as a cake, I learned from one commenter that it was actually an enriched brioche with dried fruits or nuts added. Let them eat kitsch!
Madeleine Sophie Barat was beloved among the nuns she led for her gifts of spiritual direction, and her own strong life of prayer. If you’re looking for something practical to express your Barat fandom, there’s no shortage of rosaries and other prayer beads on the market for you!
In the early days of the order, Madeleine and her companions did lacework in the evenings to help financially support their mission of education for all. Let this vintage French “Holy Card” of the Sacred Heart, bordered in lace, help inspire you to stand against educational inequality today.
And when you need a break, rest your head on this surprisingly chic throw pillow. The pillow is patterned with powerful yet simple words of the Mother Superior, and advertised with similarly simple copy: “Love this powerful Catholic Lady!” Me too, RedBubble.com. Me too.
Love can make you do crazy things. For Madeleine Sophie, it meant teaching catechism in a secret Christian community in spite of possible imprisonment or even death, and ultimately leading the Society through four different French regimes and their accompanying religious tensions for the sake of children’s education. And for this little girl, it meant picking an obscure saint for Kindergarten trivia:
Whether you use prayer beads, a habit, or even a piece of cake, think about how you might “dress up” as Madeleine Sophie Barat today, striving after her example of patience, thoughtfulness, and bravery.