St Julia Billiart

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Nun and foundress. St Julia Billiart was born in Cuvilly, France in 1751. The fifth of seven children, she attended a little one room school. She enjoyed all subjects, but was particularly attracted to the religion lessons taught by the parish priest. Recognizing something 'special' in her, the priest secretly allowed her to make her First Communion at the age of nine, when the normal age at the time, was 13.

When she was 16, she began to teach farm workers about the Bible - sitting on a haystack. She carried on this mission of teaching throughout her life, and the Congregation she founded continues her work.

She suffered poor health for much of her life and was often barely able to walk.

When the French Revolution broke out, Julia offered her home as a hiding place for priests. Because of this, she was hunted by the revolutionary authorities herself.

For several years she had to live in hiding herself. During this time she experienced a vision. She saw the crucified Lord surrounded by a large group of religious women dressed in a habit she had never seen before. An inner voice told her that these would be her daughters and that she would begin an institute for the Christian education of young girls.

She and a rich young woman founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. At Amiens, the two women and a few companions set up their religious community.

In 1804, Julia was miraculously cured of her illness and walked for the first time in 22 years. In 1805, Julie and three companions made their profession and took their final vows. She was elected as Mother General of the young Congregation. In 1815, Julia nursed the wounded and starving soldiers who had survived the battle of Waterloo. After another illness, she died peacefully on this day in 1816 at the age of 64.

Julia was beatified in 1906, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

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