Born Into A Simple Farming Family
Julie Billiart was born in Cuvilly, France in 1751. Her life was marked by a great desire to make known the goodness of God. She began teaching about God's goodness at an early age, and despite a paralysis that crippled her at the age of 22, Julie continued teaching until her death. Persecuted during the French Revolution, she kept an unshakeable confidence in the good God. On February 2, 1804, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, dedicated to the education of young girls and especially the poor, and to making known God's goodness. Julie died just 12 years later. She was canonized on June 22, 1969.
Marie Rose Julie Billiart was born and baptized on July 12, 1751 in Cuvilly, France. Julie, as she was called, was the fifth of seven children of Monsieur and Madame Billiart. A simple farming family, the Billiarts also kept a small store to supplement their income.
The Billiart children were sent to a small, one-room schoolhouse in the village. Julie excelled at all of her lessons, but especially religion classes. She also developed an intense interest in a spiritual life, which prompted her pastor to encourage Julie to pray and visit the Blessed Sacrament. He invited Julie to make her First Holy Communion early, at the age of nine. By the time Julie reached the age of 14, she knew that she would dedicate her life entirely to Jesus.
First days as an educator
As a young woman, Julie was admired for her beautiful embroidery and lace. She especially enjoyed creating items to be used in local churches. Occasionally, the Sisters at the nearby Carmelite convent asked her to do needlework for them, and she developed a special friendship with them. Julie's handiwork was also sold in the Billiart family store.
However, one day, thieves broke in and robbed the family store of most of its goods. After that, despite his best efforts, Julie's father found it nearly impossible to pay his creditors, and the losses weighed heavily on the family.
Eventually, Julie found a job as a farm worker, gathering harvested crops. The work was hard, but it provided some financial support for her family. It also brought Julie great joy through the opportunity to teach. Each day during the lunch break, Julie would gather her co-workers and share Bible stories, offer lectures on virtue and faith, and teach hymns that praised and thanked a good God.