How pleasantly surprised we were to find that our community is of interest to the Catholic Social Network! While doing some researching we found your questions. We are only sorry that we are discovering them now. If the rule “better late than never” applies, we would be pleased to answer some of the questions we found on the blog.
First there was the question about how the remains of Fr. Varin ended up in England. In 1904 the Combes Law was passed in France, expelling all religious communities. The Society of the Sacred Heart transferred the holy remains of Mother Barat to Jette and those of Fr. Varin to England. For the admirers of M. Digby who was the Superior General at the time, it is important to know that for every house that was closed in France during this period another house opened elsewhere, thus never diminishing the number of houses of the Sacred Heart. Religious of the Sacred Heart and many holy objects were exported from France and relocated to the new homes. At this time Hotel Biron was also closed.
Someone also asked if the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Florence teach. Religious of the Sacred Heart make a fourth vow at the moment of their Final Profession. We vow poverty, chastity, obedience, and, as asked by obedience, to consecrate ourselves to the education of youth. Here in Florence, we teach religion and English. We are also responsible for the administration and the academic planning of the school. The boarding school girls are also lovingly guided by the Mothers. We also offer all of our hidden works within our home and school for the souls entrusted to us. Nothing is wasted!
We are also happy to say that our Middle School, for many years now, prays every day for all the children of the Sacred Heart, past, present and future, throughout the world!
Are we female Jesuits? No. St. Ignatius did not intend to found an order of female Jesuits. The Sisters of Loreto founded by Mary Ward made an effort that seems not to have had much success. We have a beautiful history that links us to the Jesuits. Fr. Léonor de Tournely was a young French Jesuit who at the moment of the Jesuit suppression went to Austria and began the Fathers of the Sacred Heart with some of his fellow “ex Jesuits”. Fr. Varin was in this group. Fr. de Tournely, in his prayer, felt called to form a female community which would complement the work of the Fathers. They were to be women consecrated to the Sacred Heart and dedicated to the formation of the youth. Fr. de Tournely died before he was able to form such a community yet he entrusted the mission to Fr. Varin. After many trials he finally met the young Sophie Barat, masterfully educated by her brother Louis. Fr. Varin had found his foundress! When the Jesuits were no longer suppressed Fr. Varin and Fr. Louis Barat both were admitted. Their close guidance definitely left their impression on the young Mother Barat. It is important to know that she wrote the Constitutions. They are written for the Society of the Sacred Heart. The Jesuit Constitutions gave some structure: the steps of formation and the juniorate, eight day retreats and examination of conscience, the Religious consecration made before the Blessed Sacrament, etc. A thorough study and comparison of the two Constitutions is done by Mother de Charry.
The best question was on contemplation and prayer! Do we live this? Mother Barat assured us in the structure of our lives time for prayer. An hour of meditation in the morning and a half hour of Eucharistic adoration in the afternoon (Eucharistic Adoration is particularly important, in the novitiates in the past there was perpetual adoration), the rosary, the Mass, the Divine Office (we do the Office of Readings, Lauds, Midday, Vespers and Compline in community). We have two examinations of conscience. We are called to contemplate the Sacred Heart, to learn from Him, to gain our strength in Him, to act by means of Him. If we do not go to Him as the source of strength for all our labors we will not be able to bring Him glory, we will not be able to properly proclaim His love. He must be our constant guide or else we will not be capable of living the vocation He has entrusted to us. This is why silence is so important, even when work is never lacking we can remain constantly united to Him if we are able to maintain interior (and exterior) silence. Thus, our cloistered life is essential. (The cloister desired by Mother Barat was innovative in that she did not want the grill used in the papal cloisters. She felt it was an inhibition to our role as educators. She stressed however the importance of an interior cloister, interior life.) Our cloister continues to maintain the reality of the cloister as wanted by Mother Barat. We do not return to our families and we leave the convent only for academic and medical reasons. Unity and Conformity to the Heart of Jesus: this is our vocation.
We are also pleased to know that Sister Josefa Menendez is on your minds. Pray that we can reprint the Italian edition of The Way of Divine Love. Such a printing project requires funds we do not currently have. We feel it is our serious obligation to reprint this book, to continue to spread the message the Lord entrusted to Sr. Josefa. We are fortunate because the Lord knows that in the Communities of the Sacred Heart, He may find His rest.
Thanks for your interest! Please tell us if you have any other questions!
(We are a community “sui iuris” of Pontifical Right confided to the special care of the Archbishop of Florence as provided in can. 615., the papal decree in on our website,www.sacrocuore.com)