Eucharistic Crusade

Sophie de Soubiran {1834 - 1889}

There are many souls that ask to be crucified, to be totally crushed.  Sophie de Soubiran, was one of these souls.  She founded the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice.  These Sisters made reparation to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and helped poor girls.  She was humiliated, betrayed by one of her nuns, and thrown out by her own friends!

Sophie's father, Joseph de Soubiran, was a soldier who lived like a religious, making sacrifices and doing much penance, especially at Easter time during Lent.  He was a simple pious Catholic who was gentle and kind to the poor and he had a wife who was good and pious like him.

Sophie was born on May 16, 1834.  Four children were born earlier, but they all died as infants.   At the birth of all his children, Mr. de Soubiran took them in his arms and offered them to God, asking Him to take them now if by living they would lose their souls.  He wanted all his children to go to Heaven.

When she was three, Sophie had an attack of typhoid fever and almost died.  During her illness she was enrolled in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady and suddenly a miracle happened and she became well again!  In thanksgiving for this great blessing from our Lady, Mr. de Soubiran made a vow to fast on bread and water every Friday, and he kept this vow until his death.

From the hour she was cured, Sophie became very pious and always remembered that God was present everywhere. When she received her First Communion she was filled with a longing to become a saint.  She desired God alone and begged Him to give her a religious vocation.

When Sophie was thirteen, she went on a retreat and God spoke in her heart.  He told her to make a vow of virginity and this she did.  About this grace she writes, "God continues to teach me in different ways, but mainly He speaks to my soul with a wonderful clearness and gentleness.  Prayer on the life and mysteries of Our Lord was easy and pleasing to me.  God explained to my heart, things about the interior life, the value of suffering, detachment from people and things and giving myself totally to doing the Holy Will of God.  From that moment, God attached my heart to Himself in a very special way!"

     Sophie joined the Congregation of the Children of Mary in Castelnaudary. This Congregation, founded by Fr. Dulignan, was like a Third Order, living in the world.  There were about five hundred girls in it, who prayed much and did many works of charity.  When Fr. Dulignan died, Fr. de Soubiran became the Director of the Congregation of Castelnaudary and Chaplain to the Sisters of Notre Dame in Castelnaudary.  He went to live with Sophie's father and there he taught many spiritual things to his young niece.            

     Young Sophie became an active member of this Congregation and an example of holiness to the other girls.  Every morning she got up early and did her meditation.  She went to Mass, and would receive Holy Communion almost every day.  Sophie ate dry bread for breakfast and would spend the morning doing embroidery and other work.  In the afternoon she worked with the ladies of the Congregation and she would spend her evenings in prayer.

When she was only seventeen, Sophie offered herself to God and desired to suffer everything so that He would be glorified, and she could save souls.  She wanted to become a Carmelite, but her uncle, Fr. de Soubiran, wanted her to found a Beguinage Third Order in France.  The Beguinage was a large Catholic town made up of pious people living in the world, who put the Mass and Church, first in their life.  It had started in Belgium in the 7th century and by the 14th century it had disappeared from France.      

            Sophie went on two different retreats and found out that she did not have a Carmelite vocation.  She followed her priest-uncle's advice and one year later went to Gand, Belgium to learn more about a Beguinage.  Sophie had many talks with Bishop Delebecque who told her, "As the leader of a Beguinage in France, you will give more glory to God than if you became a Carmelite!"  At this time her father died a holy death. She attended his funeral and later she went back to Gand, to learn more about the Beguinage that she was to found.

Sophie returned to France in July 1854, to start a Beguinage.  On August 8, 1854, she left her home and with two other women, and moved to the Novitiate house. On January 5, 1855, Sophie, who was twenty-one, made a vow to remain a virgin all her life. In November 1855, she and four other women received their religious habit from the Bishop and Sophie took the name: Sister Thérèse.  Before long a new building for the Novices and a larger Chapel were needed.  Sr. Thérèse and the other Sisters loved poverty and sold their jewels and laces to help with the new buildings.  They would get up at 3:00 in the morning to carry sand and stones for the new Chapel.  When the workmen arrived, these Sisters continued with their embroidery and other good works.  The nuns helped with the building for six years, until it was finished.

     The Sisters started a school and took in many children, and later they adopted orphans as well.  Everything was going fine, but suddenly in 1861; the new convent caught fire and was completely destroyed.  Only the Chapel was saved but everything else was lost; books, furniture and vestments!  In the spring a new roof was built over the burned walls and he Community went back to their poor convent. 

At the same time, Marie de Soubiran, who was Sr. Thérèse's only sister, entered the Novitiate.    

     In 1862, one year after the fire, Sr. Thérèse, now (Mother Mary Thérèse) suggested to the Sisters that they should spend the night adoring the Blessed Sacrament.  They were so happy to adore Jesus, that they repeated the night adoration every month and then every week. 

     Mother Mary Thérèse felt that God wanted her to do something else, so she decided to go to Toulouse.  There she prayed and spoke to the Jesuit Fathers and told her problems to Archbishop Deprès.  After talking to the holy nun, it was decided that another convent should be set up in Toulouse and directed by Mother Mary Thérèse.  There the Sisters could live a more complete religious life and they could also continue helping young girls.

     Mother Mary Thérèse then went on a thirty day retreat and renewed her Vow of Perfection.  In July 1864, she rented a house and asked some of the Sisters in Castelnaudary to join her.  The good Superior spent the nights in prayer and penance. She also wrote up some new rules and one of the rules was that every Sister had to adore the Blessed Sacrament for one hour every night.

     Mother Mary Thérèse wanted the Sisters to become saints.  She writes, "The Sisters must realize that to help them become saints, it is necessary to pray at night in order to obtain graces for the following day.  The Sisters should use each day to prepare themselves for their night adoration."

     In time the Sisters became known as the "Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrice". Mother Mary Thérèse urged the Sisters to do penance and make sacrifices.  They continued to take care of orphans, and also helped working girls and women.  They also taught those who had very little education.

     The work was advancing rapidly and God allowed it to be tested.  An intelligent woman had joined the Sisters in Toulouse.  Her name has not been recorded but we will call her Sr. Martha.  Mother Mary Thérèse became close friends with this new Sister, who had big ideas.  In the spring of 1868, she and Sr. Martha went to Rome and obtained permission to set up their houses in other parts of France where the big factories were, so that they could obtain more vocations.  They set up houses in Amiens, and Lyons.  During this time Madame de Soubiran died, and soon after, Fr. de Soubiran died; they were a great loss to Mother Mary Thérèse.

     In August 1870, the good Superior went with some Sisters to set up a convent in England, in case the Franco-Prussian war drove them from France.  Meanwhile, the Sisters in Toulouse sent the girls home and before long all the Sisters left Toulouse and went to England. 

     The nuns lived in a small house in Brompton, and when the Sisters from Amiens and Lyons came to England, there were fifty nuns, packed like sardines, into this little house!  Here they worked on embroidery and sold their handiwork to stores.  They attended Mass at the Oratory and two of the priests there, helped the Sisters obtain a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament.  Later the nuns moved to Kensington, where they took in working girls.

     When the war was over, Mother Mary Thérèse returned to France and Sr. Martha advised her to set up more new convents.  Within two years Bourges, Paris, and Angers all had new convents.  Suddenly Mother Mary Thérèse realized that their Society was in terrible debt.  At first, Sr. Martha took the blame, but then she changed her mind saying, "Mother Mary Thérèse, by her pride and ambition, has caused our Society to become hopelessly in debt.  She has brought the curse of God on the Society, and is unfit to rule!"  And the worst part is that all the Sisters believed Sr. Martha!

     Mother Mary Thérèse was truly humble and blamed herself for all these debts.  She gave up her post as Superior and the Archbishop of Bourges appointed Sr. Martha as the new Superior.  Sophie had a difficult time trying to find another religious order that would take her in, but finally the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, in Clermont, France, received her. 

     Some time later, Sophie's confessor, Fr. Pérard, realized that she was not to blame for the debts of the Society which she had founded.  He also saw that God wanted her to be a victim, sacrificing her life for the Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrice.  Since Mother Martha would not allow Sophie to come back to the Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrice, she went to Paris, and on September 20, 1874, entered the community of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Charity.  Three years later on June 29, 1877, Sophie made her vows and took the name of Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart.  Her sister Marie was kicked out of the Society as well and she also came to join these Sisters of Notre Dame. 

     The years passed and Sophie's health became much worse.  Her stomach was diseased and now she could live only on milk!  In October 1888, she had to go to the infirmary.  Here she suffered for many months and died on the First Friday, June 7, 1889.  In February 1890, Mother Martha left the Society.  In September 1891, Sophie's body was moved to a cemetery owned by the Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrice.  Let us all pray that some day Sophie will be canonized...               

                                                                                                                    The End      

Home | Contents

Home | Contact | Mass Centres | Schools | Pilgrimages | Retreats | Precious Blood Residence
District Superior's Ltrs | Superor General's Ltrs | Various
Newsletter | Eucharistic Crusade | Rosary Clarion | For the Clergy | Coast to Coast | Saints | Links