Saint Emily de Vialar (1797-1856), virgin of the Church, caregiver to the poor, and foundress of the Sisters of Saint Joseph “of the Apparition,” a holy order still thriving today. Emily’s favorite testament was “Love One Another,” which she practiced without exception, seeing Christ in all around her, and tirelessly loving and serving those in need.
Saint Emily was born to an aristocratic family in Gaillac, France, the eldest of three children. As the French Revolution had just passed, and anti-Christian sentiment was still in full force in France, Emily was baptized by her parents in secret, and her mother undertook religious instruction in the home.
When her mother died, Emily was sent to boarding school at age 13, but returned to Gaillac a few years later. At that time, trying to mend the harm done by the Revolution, Emily began catechizing the local youth. When her father attempted to arrange a marriage for her, Emily refused. She would later report that during that time, "God became my director.” Emily privately consecrated her life to God, deciding to remain a virgin, and increasing her prayer life. On one occasion she had a vision of our Lord pointing to the wounds of His passion. This experience moved her deeply and had a lasting effect on her life. Upon inheriting her grandfather’s large estate, Emily moved from her father’s home with sorrow, knowing the difficulty it would bring to her father. She wrote in her memoirs, “it was only in doing violence to my heart that I decided to leave him, knowing what affliction it would cause him.”
“all works of charity,” specifically the instruction of children and the care of the sick at home, in hospitals and in prisons.
Saint Emily wrote in the laws she established for the congregation at Mother Superior: "The spirit of this Congregation is to dedicate the Sisters to the practice of the different works of charity. In order to acquire this divine virtue, they meditate every day of their lives on the immense charity which fills the Heart of Jesus Christ; and they strive to imitate his zeal for the salvation of souls and his great mercy towards the neighbor. They dwell frequently on the adorable wounds of the Savior, so that, reflecting unceasingly on the love of God for men, they maintain and increase each day the sentiments of compassion and zeal with which they must be animated towards their fellow men."
She wrote at that time: "The Lord causes to burn within me that same fire which He enkindled long ago, and I rejoice in this grace, for if God did not breathe into me the spirit of zeal, my heart would cease to be quickened and then I would not be able to do anything. May He, in His goodness, grant that as long as I live this divine fire may not be extinguished."
"I have plenty of trials," she wrote, "but God is always there to support me." Saint Emily died at age 59, from long-standing complications of a hernia suffered in her youth while helping the poor. Four years after her death, her mortal remains were found intact, incorrupt. By the time of her death, she had formed forty-two foundations of her Order—most of them by herself-- not only in Western and Eastern Europe and Africa, but in the Middle East, the Far East, and Australia. Their work continues today on every inhabited continent, living the motto penned by Emily, “Love of God is service to the poor.”
During her lifetime, Emily had been asked to write about her spiritual life by her confessor. Her thoughts, put down in the form of a memoir, survive:
"From the first few months following my return to fervor, Our Lord developed in me a spirit of recollection, and initiated me into interior meditation by making me feel His Presence even in the midst of my occupations. As a result of this, I entered into very close union with Him. Desiring that I should cultivate this union to the utmost He said to me one day: ‘Remain in my Presence. If you stray from it, I shall recall you’. Unhappily, I was none too faithful in following my bent for recollection, and although I obeyed the Voice of God inspiring me to make certain sacrifices, I cannot cease reproaching myself for having made such feeble efforts to remain united with Him in the depths of my heart.
At the same time, I reflected upon my inconstancy in the practice of recollection, and I resolved to make a vow about this matter also. I promised Our Lord to remain in His presence as faithfully as I could
From this moment, and throughout the following twenty-three years, I continued to love God with a tender and dominant love, but I was not satisfied with my interior life, and the constant sorrow I felt of being unfaithful to God led me to fall more easily into divers defects, so that even while loving Him, I did not stop offending Him.
It happened that, in 1843, while I was journeying for the second time to Tunis with a view of establishing a new foundation in Carthage, I made a long and difficult crossing, having almost nothing to eat and unable to rest except in a sitting position. It was during this voyage that it pleased Almighty God to grant me a great facility in uniting myself to Him in the depths of my heart, and I spent eight days, as it were, in Retreat.”
O St. Emily, you who in the church, wanted to continue to manifest the Father's love, as realized through the Incarnation of the Son, grant us your docility to the Spirit, your audacity and your apostolic courage.
Year 2: Day 168 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Hearts of service and obedience; for those involved in charitable work; for all those in need.
Requested Intentions: Restoration of health (D); Successful employment for couple (N); For employment for children (K); For health of friend, for successful relationships for children, for safe pregnancy for daughter (C); For the health of a mother (J); Virtue for daughter (V); Successful acceptance to college for nephew (M); For the health of a cousin (T); Freedom from legal difficulties for husband (S); Husband’s freedom from illness (L); Personal intentions (S); Successful passing of dental board examination (P); Blessings on a family (Z); Successful permanent employment (C); Healing of a son with autism (J); Son’s successful employment (L); For the intentions of family and relatives, for the Carthusian community (T); For personal intentions (A); Restoration of lost hearing (C); Resolution of relational and financial challenges (S); Comfort following loss of husband, security for family, assistance with housing (B); Healing and return of brother (O); Successful hermitage foundation (S); Support from family, permission to marry (H); Recovery of wife following surgery, freedom from depression (W); Protection and recovery of mentally ill daughter (J); Successful resolution to legal proceedings (N); Freedom from worry and successful employment (M); For successful sale of home and freedom from debt (J); Freedom from pain and illness (E).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."