The life of Madame Acarie

The life of Madame Acarie

• Desired and happy child despite a context of civil wars, teenager thwarted in her vocation and mistreated by her mother,
• Married at sixteen, happy young woman, mother of six,
• Rich woman who multiplies herself in the service of all sufferings, who undergoes with her family the ordeals of the Siege of Paris, who sees her husband banished from Paris then kidnapped and released for ransom,
• Lonely woman with six children and her father, who witnesses the financial ruin of her house, forced to place her children with friends or relatives, and who fights for justice to be done for her husband,
• Who has three falls rendering her crippled for the rest of her life, who recovers in her property and reunites her family.
• CHOSEN AND CALLED BY SAINT THÉRÈSE D’AVILA TO INTRODUCE THE REFORMED CARMEL IN FRANCE, SHE CARRIES OUT THIS WORK, ASSISTED BY EMINENT COLLABORATORS.
• Spiritual advisor to lay people and religious, promoter and support of reforms and foundations of convents, widow, she disappears, becoming a lay sister in the Order which she introduced in France.

Presentation on the life of Madame Acarie

by Michel PICARD, président

Nicholas and Marie AVRILLOT had three children who died at birth.
When Marie AVRILLOT became pregnant yet again, she made a vow, according to pious practices of the time, that if the child lived, this fourth child would be dressed all in white, with a white bonnet, after the manner of poor people.
The child did live ; she was Barbe AVRILLOT, who became Barbe ACARIE, then Sister Mary of the Incarnation, Carmelite, who would be beatified on June 5, 1791.
So, February 1, 1566, marked the beginning of a quite extraordinary life.

It would be useful to give a preliminary outline of her life, in seven stages :

It is important to first emphasize the antiquity of the facts: they are twice as old as the events of the French Revolution.

1. BARBE AVRILLOT’S YOUTH

Barbe was born, as we have seen, on Feb. 1, 1566. Her father was Nicholas AVRILLOT, Seigneur of CHAMPLATREUX (near to LUZARCHES) Master of the Accounts for the Paris Parlement, Chevalier of the Queen of NAVARRE and a devout Christian who would very soon become a committed member of the Catholic League. Her mother, Marie LHUILLIER was of an even more ancient lineage than her husband.
Barbe’s father tended to be rather cold and reserved.
Her mother was strict and sometimes given to physical violence.
Barbe was to be followed by three brothers.
In accordance with her mother’s vow, she was dressed in white, with a white bonnet until she was seven. (1573)
When she was small “she had none of the faults of childhood”, J. B. A. BOUCHER would write later.
She was entrusted to the care of her aunt Isabelle LHUILLIER, who was a Poor Clare in the Convent of Notre Dame at LONGCHAMP ; This was probably to prepare the little girl for her First Communion.
She learned to read, to sing and to say the Rosary correctly.
At LONGCHAMP she was “a nervous and biddable child : She never argued with her companions; she gave way to them without protest; she was very likeable” “Everyone vied in their praise of her precocious intelligence.”.
The person responsible for her formation, Sister Jeanne de MAILLY, encouraged her to practise the virtue of fortitude, and Barbe became a person with great strength of character.
She realised already the value of mortification : “ If she had committed some small fault, she would accuse herself of it, taking with her the whip with which she would be chastised.”
There was a strict regulation at LONGCHAMP. At the age of fourteen, the young girls had to decide whether to enter the noviciate of the Poor Clares or to leave the convent.
So, in 1580 – it was the year that the plague and cholera raged through the city of Paris – Barbe made her decision : she would become a religious at the Hôtel-Dieu in order to care for the sick poor.
Her mother would have none of it ; Barbe must be married.
As a consequence Barbe resumed life with her family.
Because she refused to wear finery and jewels, her mother subjected her to the rigours of the winter weather; as a result, Barbe got frostbite in her foot and one of the bones was affected. She was given the coarsest cuts of meat at mealtime, and taunted as a “grosse bonnier.”
Such was the family atmosphere when Barbe AVRILLOT eventually, at the age of sixteen and a half, married Pierre ACARIE.

2. MARRIAGE AND LIFE IN SOCIETY

Pierre ACARIE was slightly older that Barbe; nevertheless, he would be only twenty-two or twenty-three when in August 1582 he married his cousin seven times removed. (His great grandparents on his mother’s side were the great-great-grandparents of Barbe).
He had studied law in ORLEANS.
Peter ACARIE was an only child and fatherless. He was Vicomte de VILLEMOR and Seigneur of MONTBROST and RONCENAY. Like his father-in-law, Pierre AVRILLOT was a member of the Financial Council in Paris. He was very rich, a devout Catholic and a future member of the League.
The young couple set up home in PARIS, in the Marais district, in the Rue des Juifs (later renamed Rue Ferdinand Duval). They had a spacious house and numerous servants.
The two were very much in love and Barbe, who was in addition very beautiful, was admired and cosseted by her mother-in-law.
There followed the births of the first three of their six children :
– Nicholas, born on March 22, 1584, when Barbe was eighteen ;
– Marie, born at the beginning of July, 1585 ;
– Pierre, born in March 1587.
Barbe was closely involved with her children’s education and received strong support from her maidservant Andrée LEVOIX, a close friend whom she had known at LONGCHAMP.
The two women shared a complete understanding. They had a mutual horror of sin. Each day, Andrée recounted her failings to Barbe, then Barbe in her turn confessed to Andrée (even though the latter stopped her ears so as not to hear Barbe’s admissions).
It goes without saying that the children received a Christian education. They were treated with some severity; lying, in particular, was not tolerated. Barbe’s horror of untruthfulness was one of the principal traits of her character.

The ACARIE salon was a meeting-place for the fashionable young people of Paris; life there was a social whirl and there was a great deal of entertaining. Barbe was laden with finery and jewels. It was a little world of which she was the centre; people called her “la belle ACARIE”, and that pleased her.
She was so used to hearing this description that if she met a woman who was better looking than herself it caused her to feel “resentment and intense dislike.” Her “vanity was wounded to the core.”
As she had some time on her hands, she spent it in reading. “She was preoccupied with reading worldly books, romances and works intended for light entertainment” wrote her biographer DUVAL ( ) Above all, she read the AMADIS novels, love stories with a hint of eroticism.
One day, Pierre ACARIE found out what kind of books his wife was reading. He was scandalised. Without causing a confrontation, he replaced the novels with works of devotion.
It was under these circumstances, that about 1587, at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two, she read the following sentiment : “TROP EST AVARE A QUI DIEU NE SUFFIT” (He is indeed a miser for whom God is not sufficient.) She was transformed, and her life underwent a radical change, because Barbe ACARIE never did anything by halves; that was another trait of her character.

3. THE SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION OF MADAME ACARIE

So Barbe ACARIE decided that God was sufficient for her. The remainder of her life would consist of a continual advance towards Him, with, it seems, two basic principles :
1. “If one gives one’s time to God there will be time left for everything else".
2. “The Spirit of God is not a spirit of idleness. Those who want to sit doing nothing are people of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.”
So “she seemed to be tireless. She busied herself with everything which she thought would bring contentment to her neighbour.”
For example :
1. After the Battle of SENLIS in 1589 (during the last of the Wars of Religion) more than 1200 members of the League were left injured on the battlefield; the Saint Gervais Hospital was full of casualties. Barbe ACARIE “went every day with her mother-in-law to dress their wounds.”
2. During the Siege of PARIS (May – August 1590) “she spent whole days at the Hôtel-Dieu, with such consolation that she was unable to leave.”
3. Also during the Siege of PARIS, Barbe ACARIE distributed bread to the starving population – “bread from her own mouth. She did this so skilfully that neither her husband nor her mother-in-law were aware of it.”

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The Divine response to this way of life was to send her ecstasies.
Her first ecstasy took place in the Church of St Gervais. It was during Mass on a feast day, about 8 o’clock, probably sometime between July 22 and November 11, 1590. Barbe was twenty-four. She thought she would “die of the sweetness.” She remained until evening, immobile and senseless… scarcely breathing; She was in a kneeling position all this time and was unable to come out of the ecstasy until she was roused by a servant, who shook her violently.”
The ecstasies became more frequent. There were several consequences.

  • She was overwhelmed with feelings of the deepest humility.
  • Until the summer of 1592 the ecstasies were a source of anxiety for her, for she feared that they came from the devil.
  • She tried to reject and hide them.
  • Her doctors diagnosed an “excess of blood” and prescribed blood-lettings, which led to fainting fits.
  • More than one hundred times, she said, she lay down to sleep in the evening, not knowing if she would awake the next morning.

During this same period, with her husband’s agreement, she abandoned her worldly ornaments and began to wear very simple clothes made of inexpensive material. She asked her mother-in-law :
“ Can’t someone find me a garment that I can slip on at one go?” and again “What’s the good of having so much finery, all these necklaces and bracelets? They’re just jumble, time-wasters.”

The responsibility for the ACARIE children’s education fell mainly on Barbe but Andrée LEVOIX kept an eye on it as well. “Wherever Andrée is, peace reigns.” But Barbe was plagued by a dilemma : all her time should be given to God, for sure… But she must also concern herself with Pierre’s happiness. The Capuchin Benoit of CANFIELD, the Carthusian Richard BEAUCOUSIN and good Father GALLEMENT directed her towards the duties of her state of life. Barbe ACARIE, who systematically chose the most austere solution in her own case, interpreted this as follows : she must give total obedience to the slightest wishes of her husband. And she went on to obey even his most outlandish requests, doing so with an even temper.
From now on, she kept her eyes downcast in the presence of the opposite sex so as not to be “an occasion of sin for others.” She prayed regularly, in particular reciting the Rosary with her daughter Marie, aged seven.
She was already a respected counsellor : “There was hardly anyone who went to see her who did not return having been touched in an extraordinary way by God.”

From 1593 onwards, she experienced the pain of the stigmata on Fridays, Saturdays and the days of Lent. But the stigmata were invisible.

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During this period marked particularly by social contact (to use current language) and, of course, by mystical experience, Barbe ACARIE gave birth to three more children :
– Jean, born February 6, 1589;
– Marguerite, born March 6, 1590 and
– Genevieve, born February, 1592. The birth of the latter took place in difficult circumstances; Barbe’s ecstasy during the delivery endangered the lives of both mother and daughter.
Barbe ACARIE was twenty-seven years old in 1593. She was still beautiful. She spent long periods in silent prayer, especially after her ecstasies. She practised the virtues of charity, obedience and humility in all circumstances.
She made war on her sins and even her imperfections (she did not distinguish between the two) with an acute awareness of the value of mortification. Her health was not of the best and she was already used to enduring great physical suffering “with so calm an expression and such firmness of heart that all who saw her were astonished.”

4. HER TRIALS

Pierre ACARIE was a member of the Catholic League, and a high-profile member at that.
He had opposed King Henry IV. Having grave fear of being subjected to a serious penalty, he gave his wife power of attorney to administer his affairs. Two weeks after this procedure was in place, he was banished from the Capital and on April 5, 1594 he was obliged to shut himself away in the Carthusian Monastery at BOURGFONTAINE, near SOISSONS.
His possessions were confiscated. He had, in addition, borrowed money to finance the operations of the League; his creditors seized the house in the Rue des Juifs, with its entire contents.

Barbe put her six children in a place of safety and sought refuge with a cousin who lent her a bedroom and a cubby-hole in the Rue du Paradis.
She was subjected to the worst humiliations and was so poverty stricken that her faithful maidservant Andrée LEVOIX sold her girdle ( ) in order to buy themselves something to eat.
At this point, Pierre, who was still a captive, was kidnapped from the courtyard of the monastery at BOURGFONTAINE; Barbe borrowed the money to pay his ransom.

Shortly afterwards, around June 1595, Pierre ACARIE was authorised to move nearer to PARIS. He settled in CHAMPLATREUX, near LUZARCHES, with Barbe’s relations.

Barbe who was a good rider, used to go on horseback to visit him. In 1596, on the way back from CHAMPLATREUX, she fell from the saddle; her foot caught in the stirrup and she was dragged a considerable distance. Her thighbone was broken is three places. She suffered atrociously before, during and after the operation performed by Dr Bailleul, the surgeon … who omitted, moreover, to reset a small bone. Now she not only walked with crutches, but the bone in question caused her “severe bouts of pain and weakness for the rest of her days.”

In addition, when she was visiting her eldest son Nicholas at the College de CALVI the following year, she fell on the stairs, broke her thigh once more and was confined to bed for three months.

Pierre was able to move still nearer to Paris and went to live in his country house at IVRY, south-west of the city. Barbe visited him there. In 1598, she slipped and fell on the church steps. She was taken back to Paris on a stretcher. She was now chronically disabled.

During the past four years, Barbe had been conducting her husband’s defence in the court cases brought by his creditors. On June 20, 1598, Pierre was obliged to sell off, for a pittance, his office of Master of Accounts, but, about the same time, the house in the Rue des Juifs was returned to him and the whole family were reunited.

At thirty-two, Barbe was as beautiful, pleasant and cheerful as ever. She had lived through the experience of being made destitute, and endured physical accidents with a serenity which could only be explained by her humility and her intimate relationship with God. We must also take into account her exhausting ecstasies, the fearful pain of the stigmata, her series of falls and her ultimate disability.

5. THE INTRODUCTION OF THE CARMELITE ORDER INTO FRANCE

Barbe Acarie was very actively involved in social work within her neighbourhood, especially for the benefit of prostitutes. The most eminent religious, and persons who were most outstanding in sanctity and spirituality came to ask her advice, laywoman though she was. The house in the Rue des Juifs was never without visitors.

Pierre Acarie was aggrieved by the terms of the Edict of Nantes and his exile, by his wife’s single-minded devotion to him, and even by her compliance. In addition, he was lacking any occupation, a disappointed man. He was difficult to live with. He himself would admit “that if his wife were to become a saint, he had contributed a great deal to her sanctity.”

Barbe ACARIE was also a missionary. In one way or another, she played a part in the reform of numerous religious houses.

  • Saint-Etienne-les-Soissons
  • The Filles-Dieu in Paris and Fontevrault.
  • Foissy, Notre Dame aux Nonnains and Notre Dame des Prés near Troyes
  • Notre Dame de l’Humilité at Longchamp.
  • The Filles de St Louis who ran the Hotel-Dieu in Pontoise
  • Montmartre.
  • Montvilliers, near Le Havre.

In Autumn 1601, a short time after the family were reunited in the Rue des Juifs, Barbe Acarie became acquainted with the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Carmelite Order in Spain. She was not impressed.
A little later,

“Blessed Teresa appeared in a vision to Barbe while she was at prayer and made known to her the will of God in these terms : Just as I enriched Spain with this renowned Order, so do you, who are bringing piety back to France, endeavour to let that country experience the same benefit.” The vision remained fixed in her mind and imprinted in the depths of her heart. She evidently kept it a secret …
But as she was obliged at length to its disclosure, in spite of herself, to Father Beaucousin, her director, entrusting the vision to his scrutiny, his advice and his prayers. Father Beaucousin, a man who was eminently pious and entirely prudent, conducted his examination methodically and with circumspection.
After long deliberation, he came to the conclusion that a group of distinguished men should be gathered together and then there should be an enquiry as to the means whereby the enterprise could be brought to a successful conclusion.

Jacques GALLEMENT, Jean de BRETIGNY, Pierre de BERULLE and André DUVAL met with Father BEAUCOUSIN in his cell, considered the project and advised Barbe to abandon it.

But Jean de BRETIGNY (his father came from Castille and his mother from Normandy) had since October 1585, cherished the dream of introducing the reformed Carmelite nuns into FRANCE. Many others had tried to do this and had failed. Yet once more the project seemed impossible.

Seven or eight months later, St. Teresa of Avila appeared to Barbe ACARIE. She commanded her to resume discussion of the project and promised that it would come to fruition.

The five aforementioned priests reassembled. With them were the future St. Francis de Sales and Barbe ACARIE.
On the insistence of the last two, it was decided to introduce the Carmelite Order into FRANCE. The three Superiors of the Order were designated : They were DUVAL, GALLEMENT and BERULLE. All three were as learned as they were pious.
After several days’ discussion of the project and the means of realising it, in mid-June, four decisions were taken by the little group :
1. The first monastery would be founded in Paris.

2. Nuns would be brought from Spain as formators.

3. A request would be made to Rome that the vows taken by the Carmelites should be the same as those taken in Spain and Italy.

4. They would make a vow to live on alms.

From July 1602 onwards, Chancellor Michel de MARILLAC gave Barbe ACARIE his valuable support.

For several months now, young women eager for spiritual renewal had been converging on the mansion in the Rue des Juifs and placing themselves under Barbe ACARIE’S direction. Along with Andrée LEVOIX they would eventually form the Congregation of St. Genevieve, which included young unmarried women and young widows, hand-picked by Barbe ACARIE to become either the first French Carmelites or Ursulines, or members of other religious orders.

En-route for SAINT-NICHOLAS-DU-PORT near Nancy, Barbe had a vision. “God showed me that He wanted me to be a religious in this Order, as a lay sister. Our Mother Saint Teresa also spoke about it.” Barbe was very downcast at the prospect of being a lay sister, not a choir sister; she would not be able to join in the singing with the other sisters and would be confined to repeating the “Our Father”

From June 1602 to April 1603, thanks to her personal relations with the highest ranks of society in the Kingdom, Barbe ACARIE oversaw the procedures which led to the construction of the first Carmelite monastery. It was in the Priory of Notre Dame des Champs, on the Boulevard St. Jacques in PARIS.

The foundation-stone was laid on April 29, 1603. Barbe ACARIE directed the building operations. She worked quietly and quickly. She raised the necessary funds, at the same time borrowing considerable sums of money.

At the same time, she was forming the group which would bring the Carmelite sisters from Spain, women who had loved St. Teresa of Avila and who were imbued with her spirituality as a consequence. Barbe ACARIE had a hand in the organisation of the expedition. The little band left Paris on Sept. 26, 1603. It would take nearly a year of negotiations and Berulle’s intervention on several occasions in order to obtain the agreement of the Carmelite Fathers that six Carmelite nuns could be sent to France. On Barbe ACARIE’S insistence they were chosen, not for the extraordinary graces they had received, but for their charity.
They left AVILA on August 29, 1604 and arrived in Paris on October 15 of the same year.

6. LAST YEARS IN THE WORLD

The size of the Carmel of the Incarnation in PARIS far exceeded the provisions laid down in the Spanish constitutions of the Carmelite Order. There were also other major discrepancies with the Constitutions; and to apply these Constitutions, six Spanish Carmelites had been brought to France with great difficulty, along with the Bull of Foundation of the French Carmel. All sorts of problems ensued.

But only two months after the arrival of the Spanish nuns, it was necessary to open a second Carmel. Barbe ACARIE chose PONTOISE as the site. In the space of eight days, Michel de MARILLAC had converted a small house belonging to André DUVAL. The Carmel of St. Joseph welcomed its first Prioress on January 15, 1605.

In the autumn of the same year, Barbe ACARIE made arrangements for a third Carmel, in DIJON. In 1606, she decided to found the fourth Carmel in AMIENS. TOURS was founded in 1608, ROUEN in June 1609; and so it went on.

During the same period, many noteworthy events took place in the ACARIE family.

  • Marguerite, the fifth child, entered the Carmel of the Incarnation in Paris on September 15, 1605 at the age of fifteen and a half.
  • Nicholas, the eldest, got married at the beginning of 1606.
  • Barbe was seriously ill for three weeks; they feared for her life.
  • Marie and Genevieve entered the Carmel of the Incarnation in their turn. Both received the habit on March 23, 1608.
  • In June 1610 Barbe ACARIE was once again in danger of death for six weeks.
  • On November 17, 1613 Pierre ACARIE died at IVRY after a short but very painful illness during which Barbe, seriously ill as she was herself, nursed him tenderly.
  • On February 8, 1614, she made over her inheritance from her husband to two of her sons, keeping only a life annuity, which she transferred two days later to the Carmels of AMIENS and PARIS.
  • Her grand-daughter and godchild \Marie, Nicholas’ daughter, died at the age of two and a half .
  • On February 14, 1614 she entered AMIENS Carmel as a lay sister.

7. HER LIFE AS A CARMELITE

God granted her what she had always so ardently desired… to be the servant of the servants of God.

She went into the Carmel, helped along by Edmond de MESSA, who had accompanied her on the road from PARIS to AMIENS, and borne up by two turn sisters. This says everything about the state of her health!

In her actions, her gestures, her words, she was all humility. She thought that she would be allowed to keep her Christian name, but she was given the name Mary of the Incarnation. She was clothed on April 7, 1614.

She helped in the kitchen and made herself useful wherever she could. “It was good to see her thus, and to hear the ardent words which she spoke, without forethought, all the time scrubbing and cleaning the bowls and jugs, and trying to find different ways of making them spotlessly clean.”

Mary of the Incarnation “usually carried with her” the Book of the Gospels. The Prioress, Isabelle of Jesus Christ, and then Fr DUVAL, the Superior, had ordered her to speak to the novices and the other sisters, in contravention of the general rule of silence. “She had a special gift for strengthening the faint hearted and giving them confidence in dealing with temptations and scruples.”

From the time that she entered AMIENS Carmel, she was afflicted with an issue of blood, of which she was miraculously cured. In 1615, she suffered from “attacks of colic and such violent pains that four strong sisters did not suffice to restrain her; the violent shock of the pains made her rear up in bed.”
On Palm Sunday 1615, “the chill of death was on her whole body … in the area from her stomach to her heart, there was no warmth left.” Her confessor and the Prioress ordered her to ask God that she should not die yet. Straightaway, the warmth returned to her body.

Some days later, on April 8, 1615, Mary of the Incarnation made her religious profession.

On May 22, 1616, DUVAL carried out the elections of the Prioress and Sub-Prioress of AMIENS Carmel. Mary of the Incarnation was unanimously elected Prioress. But she could not exercise this function because of the message received at SAINT-NICHOLAS-DU-PORT in 1602 or 1603, instructing her : “God make me see that He wished me to be a religious in this Order as a lay sister…” A lay sister cannot be Prioress. Nevertheless, the Carmelites of AMIENS remembered that the Spanish lay sister Anne of St. Bartholomew became Prioress of PONTOISE at the beginning of 1605 and they judged that their unanimous vote was the equivalent of a second instruction from on high. DUVAL, the Superior, disagreed and Anne of the Blessed Sacrament at that time Sub-Prioress in Paris, was elected Prioress of AMIENS.

The new Mother Prioress of AMIENS Carmel was lacking in maternal feelings. She governed with a rod of iron – “like a Turk” as the saying went. It is noteworthy that she forbade Mary of the Incarnation to guide the other sisters, but she did not alert the sisters to this prohibition. Blessed Mary was thus torn between her duty, on the one hand to the Prioress, who for her represented “Jesus Christ on earth” and on the other, her duty of obedience to her superiors and her duty not to discredit the Prioress in the eyes of the sisters.

Just before the feast of All Saints, 1616, GALLEMANT and the two other superiors decided to transfer Mary of the Incarnation to the Carmel of PONTOISE which she loved so dearly. She arrived there on December 7, 1616; she was warmly welcomed, and whether in the kitchen or in her cell, she was lavish with her advice to the novices, the sisters and even the Prioress. Peace reigned.

On the other hand, BERULLE, one of the Superiors who had also become the Visitor, wanted at the time to impose a fourth vow on the Carmelites, a vow of servitude. ( ) Mary of the Incarnation, who perhaps did not understand the word “Servitude” in quite the same way as BERULLE, was fundamentally opposed to any idea of servitude; a Christian and a Carmelite above all, is not a slave but a free person. This conflict was particularly painful for Barbe.

Mary of the Incarnation’s health had not noticeably deteriorated, but she was unable to remain standing for long; she had great difficulty in walking and she could only sit on her “placet” ( ) otherwise her thigh-bone became dislocated, causing her a great deal of pain.

In February 1618, however, Mary of the Incarnation became seriously ill; she suffered as we would say nowadays, hemiplegia (paralysis down one side) as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

She suffered much, always with great humility and a spirit of mortification; on Easter Sunday she was “ravished out of her senses,” notwithstanding. A little later, she revealed “If you could see what I am suffering you would pity me; my sufferings are more interior than exterior” for to her physical weakness was added spiritual dryness.

Blessed Mary of the Incarnation died on Easter Thursday, April 18, 1618, at five o’clock in the afternoon. Outside the monastery, word got round; no one knew how. There was a multitude of people outside and in front of the Church.
They were saying to one another “The saint is dead ! The Saint is dead !”

8. SUMMARY

To summarise :

  • When very young, Barbe, unloved by her mother, kind to her companions, a person of unusual calibre when she was still only fourteen or fifteen, wanted to be a religious and devote herself to the sick poor at a time when the plague and cholera were rampant.
  • Married young, mother of a family, she was admired by everyone in fashionable society and became rather frivolous.
  • Her radical conversion was effected when she read the sentence “Trop est avare…” ; a conversion that was evident in every circumstance of her life :
    • in her prayer, her devoted work at the Hotel Dieu, her availability to all, her concern for the poor and for fallen women ;
    • her ecstasies, which she concealed, fearing them to be of Satanic origin ;
    • the agony of the invisible stigmata,
    • her extreme humility and absolute obedience, notably to her husband, as a duty of her state of life.
  • She suffered without weakening, the banishment of her husband, the seizure of their possessions (especially the mansion in the Rue des Juifs), her own destitution, her riding accident and her infirmity.
  • Pierre ACARIE was set free, the family property restored. Barbe’s activities from now on were concentrated on directing young religious, counselling persons of authority in religious life and reforming religious communities.
  • With St. Teresa of Avila as intermediary, Barbe received a command from God to introduce the Carmelite Order into France. The vital and outstanding role she played in the project, was a determining factor in its realisation.
  • She entered AMIENS Carmel : her life there was marked by painful contradictions. She was transferred to the Carmel of PONTOISE, bringing great benefits to her sisters, and died in the odour of sanctity on April 18, 1618.

She was beatified on June 5, 1791 to serve as an example to the French plunged into the religious disorder resulting from the Revolution. On April 1, 1893, on the occasion of the first centenary of this beatification, the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris wanted her to become the patron saint of Parisian families.