Saint of the Day|
Like a persistent spider, St. Emily de Rodat never gave up
This saint never let anything get in the way of her call
By Tony Staley
It's often said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
Certainly there have been many successful businessmen who failed
on their first or second attempts and kept trying until they
And legend tells us that Robert Bruce, the famous Scottish king,
tried and failed six times to defeat the British until, inspired
by the example of a spider's persistence in spinning a web, tried
yet again and succeeded.
He has something in common with St. Emily de Rodat, who felt
called to religious life and never gave up in her attempts to
find the right community.
She was born in 1787 at Rodez, France, and was given the name
Marie Guillemette Emilie de Rodat. From the time she was 18
months old, she was raised by her grandmother near
Villefranche-de-Rouerge, where she attended school at Maison
When she turned 18, Emily returned to the school, teaching
geography and preparing children for their First Communion. But
she soon decided that she was called to be a woman religious.
After consulting with her spiritual director, Abbé Marty, she
entered the convent.
At first, she joined the Ladies of Nevers, then the Picpus
Sisters, followed by the Sisters of Mercy.
But she believed that none was right for her. In 1815, she
discerned that her calling was to teach poor children after
hearing a group of poor women talking about how it was almost
impossible for them to send their children to school.
She and three companions began teaching 40 children in her room
at Maison Saint-Cyr, beginning the Congregation of the Holy
Family of Villefranche.
The next year, she began her own free school. Soon afterward, she
bought the Saint-Cyr property when that community dissolved. By
then, her community had grown to nine sisters and 100 students.
Despite continual bad health - including ringing in the ears,
growths in her nose and an eye disease - she started 38
foundations over the next 36 years.
She not only increased the number of convents, she expanded the
sisters' mission from teaching poor children to include nursing
sick poor people, visiting prisons and caring for the elderly,
orphans and wayward women.
Plus, she began several cloistered convents.
She died in 1852 on Sept. 19, the day on which we now celebrate
her feast. Pope Pius XII canonized her in 1950.
Having problems? Keep trying, St. Emily de Rodat would say. And
if it means doing something in a new way, go ahead.
Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and 365 Saints and World Book Encyclopedia.