The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 15, 2000 Issue
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
Compass Editor

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 succeeded.

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 Saint-Cyr.

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.



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