Saint of the Day|
Revolution didn't shake her faith
St. Elizabeth Bichier kept faith stable during the French Revolution's turmoil
By Tony Staley
It's been said that the more things change, the more they stay
the same. St. Elizabeth Bichier Des Anges certainly saw proof of
that during her life.
St. Elizabeth was born in 1773 at Le Blanc, France, in the
Chateau des Anges. Her father was Antony Bichier, the lord of the
manor. While her parents named her Joan Elizabeth Mary Lucy, she
always used the name Elizabeth. At age 10, she was sent to a
convent school in Poitiers, where her hobbies included building
By the time Elizabeth was 16, France was in turmoil with the
French Revolution. The country was turned upside down as many in
the nobility were put to death. Elizabeth even had to engage in a
legal battle with the National Assembly to keep it from seizing
the family estate after the death of her father.
The revolutionaries also pursued the church and in 1796, after
Elizabeth and her mother moved to the Paris suburb, Bethines,
Elizabeth dedicated herself to keeping religion alive. She
gathered residents every night for prayers, hymns and spiritual
She met St. Andrew Fournet, who lived as an underground, fugitive
priest because of his refusal to make the required pledge of
allegiance to the revolutionary government.
St. Andrew wrote a rule of life for Elizabeth to follow as she
concentrated on teaching and caring for the sick and needy. In
1804, after her mother's death, she became a novice in the
Carmelite convent at Poitiers. Later, she went to the Society of
Providence to learn to lead - despite her objections - the
community St. Andrew wanted to start.
When her training was complete, Elizabeth was placed in charge of
a group of women Andrew had formed as a community to teach and
care for the sick and elderly people - needs the revolution was
unable to meet.
In 1807, after Napoleon and the Vatican signed a treaty, the
community took vows. The bishop of Poitiers approved the rule of
the Daughters of the Cross, in 1816. By 1830, despite some
internal difficulties, the congregation had 60 convents
Elizabeth also encouraged Michael Garicoîts - spiritual director
of the sisters' house at Igon - to found the Priests of the
Sacred Heart of Betherran. Elizabeth died in 1838 on Aug. 26, the
day we celebrate as her feast. She was canonized in 1947.
The life of St. Elizabeth Bichier Des Anges challenges us to
consider how we live our faith and consider what needs we could
address that neither capitalism nor technology have solved.
(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Lives of the Saints II and 365 Saints.)