Under the guidance of her brother Madeleine Sophie Barat became at an early age proficient in Latin, Greek, Spanish and Italian. The brother, nine years her senior, was a stern disciplinarian. If her work was bad, she was punished — sometimes by a box on the ears - but if she did well, no word of praise was uttered. She was never allowed to relax from this discipline — even walks were forbidden unless they were strictly necessary for exercise; and when, in a moment of mistaken tenderness, she gave her brother a present, he threw it on the fire. She was ten when the French Revolution occurred in 1789. Afterwards, and still under the influence of her brother, she met Father Varin who desired to found a female counterpart of the Jesuits which should do for girls' education what they did for boys' education. On November 21st, 1800, Madeleine with three companions dedicated herself to the Sacred Heart and so the New Congregation was begun. From the first house at Amiens it was to spread in the lifetime of its foundress all over Europe and to Africa and America, and its boarding schools have become famous.
Madeleine's energy in extending the work was seconded by her reliance on God which enabled her to succeed in times of great difficulty. 'Too much work is a danger to an imperfect soul,' she said, 'but for one who loves our Lord it is an abundant harvest.'
— Excerpted from The Saints edited by John Coulson