Saint of the Day – 18 April – Blessed Barbara Aurillot / Marie of the Incarnation OCD (1566-1618) Widow, Third Order Lay Discalced Carmelite Sister, Apostle of Charity, Mystic. Barbara is considered the Foundress of the French branch of Carmel. She was known for receiving visions and ecstasies and for supernatural gifts. Born on 1 February 1566 at Paris, France as Barbe Aurillot and died on 18 April 1618 at Pontoise, France of natural causes. Patronages – against impoverishment, against loss of parents, against poverty, parents separated from children, the poor, widows. Also known as – Le belle Acarie (the beautiful Acarie), as she was known in Paris, Barbara Aurillot, Barbara Avrillot, Barbe Acarie, Barbe Aurillot, Barbe Avrillot, Madame Acarie, Marie Acarie Marie or Mary of the Incarnation.
Barbara was the daughter of a French Government Official named Nicholas Aurillot,the Accountant General in the Paris Chamber and Chancellor of Marguerite of Navarre, first wife of Henri IV. Her mother, Marie Lhuillier. was a descendant of Etienne Marcel, the famous prévôt des marchands (Chief municipal Magistrate). She was educated at her Aunt’s Convent at Longchamps, the Minor Sisters of Humility of Our Lady.
Although Barbara was attracted to the religious life, at the age of 16 in 1684, through obedience, she was married to Pierre Acarie, the Viscount of Villemoran, a wealthy young man of high standing, who was a fervent Catholic and Government Treasury Official. She became the Mother of six children, three of whom became Carmelites Nuns and one a Priest.
Her husband, Pierre, supported the Catholic League, of which he was a staunch member, against Henry IV. Pierre was one of the sixteen who organised the resistance in Paris. When Henry became King, he seized the Acarie estates, impoverished the family and exiled Pierre from Paris, separated husband and father from his family. Barbara had to contend with creditors and irate businessmen. Although she had been severely injured due to a fall from her horse and medical treatment which had only made matters worse and left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Barbara still, legally challenged the matter and went to Court to fight and she won. The family was able to reclaim part of the their property and fortune.
Barbara was devoted to the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. Her good works eventually won her the admiration and support of the same King Henry! who assisted her later when she was the greatest protagonist in bringing the reformed Carmelites of St Teresa to France. At this time, she received a vision of St Teresa who informed her that God wished Barbara to do this work.
At the beginning of the Seventeenth Century Madame Acarie was widely known for her virtue, her supernatural gifts and especially, for her charity towards the poor and the sick in the hospitals. To her residence came all the distinguished and devout people of the day. Among them was St Vincent de Paul and St Francis de Sales, the latter of whom became her Spiritual Counsellor.
Barbara was instrumental in bringing the Discalced Carmelites of Saint Teresa to France, founding five houses between 1604 and 1609. The Carmel spread rapidly and profoundly influenced the French religious and secular society of the day. In 1618, the year of Barbara’s death, Carmel numbered fourteen houses.
She also shared in two foundations of the day, that of the Oratory and of the Ursulines. She urged De Bérulle to refuse the tutorship of Louis XIII and on 11 November 1611, she, with St Vincent de Paul, assisted at the Mass of the installation of the Oratory of France.
Among the many postulants whom Mme Acarie received for the Carmel, there were some who had no vocation and she conceived the idea of getting them to undertake the education of young girls and broached her plan to her holy cousin, Mme. de Sainte-Beuve. To establish the new order they brought Ursulines to Paris and adopted their rule and name.
When Pierre died in 1613, his widow settled her affairs and begged leave to enter the Carmel, asking as a favour to be received as a lay sister in the poorest community. In 1614 she withdrew to the Monastery of Amiens, taking the name of Marie of the Incarnation. Her three daughters had preceded her into the cloister and one of them was Sub-prioress at Amiens. In 1616, by order of her Superiors for health reasons, she went to the Carmelite Convent at Pontoise, where she died at the aged of 52/53. St Francis de Sales considered her death in spiritual poverty as laudable as that of St Francis Xavier’s, who died in utter physical poverty.
Her cause was introduced at Rome in 1627 and she was Beatified on 24 April 1791 by Pope Pius VI – her Feast is widely celebrated in Paris on 18 April. Her mortal remains are in the Chapel of the Carmelites of Pontoise.
It has been said that the vigorous and saintly Madame Acarie, provided the first definite impulse towards that interior growth which made the exquisite and urbane St Francis de Sales, a fit guide for the soul of St Jane Frances de Chantal.