Blessed Mary of the Incarnation
Servant of Christ (1565–1618)

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Blessed Mary of the Incarnation

Barbe Avrillot, as she was born, grew up in a prosperous family in Paris. Though she wished to pursue religious life, her family insisted instead that she marry. She observed, “If I am unworthy through my sins to be the bride of Christ, I can at least be His servant.” She married a nobleman at seventeen and enjoyed a happy life with her six children. Although her family’s fortune was reduced by turmoil brought on by the wars of religion, in the end Barbe rose to a position of influence in royal circles. Much of her time was spent in the works of mercy—visiting the sick, feeding the poor, attending to the dying. She became well known for her charitable activities.  

Inspired by a series of visions, she interceded in court to allow representatives of the Teresian reformed Carmelites to enter France. All three of her daughters would enter the Carmelites, and after her husband’s death Barbe herself applied to enter as a lay sister. Taking the name Mary of the Incarnation, she professed obedience to one of her own daughters, who was sub-prioress, happy to perform menial service in the house she had helped to found. She died on April 18, 1618. Her beatification followed in 1791.  

“Lord, forgive me for the bad example I have set. If it should please Almighty God to admit me to eternal bliss I will ask that the will of his divine son be accomplished in each one of you.”  

—Blessed Mary of the Incarnation, to the nuns gathered at her deathbed 

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.