Emily de Rodat was born in Rodez, France. In her youth, she tested her vocation to religious life in a number of communities, none of which seemed to satisfy her. Then one day, while visiting the home of a sick neighbor, her mission was instantaneously revealed: she would teach poor children. With the encouragement of her spiritual director, she began at once to take children into her own small room. Eventually, with the arrival of helpers, she moved into an abandoned monastery, which became the nucleus for her Congregation of the Holy Family of Villefranche.
Sr. Emily’s community grew in time with new foundations and the extension of her sisters’ charitable works into nursing, the care of orphans, and prison ministry. She was determined at all times to balance the life of action and contemplation— the paths of both Martha and Mary. Along the way she endured much physical suffering as well as long periods of spiritual desolation. Nevertheless, she lived up to the exhortation she put to one of her postulants: “Keep your enthusiasm. Be brave. Put all your trust in God. And always maintain a holy cheerfulness.” She was, as one of her spiritual advisors described her, “a saint, but a headstrong saint.”
Emily de Rodat died on September 19, 1852. Her canonization followed in 1950.
“I was sixteen years of age when I learned to know Our Lord. This experience overwhelmed me and I wanted God and only God.”
—St. Emily de Rodat