St. Elizabeth Bichier des Ages

Founder, Daughters of the Cross (1773–1838)
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Elizabeth was born in France into a noble family, whose fortunes fell with the Revolution. Despite her own precarious circumstances, she turned her heart to helping the poor and sick and offering religious education to children. Both in the works of mercy and her catechetical work, she helped fill a gap left by the wide suppression of the Church. 

Though her family disapproved of her activities, a friendly priest, St. Andrew Fournet, encouraged her vocation. “Your work is in the world,” he assured her. “There are ruins to be rebuilt and ignorance to be remedied.” He urged her to start a local religious community devoted to social service. 

After a short novitiate with a Carmelite community in Poitiers, she gathered a number of other young women and founded the Daughters of the Cross, a congregation that eventually spread to sixty convents in Elizabeth’s lifetime. Even the civil authorities came to admire and respect her dedication to those in need. 

Elizabeth died on August 26, 1838. She was canonized in 1947. 

“As you like, sir. But allow me to point out that I have only done what you would do yourself in the same circumstances. I found this unfortunate man lying ill; I took him in; and I looked after him. Now he is dead. I’m quite ready to report to the magistrate.” 

—St. Elizabeth Bichier des Ages, informed by a constable that she was liable to arrest for harboring a wanted felon

© Liturgical Press.

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.

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