Emily, born in Gaillac, France, in 1797, was the daughter of Baron James de Vialar and Antoinette de Portal. She was educated in Paris, but returned home when she was 15 after the death of her mother. Life with her domineering father was extremely difficult, particularly when she refused to marry, and it is said that he even went so far as to throw a wine decanter at her when she persisted in her refusal. His anger and ill-temper were further fueled when she began to teach poor children and care for the sick from their home.
In 1832, when Emily was 35 years old, her grandfather died and left her his considerable fortune. With this money Emily purchased a large house in Gaillac, and with the help of her spiritual director, Abbé Mercier, she and three companions began the congregation which became known as the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition (Mt 1:18-20). By 1835, they numbered 18 and their rule was formally approved. They dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the needy and to the education of young children.
Emily’s congregation soon spread to Algeria, Tunisia, Greece, Malta, Jerusalem, and the Balkans, although a jurisdictional dispute with the bishop of Algiers forced the closing of the house there. Traveling constantly among her new foundations, when she finally returned to Gaillac in 1845, she found the organization in chaos and its existence threatened by lawsuits and quarrels among the nuns. But by the time of her death in 1856, 22 years after she founded the order, she had established 40 houses around the world, from Europe to Burma to Australia. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1951.
1. Mother Emily’s last words to her spiritual daughters were, “Love one another.” Love isn’t just a matter of thinking good thoughts or wishing good wishes: love requires action. As our Lord pointed out in Matthew 25:31-46 and as Emily illustrated with her own life, real love requires feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, welcoming the stranger. May we, like St. Emily de Vialar, spend our lives loving Christ in our neighbor.
2. “Quietly to trust in God is better than trying to safeguard material interests: I learned that by bitter experience.” Despite the great difficulties Mother Emily encountered in her life, she accepted all of it as God’s will and relied on Him to sustain her throughout. Let us pray to St. Emily for an increase in trust in God’s Divine Providence so that, despite the daily slings and arrows, our hearts will never be troubled.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Ephrem of Syria (373), Deacon, Doctor of the Church
Saints Mark and Marcellianus (286), twin brothers, Martyrs