With Jeanne’s baptism on the day of her birth, November 6, 1596, a unique love story began. In her youth she was surrounded by the love of family and friends. Her natural curiosity and wonder of life was reflected in her interest in spiritual things. She was eager to learn about God and Paradise and the saints. She begged her father to teach her how to read and to pray.
In her teens she loved parties, dancing, fun and laughter. She was popular among her cousins and friends. Gradually she felt a growing inner struggle as her social life began to take away from her time with God. Since she always felt called to live for God, these were times of doubt, questioning, and uncertainty.
When she was about eighteen years old, Jeanne experienced God’s love for her in a way that changed her life. God taught her at this time that her way to God was a way of love.
In the following years of her young adult life, Jeanne was blessed by God in many special ways. She spent her time in solitude, meditation and contemplation. Scripture, Eucharist, Mary and a relationship with the Trinity were becoming central in her spiritual life.
Jeanne longed to spend her life in quiet and solitude with God in a contemplative community. Through prayer and spiritual direction, she understood that God was leading her in another direction. She tells us in her Autobiography that, in an extraordinary experience of prayer, she understood God to say to her: “You love recollection, but my Wisdom wants something different. I have destined you to institute an Order in My Name that will honor My person become incarnate for the love of human beings.” For several years she waited as her spirituality became more and more centered in the Person of Jesus.
On July 2nd, 1625, at age twenty-nine, Jeanne left home with two companions, Catherine Fleurin and Marie Figent, to live in community in her hometown of Roanne. This was the beginning of the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.
As with all beginnings, there were both struggles and joys. Jeanne soon experienced doubt and the absence of God. Her father’s opposition to her leaving home caused great pain for her. Her mother’s death one year later was a great loss.
The little community soon took in girls as day students and boarders. In this way they supported themselves and began to live their mission to “extend the Incarnation”; that is, to bring Jesus to birth in the world.