SANCTITY THROUGH LOVING SERVICE
The fact that Saint Catherine rested her hands on the lap of the Blessed Mother did not make her a saint. She personally worked no miracles, nor did she practice externally heroic charity like other great saints. She was not materially poor as were the children of Fatima and Bernadette... She sprang from upper middle class parents among the meadows and vineyards of Burgundy, France. Her father was an educated man and an excellent farmer living in the village of Fain-les-Moutiers not far from DiJon. Her sanctity consists in half a century of faithful service as a simple Daughter of Charity.
CHILD OF MARY
As the evening Angelus sounded, Catherine was born of Peter and Louise Laboure on May 2, 1806. She was the ninth child of a family of eleven. Fifteen minutes after her birth, her name was entered on the city records. The next day, she was baptized on the feast of the Finding of The True Cross. It seems more than a coincidence that Catherine was born at the ringing of the Angelus; surely it was God's charming touch - the heralding by our Lady's bells of the saint who was to be so highly favored by Mary. Nor was it an accident that Catherine's name received the prompt attention of the world... certainly it was her holy mother's intuition that led Louise Madeleine Laboure to call attention to her elected child. Even the feast of Catherine's baptism was prophetic, for Catherine was to find the cross in every turn of her life, and to have deep devotion for it, and to see a mysterious vision of the cross.
When Catherine was nine years old, her saintly mother died. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady's statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: "Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother."
GOD HAS DESIGNS
After living a year in Paris with her Aunt Margaret, Catherine came back to her father's home to supervise the household. She was her father's favorite child, and this efficient, stern, upper middle class farmer depended on her. On January 25, 1818, Catherine received her First Holy Communion. From that day on she arose every morning at 4:00 a.m., walked several miles to church in order to assist at Mass, and to pray.
One day she had a dream in which she saw an old priest say Mass. After Mass, the priest turned and beckoned her with his finger, but she drew backwards, keeping her eye on him. The vision moved to a sick room where she saw the same priest, who said: "My child, it is a good deed to look after the sick; you run away now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God has designs on you - do not forget it." Later, she awoke, not knowing the significance of the dream.
Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity, she noticed a priest's picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: "Our Holy Founder Saint Vincent de Paul." This was the same priest Catherine had seen in the dream. SISTER CATHERINE, DAUGHTER OF CHARITY In January of 1830, Catherine Laboure became a postulant in the hospice of the Daughters of Charity at Catillon-sur-Seine. Three months later she was again in Paris, this time to enter the Seminary at the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity. Shortly after she entered her new home, God was pleased to grant her several extraordinary visions. On three consecutive days she beheld the heart of Saint Vincent above the reliquary in which his relics were exposed, each time under a different aspect. At other times she beheld our divine Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament; this would occur especially during Mass when he would appear as he was described in the liturgy of the day.
Mary Appears to Saint Catherine Laboure
THE FIRST APPARITION
On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, July 19, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of them a piece of cloth from his surplice. Catherine earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might with her own eyes see the mother of God.
She was convinced that she would see the Blessed Virgin Mary that very night; and in her conviction, Catherine fell asleep. Before long, she was awakened by a brilliant light and the voice of a child. "Sister Laboure, come to the Chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you."
Catherine replied: "We shall be discovered."
The little child smiled, "Do not be uneasy; it is half past eleven, everyone is sleeping... come, I am waiting for you." She rose quickly and dressed. The hall lights were burning. The locked chapel door swung open at the angel's touch. Amazed, Catherine found the Chapel ablaze with lights as if prepared for midnight Mass. Quickly she knelt at the communion rail, and suddenly, she heard the rustle of a silk dress... the Blessed Virgin, in a blaze of glory, sat in the director's chair. The angel whispered: "The Blessed Mother wishes to speak with you."
First ApparitionCatherine rose, knelt beside the Blessed Mother and rested her hands in the Virgin's lap. Mary said:
"God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world."
A pain crossed the Virgin's face.
"Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek for them. You will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent. I always will have my eyes upon you. There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground and blood will flow." Then after speaking for some time, the Lady like a fading shadow was gone.
Led by the child, Catherine left the Chapel, marched up the corridor, and returned to her place in the dormitory. The angel disappeared and as Catherine went to bed she heard the clock strike two.
Second ApparitionCatherine lived the normal life of a novice of the Daughters of Charity until Advent. On Saturday, November 27, 1830, at 5:30 p.m., she retired to the Chapel with the other Sisters for evening meditation. Catherine heard the faint swish of silk... she recognized our Lady's signal. Raising her eyes to the main altar, she saw her beautiful Lady standing on a large globe.
The Virgin spoke, this time giving a direct order: "Have a medal struck as I have shown you. All whoThird Apparition wear it will receive great graces."
Catherine asked how she was to have the medal struck. Mary replied that she was to go to her confessor, a Father Jean Marie Aladel saying of this saintly priest: "He is my servant." Father Aladel at first did not believe Catherine; however after two years, he finally went to the archbishop who ordered two thousand medals struck on June 20, 1832. When Catherine received her share of these first medals from the hands of the priest she said: "Now it must be propagated."
The spread of a devotion to the medal urged by Saint Catherine was carried out so swiftly that it was miraculous itself.
The Silent Life of Saint Catherine Laboure
THE SILENT SAINT
We might expect that praise and prominence would be the lot of one so favored by heaven. But she sought none of it; rather, she fled from it. She wanted to be left alone to carry out her humble duties as a Daughter of Charity. For over forty years, she spent her every effort in caring for the aged and infirm, not revealing to those about her that she had been the recipient of our Lady's medal. The Sisters with whom she lived held her in the highest esteem, and each one longed to be her companion.
In 1876, Catherine felt a spiritual conviction that she would die before the end of the year. Mary Immaculate gave Catherine leave to speak, to break the silence of forty-six years. To her Sister Superior, Catherine revealed the fact that she was the sister to whom the Blessed Mother appeared. On the last day of December, 1876, Saint Catherine passed on - once again to the Body of St. Catherine Laboure in Parishands of Mary - this time, however, in heaven. Today her beautiful remains still lie fresh and serene.
When her body was exhumed in 1933 it was found as fresh as the day it was buried. Though she had lived seventy years and was in the grave for fifty-seven years, her eyes remained very blue and beautiful; and in death her arms and legs were as supple as if she were asleep. Her incorrupt body is encased in glass beneath the side altar at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, beneath one of the spots where our Lady appeared to her.
In the Chapel of the Apparition you can gaze upon the face and the lips that for forty-six years kept a secret which has since shaken the world.
Prayer of Saint Catherine Laboure Whenever I go to the chapel, I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to him "Lord, I am here. Tell me what you would have me do."
If he gives me some task, I am content and I thank him.
If he gives me nothing, I still thank him since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that.
And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart. I tell him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen.
If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen.
God always speaks to you when you approach him plainly and simply.
The Miraculous Medal Story and Its Meaning The Medal of the Immaculate Conception — popularly known as the Miraculous Medal — was designed by the Blessed Virgin herself! No wonder, then that it wins such extraordinary graces for those who wear it and pray for Mary's intercession and help.
The First Apparition1st Apparition
The story begins on the night of July 18-19, 1830. A child (perhaps her guardian angel) awakened Sister (now Saint) Catherine Labouré, a novice in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, and summoned her to the chapel. There she met with the Virgin Mary and spoke with her for several hours. During the conversation Mary said to her, “My child, I am going to give you a mission.”
2nd ApparitionThe Second Apparition
Mary gave her this mission in a vision during evening meditation on November 27, 1830. She saw Mary standing on what seemed to be half a globe and holding a golden globe in her hands as if offering it to heaven. On the globe was the word “France,” and our Lady explained that the globe represented the whole world, but especially France. The times were difficult in France then, especially for the poor who were unemployed and often refugees from the many wars of the time. France was first to experience many of those troubles which ultimately reached many other parts of the world and are even present today. Streaming from rings on Mary's fingers as she held the globe were many rays of light. Mary explained that the rays symbolize the graces she obtains for those who ask for them. However, some of the gems on the rings were dark, and Mary explained that the rays and graces were available but did not come because no one had asked for them.
The Third Apparition and the Miraculous Medal
The vision then changed to show our Lady standing on a globe with her arms now outstretched and with the dazzling rays of light still streaming from her fingers. Framing the figure was an inscription: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Front of the Miraculous Medal The Meaning of the Front Side of the Miraculous Medal Mary is standing upon a globe, crushing the head of a serpent beneath her foot. She stands upon the globe, as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her feet crush the serpent to proclaim Satan and all his followers are helpless before her (Gn 3:15). The year of 1830 on the Miraculous Medal is the year the Blessed Mother gave the design of the Miraculous Medal to Saint Catherine Labouré. The reference to Mary conceived without sin supports the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary—not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus, and referring to Mary's sinlessness, “full of grace” and “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28)—that was proclaimed 24 years later in 1854. The vision turned and showed the design of the reverse side of the medal. Twelve stars encircled a large "M" from which arose a cross. Below are two hearts with flames arising from them. One heart is encircled in thorns and the other is pierced by a sword.
Back of the Miraculous Medal The Meaning of the Back Side of the Miraculous Medal
The twelve stars can refer to the Apostles, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. They also recall the vision of Saint John, writer of the Book of Revelation (12:1), in which “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” The cross can symbolize Christ and our redemption, with the bar under the cross a sign of the earth. The “M” stands for Mary, and the interleaving of her initial and the cross shows Mary’s close involvement with Jesus and our world. In this we see Mary’s part in our salvation and her role as mother of the Church. The two hearts represent the love of Jesus and Mary for us. (See also Lk 2:35).
Then Mary spoke to Catherine: “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.” Catherine explained the entire series of apparitions to her confessor, and she worked through him to carry out Mary’s instructions. She did not reveal that she received the Medal until soon before her death 47 years later. 3rd Apparition
With approval of the Church, the first Medals were made in 1832 and were distributed in Paris. Almost immediately the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower down on those who wore her Medal. The devotion spread like wildfire. Marvels of grace and health, peace and prosperity, following in its wake. Before long people were calling it the “Miraculous” Medal. And in 1836, a Canonical inquiry undertaken at Paris declared the apparitions to be genuine.
There is no superstition, nothing of magic, connected with the Miraculous Medal. The Miraculous Medal is not a “good-luck charm”. Rather, it is a great testimony to faith and the power of trusting prayer. Its greatest miracles are those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith. God uses a Medal, not as a sacrament, but as an agent, an instrument, in bringing to pass certain marvelous results. “The weak things of this earth hath God chosen to confound the strong.”
When our Blessed Mother gave the design of the medal to Saint Catherine Labouré she said, “Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person.”