Saint Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal
Saint Catherine Labouré (born Zoe Labouré )( May 2, 1806 – December 31, 1876) was born in Burgundy region of France as a ninth of 11 children in a farmers family. Her mother died when she was only 9 years old, on October 9, 1815. Since early age Catherine felt a call to a religious life. It is told that after the funeral service to her mother 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." On January 25, 1818, Catherine made her First Communion. One day she had a dream: she saw a priest who said to her: "My daughter, you may flee me now, but one day you will come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you." Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine, 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. Catherine knew she was in the right place.
On Wednesday, April 21, 1830, Catherine Labouré entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, located at their main building at Rue du Bac 140, Paris, and took the name Catherine.
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 later on Catherine earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might, with her own eyes, see the Mother of God.
First apparition of the Blessed Virgin: 19th July, 1830
It was 11.30 in the evening when Sister Catherine Laboure (24 years old) woke up hearing someone calls her by name three times. She opened the curtains of her cell and saw her Guardian Angel in a form of a 5 year old child. He said: "follow me to the chapel, where the Virgin Mary awaits you". Catherine Laboure hastily dressed herself and followed him to the chapel. The chapel was lit as for midnight-Mass, but she couldn’t see the Blessed Virgin. She then knelt down and started to pray. After half an hour her guardian angel said: "there is the Blessed Virgin Mary". Catherine Laboure heard a rustle like that of silk and to the left of St. Joseph she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary descending and siting down on the Priest’s chair. Within a moment Catherine was on her knees in front of the Blessed Virgin, with her hands confidently folded on Mary's knees. This was the beginning of a two hours long conversation. The Blessed Virgin Mary told her that God will appoint her a mission, but in the process she will have to experience many difficulties. The Blessed Virgin told her about difficult times ahead: The whole world will be plunged into confusion through all sorts of incidents. The Cross will be treated with contempt; it will be betrayed. The Blessed Virgin spoke this with a very sorrowful look on her face. Encouragingly though, she added:
“To those who will pray to Mother Mary she will bestow her graces to all, rich and poor, to everyone who asks with confidence and fervour.”
Mother Mary specified other sorrows and tribulations that were to come: There will be victims in other Religious Communities and among the clergy. The Archbishop of Paris will be killed. The whole world will be in sadness. And she gave Catherine to understand that some of these things would take place soon, and others in forty years.
Mother Mary’s predictions came true. The next week, on July 27, 1830, a revolution broke out in Paris. The King, Charles X, was dethroned. The mobs desecrated churches, destroyed statues and threw down crucifixes and trampled them. Bishops and Priests were imprisoned, beaten and killed. Archbishop Hyacinth de Quelen of Paris had to flee into hiding twice to save his life.
In another revolution, that of 1848, King Louis Philippe was dethroned and went into exile. Archbishop Affre of Paris was shot while trying to plead for peace at the barricades.
Then forty years later, in September of 1870, yet another French Monarch was toppled, Emperor Louis Napoleon III, through the Franco-Prussian War. Six months later a revolution broke out in Paris. It lasted only two months; but before it was over, the sorrows and tribulations that had been predicted by Our Lady would be a matter of history. Many churches in Paris were desecrated, including the venerable church of Our Lady of Victories. Sacred things were publicly profaned. Even the graves and bodies of the dead were not spared. Many priests, both Diocesan and Religious were arrested; and finally thirty of them were executed, including Archbishop Darboy. True to the promise of the Blessed Virgin, the Vincentian Communities were saved, although the Sisters went through some very frightful moments.
Then Our Lady disappeared. The Angel, after having led Catherine back to the dormitory, also disappeared, just as the clock struck two in the morning.
Second apparition of the Blessed Virgin: 27th November, 1830
At 5.30pm on November 27, 1830, when Sisters were in the chapel for the Meditation’s hour, Catherine Laboure suddenly on the right side heard the same rustle as earlier; it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. She stopped on the left, near the painting of St. Joseph. The whole apparition developed in several scenes and sign-language. The Blessed Virgin was "standing in space". She was dressed in white, standing on a globe and holding a golden ball, rings on her fingers were radiating light. An inner voice told to Catherine that the ball is representing the whole world and that the rays coming from Mary's fingers represented graces for individuals. Now the second phase occurred: The golden ball suddenly vanished and the apparition now changed the form, representing Mary with her arms and hands pointed downwards, and a cascade of rays was falling down from both hands onto the globe. An oval frame formed around the Blessed Virgin with inscription with golden letters:
O Mary conceived without Sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee
Mary spoke to her: "Create a medal according to this design. All those who will carry this will receive many graces, especially if they will wear the medal around their neck and say my prayer confidently; they will receive special protection from the Mother of God and lots of graces". Then the whole scene turned around and Catherine Laboure could see the back of the medal: in the centre was the letter M, upon it a Cross was raising from the horizontal crossbar going through the letter M and below this the two hearts of Jesus and Mary, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced by the sword of sorrow. The whole image was surrounded by a crown from 12 stars, reminding the vision of St. John in the twelfth chapter of Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. Catherine Laboure heard: "the M with the Cross and the two hearts explain it".
During the next year this apparition occurred five times and each time with the same instructions: "Create a medal according to this design, and all those who wear it will receive great graces, especially when worn around the neck".
Catherine Labouré told about her revelations only to her spiritual director, Fr. John Marie Aladel, a Vicentian priest, who was only 30 at the time and this was not an easy task for him. But later Fr. Aladel visited Archbishop of Paris and discussed what had happened. Archibishop Hyacinth de Quelen asked many questions, but finally directed to create the medal and give some to him too.Miraculous Medals were finally ready after two years. When a deadly cholera epidemic broke out in Paris in February 1832, claiming more than 20,000 lives, the Sisters began distributing the first medals. Many cures were reported, along with protection and conversions. The original name of the medal was Mary's "Immaculate Conception"; but 7 years later everyone were calling it the “Miraculous Medal”, due to many answered prayers, conversions and the cures, some 10 million medals were sold during the first 5 years. The short prayer: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee", has since been prayed innumerable times by faithful. This way the entire Christianity became familiar with Mary's "Immaculate Conception". It was Pope Pius IX who made it a dogma of faith. This was received with great joy by the entire Catholic Church. Four years later Mary appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes and confirmed that:
I am the Immaculate Conception
It means that from the moment when she was conceived in the womb, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from original sin, so that she was from the very beginning filled with the sanctifying grace normally conferred in baptism.
Catherine Laboure spent the rest of her life as nun and nurse and when she died on 31st December 1876 very few new that the design of the Miraculous Medal was revealed to her. When her body was exhumed after fifty-seven years, it was found to be completely incorrupt and supple. Her eyes were as blue as on the day she died. On 28th May, 1933 she was beatified by Pope Pius XI. This occasion was witnessed by 50,000 people, of which there were 8,000 children of Mary, dressed in white, all wearing the Miraculous Medal. On 27th July, 1947 Catherine Laboure was canonized by Pope Pius XII. Here again many believers were present, including more than 10,000 children of Mary, dressed in white.
Miraculous Medal Prayer I
This Miraculous Medal prayer below is associated with St. Maximilian Kolbe , an heroic priest martyred by the Nazis in 1941. The first part comes from the inscription from our Blessed Mother herself. St. Maximilian added the second part after having witnessed virulently anti-papal,demonstrations in the Vatican sponsored by the Freemasons, whom he specifically referenced as enemies of the church in another line of this prayer.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, and for those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to thee.
Miraculous Medal Prayer II
O Virgin Mother of God, Mary Immaculate, We dedicate and consecrate ourselves to you under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. May this Medal be for each one of us a sure sign of your affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties toward you. Ever while wearing it, may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son. O Most Powerful Virgin, Mother of Our Savior, keep us close to you every moment of our lives. Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death; so that in union with you, we may enjoy the bliss of Heaven forever. Amen.
Prayer of Saint Catherine Laboure
Whenever I go to the chapel,
If He gives me some task,
If He gives me nothing, I still thank Him
And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart.
If you listen, God will also speak to you,
God always speaks to you when you approach Him plainly and simply.