Saint Catherine Laboure
Feast Day: November 28
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 to 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 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. "-St Catherine
More on the The Miraculous Medal
Zoé Labouré was the daughter of a teoman-farmer at Fain-les-Moutiers in the Côte d'Or, where she was born in 1806. She was the only one of a large family not to go to school and did not learn to read and write. Her mother died when Zoé was eight, and when her elder sister, Louisa, left home to become a Sister of Charity the duties of housekeeper and helper to her father devilved upon her. From the age of fourteen or so she also heard a call to the religious life, and after some opposition M. Labouré allowed her to join the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at Châtillon-sur-Seine in 1830. She took the name Catherine, and after her postulancy was sent to the convent in the rue du Bac at Paris, where she arrived four days before the translation of the relics of St. Vincent from Notre-Dame to the Lazarist church in the rue de Sèvres. On the evening of the day of those festivities began the series of visions which were to make the name of Catherine Labouré famous. The first of the three principal ones took place three months later, on the night of July 18, when at about 11.30 p.m. she was woken up suddenly by the appearance of a "shining child", who led her down to the sisters' chapel. There our Lady appeared and talked with her for over two hours, telling her that she would have to undertake a difficult task and also, it is said, speaking of the future and the violent death of an archbishop of Paris forty years later (Mgr. Darboy, in the Connune of 1871). On November 27 following, our Lady appeared to Sister Catherine in the same chapel, in the form of a picture and as it were standing on a globe with shafts of light streaming from her hands towards it, surrounded by the words: " O Mary, conceived free from sin, pray for us who turn to thee!" Then the picture turned about, and sister Catherine saw on the reverse side a capital M, with a cross above it and two hearts, one thorn-crowned and the other pierced with a sword, below. And she seemed to herself to hear a voice telling her to have a medal struck representing these things, and promising that all who wore it with devotion should receive great graces by the intercession of the Mother of God. This or a similar vision was repeated in the following month and on several other occasions up to September 1831.
Sister Catherine confided in her confessor, M. Aladel, and he, after making very careful investigations, was given permission by the archbishop of Paris, Mgr. de Quélen, to have the medal struck. In June 1832 the first 1500 were issued - the medal now known to Catholics throughout the world as "miraculous". This epithet seems to be due to the circumstances of its origin rather than, as is commonly supposed, to miracles connected with its pious use. In 1834 M. Aladel published a Notice historique sur l'origine et l'effets de la Médaille Miraculeuse, of which 130,000 copies were sold in six years. It was translated into seven languages, including Chinese. The archbishop of Paris instituted a canonical inquiry into the alleged visions in 1836, before which, however, Sister Catherine could not be induced to appear. The precautions she had taken to keep herself unknown, the promise she had wrung from M. Aladel not to tell anybody who she was, the secrecy she had kept towards everyone except her confessor, her constant unwillingness to appear before an ecclesiastical authority, account for this inquiry not being extended to the young sister herself. The tribunal decided in favour of the authenticity of the visions, taking into consideration the circumstances, the character of the sister concerned, and the prudent amd level-headedness of M. Aladel. The popularity of the medal increased daily, especially after the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne in 1842. He was an Alsatian Jew who, having reluctantly agreed to wear the medal, received a vision of our Lady in that form in the church of Sant' Andrea delle Frate at Rome, whereupon he became a Christian and was later a priest and founder of a religious congregation, the Fathers and Sisters of Zion.
This vision of Ratisbonne also was subject of a canonical inquiry, and the reports of this and of the archbishop of Paris's were extensively used in the process of beatification of Catherine Labouré, of whose personal life very little is recorded. Her Superiors speak of her as "rather insignificant", "matter-of-fact and unexcitable", "cold, almost apathetic". From 1831 until her death on December 31, 1876, she lived unobtrusively among the community at Enghien-Reuilly, as portress, in charge of the poultry, and looking after the aged who were supported in the hospice. Not until eight months before her death did she speak to anyone except her confessor of the extraordinary graces she had received, and then she revealed them only to her superior, Sister Dufès. Her funeral was the occasion of an outburst of popular veneration, and a child of twelve, crippled from birth, was instantaneously cured at her grave soon after. St. Catherine Labouré was canonized in 1947, and this day appointed for her feast.
A good deal has been written about St. Catherine and "the miraculous medal". The best-known biography is probably that of Fr. E. Crapez, of which an English abbreviation was published in 1920. Another life is that by Fr. E. Cassinari, and this also has been issued in English, in 1934. An earlier account is that of Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Life and Visions of a Sister of Charity (1880). Among other books are a popular life in English by Mrs P. Boyne (1948), and La vie secrète de Catherine Labouré (1948), by C. Yves.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII
The Early Life of Saint Catherine Laboure
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."
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.
Mary Appears to Saint Catherine Laboure
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."
Catherine 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.
The Virgin spoke, this time giving a direct order: "Have a medal struck as I have shown you. All who 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
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 hands 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.
Prayers of St. 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
Miraculous Medal Novena Prayers
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shall renew the face of the earth.
0 God, You instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit. Grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and ever to rejoice in His consolation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
0 Mary, conceived without sin, pray for who have recourse to thee. (3 times.)
Lord Jesus Christ, You have been pleased to glorify by numberless miracles the Blessed Virgin Mary, immaculate from the first moment of her conception. Grant that all who devoutly implore her protection on earth may eternally enjoy Your presence in heaven, Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, for the accomplishment of Your works, You have chosen the weak things of the world, that no flesh may glory in Your sight. And for a better and more widely diffused belief in the Immaculate Conception of Your Mother, You have wished that the Miraculous Medal be manifested to Saint Catherine Laboure. Grant, we beseech thee, that filled with like humility, we may glorify this mystery by word and work. Amen.
REMEMBER, 0 most gracious Vigin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, 0 virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. 0 Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
IMMACULATE Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother, penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal, we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this Novena, if they be beneficial to our immortal souls, and the souls for which we pray: (Mention your request).
You know, Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son Who hates iniquity. Obtain for us then a deep hatred of sin and that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone so that our every thought, word, and deed may tend to His greater glory.
Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of Angels and of People. Amen.
Act of Consecration
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 yourloving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son.
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 blessing of heaven forever. Amen.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (3 times.)