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St. Catherine Laboure, the Saint of the Miraculous Medal

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Introduction

Not too many people are aware that St. Catherine Laboure, a Daughter of Charity, was given the task in 1830 by the Blessed Mother to spread devotion to the Miraculous Medal.

Catherine was born on May 2, 1806.  She was the daughter of Pierre and Madeleine Laboure who had 17 children, 11 of whom lived.  Catherine was always known as Zoe when she was a child.  The Laboure family were prosperous because they worked very hard as farmers.  Pierre was the mayor of their small village of Fain-les-moutiers from 1811 to 1815.

                                                

St. Catherine Laboure

                                                       St. Catherine Laboure - Wikimedia

Zoe’s Mother Died

Zoe was only nine years old when her mother died.  She helped her sister Marie Louise to care for their home when their father became a widower.  Their farm had many workers who had to be fed each day.  Although the older children were given a proper education, Zoe and two of the other younger children did not learn how to read and write.  When Marie Louise became a Daughter of Charity when she was 23 years old, Zoe and her younger sister Tonine took over the household duties.

After her mother died, Zoe was observed by a servant in their household reaching up to bring down a statue of the Blessed Mother.  Zoe was heard to say “Dear Blessed Mother, now you will be my Mother.”  Without the servant eavesdropping on Zoe’s words, the world would never have known the depth of Zoe’s love for the Blessed Mother.

Zoe Made Her First Communion

Zoe had always aspired to be a religious since she was very young.  She had no idea, however, which community of Sisters she wished to join.  After she made her First Communion, she went to the nearby church daily to attend Mass which was at 6 a.m.  Her younger sister Tonine accompanied her often.  Zoe also took on the penance of fasting every Friday and Saturday.  Her father was unaware of her sacrifice.

Zoe prayed often that she would someday see the Blessed Mother.  She fully believed that this would happen to her.  It was always in her thoughts. 

                                        

Miraculous Medal

                                                          Miraculous Medal - Wikimedia

Zoe’s Dream

Zoe had a dream one night that she was at a Mass being celebrated by an older priest that she did not know.  When Mass was finished, the priest motioned to Zoe to come with him.  This frightened her and she ran from the church.  When she looked back, the priest was still there, looking at her.  In her dream, Zoe stopped to visit a woman she knew who was sick.  The same priest was in the woman’s room, and he said to Zoe: “You do well to visit the sick.  You flee from me now, but one day you will be glad to come to me.  God has plans for you; do not forget it.”

Zoe’s sister-in-law Jeanne, the wife of her brother Hubert, played an important part in Zoe’s life.  Jeanne had a great love for the poor and one of her favorite charities was a hospital conducted by the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon.  She would often bring Zoe along with her when she visited the hospital.  One day, as she sat in the waiting room, Zoe looked up at a portrait of a priest on the wall.  It was the priest that she had seen in her dream.  She asked the Sister in charge “Sister, who is that priest?”  Her answer was: “That is our holy founder, St. Vincent de Paul.”  Zoe solved the puzzle of which community of Sisters she would join.  It would be the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

                                                      

St. Vincent de Paul

                                                                   St. Vincent de Paul                                                                                                                                          {{PD-US}}  Wikimedia

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul had founded two Communities.  The first was called the Congregation of the Mission, known as the Vincentian Fathers.  The Sister community to the Vincentians was the Daughters of Charity, sometimes referred to as the Sisters of Charity.

Prior to St. Vincent’s Daughters, nuns were enclosed behind walls as contemplative communities.  Vincent saw the need for Sisters to go out to the community to care for the poor and the sick.  He ordained that “Her convent is the house of the sick, her cell the chamber of suffering, her chapel the parish church, her cloister the streets of the city or the wards of the hospital; obedience is her enclosure, the fear of God her grate, and modesty her veil.”  The cornette of the Sisters of Charity became a well-known symbol on the streets of Paris, and eventually throughout the world.

Zoe’s Obstacles to Becoming a Daughter of Charity

Zoe encountered two obstacles in her quest to become a Daughter of Charity.  The first was that her father refused to give her his blessing.  Again with the help of Catherine’s sister-in-law Jeanne, Mr. Laboure was persuaded to allow Zoe to leave the fold.  He refused, however, to provide her with the dowry she needed.  Hubert and Jeanne were kind enough to take care of Zoe’s dowry.

                                

140 Rue de Bac

                                        140 Rue de Bac - Shrine of the Miraculous Medal                                                                                                                     Wikimedia

Zoe is Accepted

Sister Josephine, the Superior of the Hospital at Chatillon did not want to accept Zoe because she was unable to read or write.  However, her assistant, Sister Francoise, had the insight to discern the extraordinary piety and purity that Zoe possessed and persuaded Sister Josephine to accept her.  Sister Francoise agreed to teach Zoe everything she needed to know in order to enter the Seminary, which is the term used by the Daughters of Charity for their formation period.  Her second obstacle was overcome.

Sister Laboure Speaks with the Blessed Mother

On the evening of July 18, 1830, while in the Seminary, Sister Laboure was awakened by the light from a candle carried by a small child about five years old.  The child was beautiful and his white gown was dazzling.  He approached Sister Laboure’s bed and said softly “Sister Laboure!  Come to the chapel. The Blessed Virgin awaits you."  Sister Laboure dressed and followed the child to the chapel where he said “Here is the Blessed Virgin.”  She was seated on the altar in the Director’s chair.

Sister Laboure knelt down and rested her hands in Our Lady’s lap.  “My child,” said Our Lady, “the good God wishes to charge you with a mission.”

“Come to the foot of the altar,” she said.  “There graces will be shed upon all, great and little, who ask for them.  Graces will be especially shed upon those who ask for them.”

The Blessed Mother spoke of her love for the two communities of St. Vincent and warned of difficulties that would be suffered in France and in the world.  The conversation was not one-sided.  Sister Laboure asked questions and spoke of the secrets of her soul.  She spent over two hours with Our Lady.  She slept no more that night.  She realized that it was her guardian angel that woke her that evening.

 

Chapel of the Miraculous Medal

                       Chapel of the Miraculous Medal, 140 Rue de Bac, Paris - Wikimedia

Zoe’s Mission

On November 27, 1830 at 5:30 p.m., the Sisters were in chapel for their evening meditation.  Sister Laboure saw the Queen of Heaven, right there in the sanctuary, standing upon a globe.  She also held a golden ball upraised in an offering to God.  An oval frame surrounded the Blessed Mother, and written in gold were the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pry for us who have recourse to thee.”

Our Lady spoke again.  "Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence."

Suddenly the medal which she was to have made showed the reverse.  It contained a large M surmounted by a bar and a cross.  Beneath the M were the hearts of Jesus and Mary, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced with a sword.  Twelve stars encircled the medal.  Then the vision disappeared.

Sister Catherine Laboure is Canonized

Father Chevalier, Sister Laboure’s Director, had her write out full accounts of her visions at three different times, in 1841, in 1856, and again in 1876.  She was able to keep her identity a secret for forty-six years.  Sister Catherine died on December 31, 1876 at the age of seventy.  Pope Pius XII canonized her on July 27, 1947.  Her feast day is November 25th.

St. Catherine Laboure is one of my favorite saints.  I love her story.  It is true.  Miracles do happen, and our saints in heaven can do so much for us here on earth if we ask for their intercession.

[1]

 

St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal
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Bibliography

  1. Fr. Joseph Dirvin "Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal." www.ewtn.com. 29/02/2016. 29/02/2016 <Web >

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