The Miraculous Medal - Designed in Heaven by Our Lady [Part One]
Mary not only designed a Medal in Heaven, but also, in 1830, she prepared a saint on earth to be the medium through which she would give her Medal to the world.
Catherine was born on May 2, 1806, at Fain-les-Moutiers in France.
Her parents were good simple country folks, blessed with seven sons and three daughters.
Catherine's mother was the source of her sanctity; Madame Laboure seemed to have had second sight concerning Catherine's destiny, for she took pains to instill in her a special love of God and to place her in the way of holiness. She succeeded so well that upon her death, when Catherine was only nine years old, the little girl was prepared to go it alone. In the midst of her terrible grief at her mother's passing, Catherine turned to Our Lady.
Climbing on a chair she reached for a statue of the Blessed Virgin that stood high on a shelf in her mother's bedroom, held it to her breast and said aloud: "Now, dear Blessed Mother, you will be my mother."
One night in a dream, it seemed to her that she was in the Parish Church, when a venerable old priest appeared to say Mass. She was greatly impressed by the devout way in which he offered the Holy Sacrifice.. After Mass, he beckoned Catherine to come to him. Instead she fled from the church.
[St. Vincent de Paul - the venerable old priest who appeared in Catherine's dream]
On the way home (still in the same dream), she visited a sick person. and here also appeared the same venerable Priest.
Again, she vainly sort to escape. He spoke to her: "My daughter, it is a good to care for the sick; you fly from me now, but a day will come when you will be happy to come to me. God has designs on you, do not forget it."
At last she escaped and fled home. Then she awoke. Catherine told this dream to the parish priest of Chatillon, who said to her: "I believe my child, that this old priest is St. Vincent, who calls you to be a Daughter of Charity."
Catherine already had a sister in the Community of the daughters of Charity, consequently her thoughts turned towards them. Her sister-in-law accompanied her to an interview with the Sister Servant of the daughters at Chatillon.
Portrait Confirms Her Vocation
Entering , Catherine notice a portrait of a venerable old priest hanging in the parlour. On seeing it, Catherine exclaimed: "That is the priest I saw in my dream. Who is he?"
And on being told it was a portrait of St. Vincent de Paul, all doubts as to her vocation vanished.
After surmounting many difficulties, in the beginning of 1830 she became a postulant at Chatillon.
In the scant three months she spent there left an unforgettable impression of goodness.
Novitiate And First Visions - Prelude Of Visions To Come
On April 21, 1830, she entered the novitiate, or seminary, as the Sisters of Charity call it , at 140 rue du Bac in Paris. She arrived just in time to assist at the translation of the body of St. Vincent de Paul from the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the newly erected mother church of the Vincentian Fathers. A novena of thanks was held at the church to celebrate this great event, and each evening, on returning home, Catherine was granted a vision of St. Vincent's heart.
Hard on the heel of these visions, came the vision of Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist. This extraordinary favour was constant, given her every time she entered the chapel during the nine months of her novitiate; and there are certain indications that it may have continued from time to time during her entire life.
The vision took a special form on Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, when Our Lord appeared to Catherine during Mass , robed as a king.
At the reading of the Gospel, the symbols of His kingship fell to the ground, and Catherine understood in her heart that the King of France , that stubborn old man, Charles X, would be overthrown .
[ Charles X - King of France ,1757-1836; last of the senior Boubon line to reign over France until the French Revolution]
Apparitions Of Our Lady - July 18, 1830
On the night of July 18,1830, at about 11.30pm. Sister Catherine was awakened by a voice calling her name, three times. there she saw standing at her bedside a child of heavenly beauty with rays of light issuing from him. "Sister Laboure, Sister Laboure, Sister Laboure!" he said. "Come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin awaits you." "But", thought Catherine, "I shall be discovered. The others will hear me."
The child (almost certainly her Guardian Angel) in answer to her thought said,"Do not fear. It is half-past eleven, all are asleep. I will accompany you."
Sister Catherine dressed quickly and followed the child who walked at her left. The lights came on at his approach, and locked doors opened at his touch.
The altar was bathed in light as if for midnight Mass. Catherine waited at the altar rails, until about midnight, when the child exclaimed,"Behold the Blessed Virgin. Behold her!" Catherine heard a slight sound coming from the right side of the altar, like the rustling of a silk dress.
At that moment, a Lady of dazzling beauty appeared in the Sanctuary, and seated herself in the chair the Spiritual Director used when talking to the Seminary Sisters. The Lady was dressed in a white robe of a golden tinge, and a blue veil.
The angel, assuming the voice of a man, said," This is the Blessed Virgin."
All her doubts vanished, and she entered the sanctuary, and cast herself on her knees at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, and placed her hands on Our Lady's lap.
"There passed the sweetest moments of my life," Sister Catherine related, "It is impossible for me to express all I experienced. She instructed me on how I was to act in moments of trial, and pointing with her left hand to the altar, she told me to come and prostrate myself at the foot of the altar, adding that I would receive all the consolation that I needed."
The Blessed Virgin Instructs Catherine
The Blessed virgin continued to instruct her favored child: "My child, I am going to confide to you a mission; you will suffer many trials but you will surmount them, knowing that you endure them for the glory of God. You will be contradicted but you will be given grace. Do not fear. Tell him who is charged with your direction all that passes within you, with simplicity and confidence. You will see certain things; you will receive inspirations. Render an account of them. Have confidence , do not fear."
"My child, the times are very evil. Misfortunes are about to fall upon France. The Throne will be overturned; the entire world will be afflicted by misery of every kind."
Catherine relates that when Mary said this, she was very sad. Our Lady continued: "But come to the foot of the altar, here graces will be bestowed upon all who ask with confidence and fervour.
They will be given to the rich and the poor. At a certain time the danger will be great indeed, it will seem as if all were lost, but do not fear, I shall be with you; you will acknowledge my visit, the protection of God and of St. Vincent upon the two communities; have confidence, do not be discouraged, you are in my special keeping.
There will be victims in other Communities ( the Blessed Virgin shed tears when she said this) ; among the clergy of Paris there will be many victims. The Archbishop will die. My child, the Cross will be despised, blood will flow in the streets ( again Our Lady's emotion was so great that she could not speak for a time). My child, " she continued,"the whole world will be in tribulation". The query arose in Catherine's mind ; When shall this happen? An interior voice told her distinctly that it would be in about 40 years time.
To show the authenticity of these revelations, Mary uttered this Prophecy; and Catherine was still alive to see it fulfilled to the letter.
"About 40 years time". Our Lady had said in July 1830. On May 24, 1871, with the rise of the Commune in Paris, the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur Georges Darboy, two secular priests, two Jesuits, and a magistrate stood against a wall and were shot down at close quarters.
The Archbishop raised his hand to bless, but one of the executioners cried out: "Here, take my blessing" as he gave the order to fire.
On the following two days further executions were carried out by the revolutionists.
Mary had promised that "St. Vincent will watch over you, and the protection of God is always here in a particular manner. I myself will be with you. I will always keep my eye upon you, and I will enrich you with many graces".
There were no victims among the Daughters of Charity, nor among the Vincentians during the uprising of the Commune in 1871.
End Of The First Apparition Of Our Lady
Catherine continued, "I could not tell you how long I remained with the Blessed Virgin; all I can say is that after talking with me a long time, she disappeared like a shadow that vanished".
Looking away from the empty chair, Catherine saw the child still standing where she has left him when the Blessed Virgin appeared.
"She has gone", he said, and stationing himself at her left hand he conducted her back to her dormitory.
"Returned to bed", said Catherine, "I heard the clock strike two. There was no more sleep for me that night'.
Mary had told Sister Catherine she had a special mission for Catherine. What this mission was , the Saint found out in November of that same year 1830.
Catherine's Main Mission In Life About To Begin
[ Apparitions of Our Lady to Sister Catherine during the year of 1830, in which Our Lady reveals details of the medal she wishes to be made and distributed, in the Great Appariton of November 27, 1830]
On November 27, 1830, which was a Saturday and the Eve of the first Sunday in Advent, Catherine continues."Whilst making my meditation in profound silence, at half-past five in the evening, I seemed to hear on the right hand side of the Sanctuary something like the rustling of a silk dress, and, glancing in that direction, I perceived the Blessed Virgin standing near St. Joseph's picture; her height was medium, and her countenance so beautiful that it would impossible for me to describe it.
"She was standing clothed in a robe the color of auroral light, the style that is usually called 'a la vierge', that is, high neck and plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which descended on each side to her feet. Her hair was smooth on the forehead, and above was a coif ornamented with a little lace and fitting close to the head. Her face was only partially covered, and her feet rested upon a globe, or rather a hemisphere ( at least I saw but half a globe). Her hands were raised about as high as her waist, and she held in a graceful attitude another globe. ( a figure of the universe). Her eyes were lifted up to Heaven, and her countenance was radiant as she offered the globe to Our Lord.[ Phase 1 of the apparition in picture above]
"Suddenly her fingers were filled with rings and most beautiful precious stones, the rays gleaming forth and reflected on all sides, enveloped her in such dazzling light that I could see neither her feet nor her robe.
The stones were of different sizes, and the rays eminating from them were, more or less, brilliant in proportion to the size. I could not express what I felt, nor what I learned, in these few moments. Whilst occupied contemplating this vision, the Blessed Virgin cast her eyes upon me, and a voice said in the depths of my heart: "The globe that you see represents the entire world, and particularly France, and each person in particular".
The Blessed Virgin added, " Behold the symbol of the graces I shed upon those who ask me for them," and thus making me understand how generous she is to those who implore her intercession ... how many graces she grants to those who ask ... and what a joy it is for her to bestow them.
A New Picture Is Shown To Catherine [ Phase 2 above]
"At this moment I was not myself, I was in raptures. There now formed around the Blessed Virgin a frame slightly oval, upon which appeared in golden letters, these words; "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee"
Then I heard a voice which said, "Have a medal struck like this, persons who wear it indulgenced, will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck; graces will be bestowed in abundance upon those who have confidence."
"Suddenly the picture seemed to turn"
Our Lady then gave her a vision of the reverse side of the medal.
Catherine saw, still within the oval frame, the letter "M" in the centre of the frame. There was a bar on top of the "M", and a cross resting upon the bar. Beneath the "M" were two Hearts, the first encircled with a crown of thorns, and the other pierced with a sword.
This Apparition took place at the right hand side of the High Altar in the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, on the 27 November,1830
Our Lady was elevated at a height of about three metres from the floor ( about 10 feet ), and standing near the picture of St. Joseph.
There are other details Catherine later related to Fr. Aladel, her Confessor, such as the stars found on the reverse side of the medal, and the serpent; she replied when asked whether the serpent should be included in the medal, "Yes, there was a serpent of a greenish color with yellow spots."
Some of the diamonds in the rings on Mary's fingers did not give forth any rays of light. As Catherine was wondering at this, an interior voice said, "These jewels which do not emit rays symbolise the graces for which people forget to ask."
The Apparition of the Miraculous Medal was probably repeated five times in all, with very slight variations, probably as an urging to action in the striking of the medal.
At Our Lady's last appearance to Catherine in January, 1831, the Virgin said," You will see me no more, but you will often hear my voice in your prayers."
The Medal Is Made
Finally convinced of the heavenly character of the Apparitions Father Aladel approched the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Quelen, who gave his approval to have the Medal made.
"There is nothing in this contrary to the approved practice of the Church." declared the Archbishop. "The Medal will spread devotion to Mary; it will strengthen belief in her Immaculate Conception. Go ahead with it."
First Medal Appears And First Conversions Recorded
The first medals appeared in June 1832. Happy indeed was Sister Catherine when she took in her hand the first Medal!
She exclaimed, "Now it must be propagated."
The propagation of the medals was prodigious! The demand soon exceeded the supply, especially when graces were given in abundance to those who wore it with confidence.
In the early stages of the Medal, six miraculous conversions were recorded.
Pope Pius IX gave verbal approbation to the Medal; His succeseor, Pope Leo XIII, instituted a Feast in commemoration of "the Manifestation of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal."
Our Lady also requested that a statue depicting the first part of the Great Apparition be made known as " the Virgin of the Globe", and before her death she was to see the plaster mould in the studio of the sculptor.
Catherine died, peacefully on December 31. 1876.
Pope Pius XI beatified her in 1933, and Pope Pius XII raised her to the honors of the altar in 1947.
[ St. Catherine Laboure]
Her incorrupt body lies beneath an altar built on the spot where Our Lady appeared to her; above the altar is the statue, the making of which had caused her such anxiety.