St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal

Author: Stephen Breen


Stephen Breen

"That Thy Kingdom come, O Lord, let the Kingdom of Mary come." So prayed St. Louis Grignon de Montfort. "God, then, wishes to reveal and make known, Mary, the masterpiece of His hands, in these latter times.... As she is the dawn which precedes and reveals the Sun of Justice, who is Jesus Christ, she must be seen and recognized in order that Jesus Christ may also be." Dying in 1716, de Montfort's words were written a century before the French Revolution. Two centuries later came God's great warning to His creature man that he was going against his nature and destiny, that he had embarked upon the road to death. De Montfort's message lay hidden for 126 years after his death, in a coffer, as he had predicted.

In the darkness of the night of July 18-19, 1830, just before the hour of midnight, the counter revolution struck. God, through the person of Mary, visited man, as de Montfort predicted, though the fulfillment of his word was never expected so literally.

It happened in Paris . . . the center of revolutionary ferment. The night of July 18, 1830 was a dark one for Christ and Christianity. But Mary, "the dawn which precedes the Sun of Justice," approached. She made her entrance quickly, spoke her lines tersely, and retired from the scene. The alarm sounded; a note for the world was struck; this was the beginning of the end!

"Sister Laboure!"

It was almost midnight; Sister Laboure was asleep.

A cryptic figure of the world, Sister Laboure awoke, startled at the voice. She was sure she had heard someone call her, but not quite sure.

"Sister Laboure!"

She sat bolt upright in bed this time; there was no mistake. She was stunned. This voice in the darkness was without reason, without explanation-but there was no doubt about its certainty. Sister Laboure was perplexed and troubled. She did not understand.

"Sister Laboure!" A shining angel stood beside her bed! By now he was urgent and insistent. Sister Laboure was dazed.

"Come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you."

Sister Laboure quickly recollected herself as best she could.

"I might awaken the other sisters if I get up."

"Do not fear, everyone is sound asleep. It is half past eleven. Come! I am waiting for you!"

Sister Catherine Laboure dressed quickly. It was risky business. She was only a novice of a few months' standing. Prowling around the convent by night would bring quick expulsion if detected. But when her guardian angel commanded, hers was not to reason why, hers only to obey in blind faith, leaving the rest to God and His Providence. Out through the corridors and down the halls they went, the convent lamps lighted all the way, a condition not to be explained naturally. The Chapel door was locked as usual, but at the touch of the angel it swung open. The Chapel, normally dark by night, was lighted brightly as if for Midnight Mass!

Up the aisle they walked, the angel leading Sister Catherine. He stopped before the director's chair in the sanctuary. Instinctively, Sister Catherine knelt. Nothing happened. In the strange weird silence of an uncanny experience, Catherine grew uneasy. The clock struck twelve.

"Here is the Blessed Virgin," said the angel.

Sister Laboure saw no one. Presently there was the sound of rustling silk, and a very beautiful and majestic Lady walked down the altar steps and seated herself in the director's chair. Sister Laboure knelt at the foot of the chair and together she talked with the Queen of Heaven for a long time. At first the conversation was personal; then there were messages from Our Lady herself to Father Aladel, Sister Catherine's confessor and spiritual director. And then there was the message for the world.

"Great troubles are about to happen in France," the Queen of Heaven said. "The danger will be great. But do not be afraid. The good God and St. Vincent will take care of the Sisters of Charity and the Priests of the Mission....

"My child, the Cross of Jesus will be hated, many priests will be put to death.

"The Archbishop will die. The streets will run with blood.

"My child, the whole world will be filled with trouble and sorrow.

"My child, the good God wishes to give you a mission. Later I shall let you know what it is. You will have much to suffer. But do not be afraid.

"The days are evil. Terrible things are going to happen in France. The King's throne will be overturned. The whole world will be filled with trouble of every kind. But come to the foot of this Altar often. Here many graces will be given to everyone who asks for them. They will be given to the rich and to the poor, the great and the lowly."

The climax had been reached; the Blessed Virgin arose and left.

"She has gone," said the angel. And he led Sister Laboure back to her bed where she lay awake for the rest of the night. The angel disappeared as quickly as he had come. The clock struck two; she had been away about two hours.

The night was still; no one suspected that a bomb had fallen from Heaven. It fell into 14 Rue de Bac in Paris and exploded silently while the world around slumbered and slept.

Its impact was to be felt very slowly and very gradually.

Meanwhile, the news of France's denouement was not entirely unknown to Zoe Laboure. Two years before, when she was eighteen, struggling with the problems of vocation, being very beautiful, she was obliged to decline offers of marriage. On the day of her First Holy Communion she had promised herself to God alone. After that she had a strange dream. She was in the church she frequented at Fain, kneeling in the Blessed Virgin's chapel. A very old, very serious and very holy priest was saying Mass.

When it was ended the priest turned and motioned to Zoe Laboure to come to him.

Frightened, Zoe walked backward, away from him. At the door of the church she turned and fled. Visiting a sick woman of her acquaintance she found the same priest there. "My daughter, you do well to care for the sick," he said. "You run away from me now, but some day you will be happy to come to me. The good God has designs upon you. Do not forget it." Zoe was more frightened than ever. "I ran so quickly my feet did not seem to touch the ground," she said later. She said nothing of this strange experience until about a year later, when she entered a house of the Sisters of Charity for the first time. She saw on the wall a picture of St. Vincent de Paul and recognized him as the priest of her dream. She confided this to Father Henry, a confessor, who assured her that she believed correctly that God was calling her to be a Sister of Charity. Hardly in the congregation a week, she had been favored with a vision of the heart of St. Vincent. It was variously seen by her to be shining, sorrowful, and glad.

Sister Laboure was given to understand that it shone in its purity, it was inflamed with love of God, and was sorrowful because of the disasters which were soon to descend upon France. He was glad because of God's promise and Our Lady's to watch over the Sisters of Charity and the Priests of the Mission throughout all the disorders soon to engulf France and the world.

"I don't know why," she said some time later," but it seems to me there is going to be a change in the Government of France."

Almost every day of her novitiate, Sister Laboure had seen visibly Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He appeared on Trinity Sunday crowned and in the robes of a king. At the Gospel of the Mass, the Cross was on His breast and His kingly garments fell to His feet. Sister Catherine was given to understand that this was a figure of what was about to happen to the King of France; he would be stripped of his office and power and his sceptre would pass to another.

A few months after her first visit to Rue de Bac, Our Lady was to pay her second visit to Sister Catherine Laboure. After the first fearsome message about the turn of events in France and the world, the Blessed Virgin, as always, was to propose a remedy, and preventive measures. Eight days after Her first visitation the July Revolutions broke out in Paris as She had prophesied, but the trouble died out almost as quickly as it had begun, and Our Lady was to prepare now for the more serious troubles that would be more than a mere passing incident. It was not even to begin the week Our Lady spoke it had already begun in the French Revolution the century before, but now was becoming critical. The situation was getting out of control, and the ever widening spiral of human affairs was to evolve into something of which Our Lady went on to speak, and to end finally in days which have not as yet come. They lay beyond Fatima, beyond the two world wars. Their consummation was to see the promise of Fatima come true. In their fulfilment all the messages of Our Lady were to become one message, terminating possibly before the year 1960, when the last part of Fatima will be made known. Our Lady's words to St. Catherine, full of hidden meaning are perhaps most comprehensively translated by Lady Cecil Kerr in "The Miraculous Medal":

" 'My child, I have a mission to entrust to you. You will have to suffer much in the performance of it, but the thought that it will be for the glory of God will enable you to overcome all your trials. You will be opposed but do not be afraid. Grace will be given you. Tell all that takes place within you with simplicity and confidence. You will see certain things, you will receive inspirations in prayer. Give an account of everything to him who has charge of your soul.'

"I then asked the Blessed Virgin what was the meaning of certain things which had been shown me. She answered: 'My child, the times are evil and misfortunes are about to overwhelm France. The throne will be destroyed and the whole world convulsed by all sorts of calamities.' The Blessed Virgin looked very sad as she said this. 'But,' she added, 'come to the foot of this altar. Here graces will be poured out on all who ask for them, great or small. There will come a time when the danger will be great and it will seem that all is lost. But have confidence. You will feel that I am with you and that God and St. Vincent are protecting the communities. Have confidence, do not be discouraged, I shall be with you.' Then with tears in her eyes, Our Lady continued: 'There will be victims in other communities. There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. The Archbishop will die. My child, the cross will be despised and trodden underfoot. Our Lord's side will be pierced anew; the streets will run with blood, and the whole world will be in sorrow.'"

Unknown to Catherine, these words would bridge more than a century. That the Archbishop would die in about forty years time was revealed definitely to St.

Catherine, but of the final climax, we have no way of knowing whether or not Catherine fully appreciated the words she was to pass on to mankind. The Archbishop died, as the message said, in the Paris Commune-the first Communist revolution-which took place in France in 1871. Mary was coming to crush the head of Communism long before it inundated the world from Russia, and she closed with the germ of Fatima:

"My eyes are always watching you, I shall grant you many graces. Special graces will be given to all who ask for them, but people must pray." Saturday afternoon, November 27, 1830. The next day would be the First Sunday of Advent and the Sisters of Charity were making preparations for the coming of this great Christian Feast of the year. Sister Laboure was praying hard to know her mission, of which Our Lady had spoken on the first occasion. During her prayer she heard the same rustle of silk over St. Joseph's altar in the Chapel, and there stood the Blessed Virgin clothed in white! She was standing on a globe, one foot crushing the head of a serpent on the top of the globe.

In her hands she held a smaller ball, a golden one surmounted by a Cross, which represented the world. Our Lady was offering this to God, looking toward Heaven and praying for its acceptance by the Almighty. On her fingers were many rings, filled with jewels and precious stones, from which shining rays of light descended. Our Lady said to Sister Laboure:

"This ball which you see is the world, France in particular, and each person individually. I am praying for it and for everyone in the world. The rays which fall on this ball are the graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of the stones. For many people fail to receive graces because they neglect to ask for them."

After a time the small ball representing the world in Our Lady's hands vanished and she lowered her arms outstretched, and the rays glittered and glistened more brilliantly than before. Around her Queenly head appeared the luminous letters of the words: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." A frame of gold appeared around the entire vision as Our Lady said, "Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; it should be worn around the neck.

Great graces will be given to those who wear it with confidence."

The apparition turned, revealing the model for the obverse. This was a large "M," surmounted by a Cross on a bar. Below the "M" were two hearts, one encompassed with thorns, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the other pierced with a sword, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Encircling the whole were twelve stars bordering the golden elliptical frame. The vision disappeared.

It was repeated several times. The last time Our Lady said, "You will see me no more, but you will hear my voice in your meditations." Sister Catherine's confessor, Father Aladel, placed very little credence in her visions. The voice in the meditations complained that the medal had not been made. "But my dear Mother," Sister Catherine said, "I have told Father Aladel and he hasn't done anything about it."

"A day will come," replied the voice, "when Father Aladel will do what I wish. He is my servant and would fear to displease me."

The message jolted Father Aladel and he laid the matter before the Archbishop of Paris, who ordered the medal struck immediately and ordered the first quantity for himself.

Our Lady had opened the great drama. This was her first official herald, the Heaven-sent insignia of the modern Age of Mary. It was to be called the "Medal of the Immaculate Conception," the prayer inscribed on it honored Our Lady's unique privilege: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." It would prepare the world for the great declaration of a quarter of a century later when Pius IX would declare the great dogma of the Immaculate Conception as an article of faith, an essential element of Catholic belief.

The medals of the Immaculate Conception streamed from the presses by the millions. They overflowed France into the world beyond.

Not long after there was an epidemic in France. The death rate soared and medical science was unable to cope with the crisis. People turned to the Sisters of Charity who gave them the Medal of the Immaculate Conception with the assurance that great graces would be showered upon all who would wear it with confidence, especially if it were worn around the neck. After the first cures, people demanded it excitedly. The Archbishop of Paris found it efficacious to secure the return to the Church of an archbishop nearby who repented on his deathbed. He died in the arms of his fellow prelate. So many favors, cures and conversions were effected through its instrumentality that its name and doctrinal significance were lost in the clamor; it became known simply as 'The Miraculous Medal."

Taken from "Recent Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary" by Stephen Breen published in 1952 by The Scapular Press.