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Catholic Heroes . . . St. Catherine Labouré

November 25, 2014 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

A miracle is a sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or to testify to someone’s sanctity. During His life on earth, Jesus performed many miracles. Miracles did not end with Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. They have continued to be performed throughout the history of the Church.
Some miracles are worked through people, while some places or things are associated with many miracles, such as Fatima and Lourdes. Similarly, many miracles surround the Miraculous Medal, which was revealed to Catherine Zoe Labouré in 1830.
On May 2, 1806, Catherine Zoe Labouré came into the world at Fain-les-Moutiers, about 200 miles southeast of Paris. Her father, Pierre Labouré, was a yeoman farmer and her mother, Louise Madeleine Gontard, already had eight living children. Catherine, whom the family called Zoe, was the ninth of eleven children, all of whom went to school except for Zoe.
Perhaps she did not learn to read or write since her mother died when Zoe was only eight years old. Still grieving after the funeral, the young girl picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and said, “Now you will be my mother.”
Shortly thereafter, her sister Louisa left home to join the Sisters of Charity founded by St. Vincent de Paul. As a result, most of the household duties fell upon Zoe’s shoulders. She did the cleaning and cooking and helped take care of her father for the next six years. In 1820, at the age of just 14, she heard the call to join the Sisters of Charity when she had a dream about St. Vincent de Paul.
Nevertheless, because her father was opposed to the idea, she remained at home, performing the same household tasks and tending her father. Finally, ten years later, in 1830, Zoe was allowed to join the order of St. Vincent.
She joined a house of the Sisters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine, about 30 miles northeast of her hometown. Upon entering the convent, she took the name Catherine. After her postulancy, Catherine was sent to the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity on the Rue du Bac in Paris.
At this convent, on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, September 27, she had gone to her cell happily thinking of the festivities celebrating the feast. As she reflected in the quiet, she heard a young child calling her, asking her to go to the chapel.
Obediently, Catherine left her cell and went to the chapel in the convent. When she knelt in front of the statue of Mary, the Blessed Mother spoke to her, “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.”
Two months later, Catherine received the vision of the medal that Mary wanted made. On the front was Mary with rays of light issuing from her hands. Some of the rays reached the Earth and some did not because, as Mary told Catherine, people forget to ask for the graces they need. Around Mary, the words, “O Mary, conceived without Original Sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,” were printed.
On the back of the medal was a large M with a cross on top, with the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts below the letter. All of that was surrounded by twelve stars. This same vision along with several others repeated themselves until September 1831.
Catherine went to her spiritual director, Fr. Jean Marie Aladel, and told him of Mary’s wishes after the first vision. For two years, her director observed her behavior, seeing it as holy and humble, never seeking recognition. Fr. Aladel never revealed who had received the visions from the Blessed Mother. Finally, he went to the archbishop of Paris seeking permission to have the medal produced.
In 1832, 1,500 medals were issued. These medals soon became known as Miraculous Medals. Though many claim that the medals are called miraculous because of the many miracles worked through them, Catherine’s biographers agree that it was called miraculous because of its origins.
In 1834 Fr. Adele published a little booklet describing the origin of the medal. Within six years 130,000 booklets had been published in seven different languages, including Mandarin. Still people did not know who had received the visions.
St. Catherine remained so resolute in not being revealed as the visionary that even the inquiries requested by the bishop did not discover who she was. It was not until years later that her identity became known, much to the surprise of many of her religious sisters.
The popularity of the medal increased rapidly, especially after the famous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, an Alsatian Jew. He had skeptically agreed to wear the Miraculous Medal, then received a vision of our Lady, became a Catholic, a priest, and founded a religious order, the Fathers and Sisters of Zion.
In 1848, Catherine received one of her final visions — this one very disturbing — informing her that the world would be cloaked in sadness, that the archbishop would be stripped of his garments, and that the cross would be cast down. She was given to understand that it would happen in 1870.
It was not long before the United States was embroiled in a Civil War. In 1870-1871 the Franco-Prussian War engulfed Paris. Furthermore, the French Commune disrupted the city of Paris with its anarchy and revolts.

The Dogma Of
The Immaculate Conception

Catherine did not reveal her visions to anyone except her confessor until eight months before her death, when she revealed them to her superior, Sr. Jeanne Dufes. St. Catherine died on December 31, 1876. Her feast is celebrated on November 28.
It is interesting to note that the words the Blessed Mother had requested to be placed on the medal at the order of her Father in Heaven were: “Mary conceived without Original Sin.” These words were given to Catherine in 1830. The declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not issued until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX.
Highly recommended reading on the saint is Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal by Fr. Joseph Dirvin.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto Thine. O Mary, conceived without original sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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