Saint Catherine Laboure
Fain-les-Moutiers, France (1806–1876)
Feast day: November 25
Zoe Laboure was a French farmer’s daughter whose mother died when she was 8. Zoe entered the Sisters of Charity on the Rue du Bac in Paris on the same day a celebration was being held as the relics of Saint Vincent de Paul were transferred to the convent chapel. (As you can read in his section later in this chapter, Saint Vincent de Paul had influenced Sister Louise de Marillac to establish the Sisters of Charity.)
Upon entrance to the Sisters of Charity, Zoe took the name of Catherine. The same evening that she entered the order, Sister Catherine began receiving apparitions. The first was the Lord bidding her to chapel; then came the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary gave Catherine a task that was quite challenging for a young postulant, particularly at a time when France and the French Catholic Church were recovering from the devastating effects of the French Revolution and weren’t inclined to be impressed with a nun receiving miraculous visits from heaven.
The Blessed Virgin instructed Catherine to create a medal with the image of Our Lady of Grace stomping on a serpent and the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” On the back of the medal, two hearts were to represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Those who wore the medal with devotion would receive great graces from God. Fifteen hundred medals were made in 1832; by 1834, more than 130,000 had been made. Out of humility, Sister Catherine didn’t want her name to be attached to the medal or the miraculous information. After the first medals were cast, Sister Catherine returned to normal convent life in obscurity; only her confessor and the Mother Superior knew of Catherine’s apparitions.
It was only eight months before Catherine’s death, under specific instructions from the Mother Superior, that the facts regarding the medal and the miraculous information were revealed for posterity. Sister Catherine died in 1876 and was buried in the crypt of the chapel. In 1933, Rome announced her beatification and, following routine, the casket was excavated. The outer wooden casket had deteriorated while the inner casket, made of lead, remained intact.
The third, wooden casket began to crumble upon opening, but the future saint’s body was in good condition and intact. The body of Saint Catherine was transferred to the motherhouse chapel on the Rue du Bac, where her religious life had begun. In this chapel, pilgrims can see Saint Catherine Laboure in her blue habit with white coronet at the side altar. To the side of the high altar is the blue chair that the Blessed Virgin sat in when she appeared to Saint Catherine.
Last updated: March 21, 2013 at 21:42 pm
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