Catherine Laboure was born on May 2, 1806 in Paris, France. Her father was a successful farmer. She was the ninth of eleven children. Her mother died when she was only nine years old. Catherine was called “Zoe” by those who knew her, because her birthday was on the feast day of St. Zoe.
After having a dream about St. Vincent de Paul, at a young age, she joined the Daughters of Charity founded by him. She is known as a Marian visionary because of the apparitions which she reported of Mary appearing to her.
On July 18, the first apparition occurred. Catherine saw a lady seated in the sanctuary. She approached her and was instructed how she was to act during times of trial, pointing to the altar for consolation. Mary told her, “”Sorrows will come upon France; the throne will be overthrown.” A week later the French revolution began in Paris.
On Nov. 27, the lady showed St. Catherine the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now known as the “Miraculous Medal” She gave Catherine the mission of having the medal made and to spread devotion to it.
Catherine reported the visions to her spiritual director, Father Aladal. Forty five years later, she spoke fully to her supervisors about the apparitions.
The miraculous medal which Mary showed to Catherine was oval showing Mary standing on a globe crushing the head of the serpent. (the devil). Around the image of Mary were the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Mary’s hands were showering a cascade of brilliant rays upon the world.
On the reverse side of the medal was a cross, the symbol of Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice on Mount Calvary for the salvation of the world. The cross was intertwined with the letter “M”.
The “M” stands for both Mary and for Mother and was to be surrounded by twelve stars. The two hearts are the Sacred Heart of Jesus encircled by a crown of thorns and the Immaculate of Mary, pierce by a sword. The Flames symbolize the burning love of Jesus and Mother Mary.
Mary told Catherine, “All who wear them will receive great graces.” After two years of investigation Father Aladal went to the archbishop with the request. The request was approved.
At Catherine’s death, on December 31, 1876, at the age of 70, few people knew of her visions. She preferred a silent life, spending her time caring for the aged and sick.
Stories of many miracles and cures caused the devotion to spread rapidly.
The following was written by St. Catherine:
Lord, I am here.
Tell me what you would have me do.
If He gives me some task
I am content and I thank Him.
If he gives me nothing,
I still thank Him
Since I do not deserve to receive
anything more than that,
and then I tell God
everything that is in my heart.
I tell him about my pains and my joys,
and then I listen.
If you listen, God will also speak to you.
For with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen.
God always speaks to you
when you approach him plainly and simply.
St. Catherine’s feast day is celebrated on Nov. 27, the day of the apparitio