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The Miraculous Medal, as designed personally by the Blessed Mother in a vision to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830.
The Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830.
The Miraculous Medal
On the night of July 18, 1830, Sister Catherine Laboure, a novice nun in the Daughters of Charity at their Motherhouse in Paris, France, was awakened by her Guardian Angel and brought to the chapel. Seated on the left of the sanctuary was the Blessed Mother, who beckoned to Sister Catherine. The Blessed Mother warned that France and the world would suffer impending sorrow, but that at the altar "graces shall be showered upon you and upon all those who shall ask for them, rich or poor."

On November 27th, the Blessed Mother again appeared to Sister Catherine to show her the front and back design of a medal the Blessed Mother wished to have struck, which stated, "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!" The Blessed Mother appeared for a third and last time in December.

The medal was struck and devotion quickly spread, as many miraculous cures of body and soul were wrought through it, thus the name the "Miraculous Medal." Saint Catherine Laboure was canonized a saint on July 27, 1947 by Pope Pius XII.
Altar gates at the National Shrine Basilica of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland,
which is run by the Daughters of Charity.
The Rest of the Story....
The Medal of the Immaculate Conception, popularly known as “the Miraculous Medal”, was designed by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. No wonder, then that it wins such extraordinary graces for those who wear it and pray for the help and intercession of the Mother of God.

The story begins on the night of July 18-19, 1830. On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, July 19, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris about the virtues of their Holy Founder, St. Vincent de Paul, and gave each of them a piece of cloth from his surplice. Sister (now Saint) Catherine Labouré, a novice, earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might with her own eyes see the mother of God.

She was convinced that she would see the Blessed Virgin Mary that very night; and in her conviction, Catherine fell asleep. Before long, she was awakened by a brilliant light and a small child before her, believed to be her guardian angel. "Sister Laboure, come to the Chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you."

Catherine replied: "We shall be discovered."

The little child smiled, "Do not be uneasy; it is half past eleven, everyone is sleeping... come, I am waiting for you." She rose quickly and dressed. The hall lights were burning. The locked chapel door swung open at the angel's touch. Amazed, Catherine found the Chapel ablaze with lights as if prepared for midnight Mass. Quickly she knelt at the communion rail, and suddenly she heard the rustle of a silk dress... the Blessed Virgin, in a blaze of glory, sat in the director's chair. The angel whispered: "The Blessed Mother wishes to speak with you."

Catherine rose, knelt beside the Blessed Mother and rested her hands in the Virgin's lap. Mary said:

"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." A pain crossed the Virgin's face.

"Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek for them. You will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent. I always will have my eyes upon you. There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground and blood will flow." Then after speaking for some time, the Lady like a fading shadow was gone.

Led by the child, Catherine left the Chapel up the corridor and returned to her place in the dormitory. The angel disappeared and as Catherine went to bed she heard the clock strike two.

Catherine lived the normal life of a novice of the Daughters of Charity until Advent. On Saturday, November 27, 1830, at 5:30 p.m., she retired to the Chapel with the other Sisters for evening meditation. Catherine heard the faint swish of silk; she recognized our Lady's signal. Raising her eyes to the main altar, she saw the beautiful Lady.

Mary was standing on what seemed to be half a globe and holding a golden globe in her hands as if offering it to heaven. On the globe was the word “France,” and our Lady explained that the globe represented the whole world, but especially France. The times were difficult in France then, especially for the poor who were unemployed and often refugees from the many wars of the time. Streaming from rings on Mary's fingers were rays of light. Mary explained the rays symbolize the graces she obtains for those who ask for them. However, some of the gems on the rings were dark, and Mary explained the rays and graces were available, but did not come because no one had asked for them.

The vision then changed to show our Lady standing on a globe with her arms now outstretched and with the dazzling rays of light still streaming from her fingers. Framing the figure was an inscription: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  The vision turned and showed the design on the reverse side of the medal. Twelve stars encircled a large “M”, from which arose a cross. Below were two hearts with flames arising from them. One heart was encircled in thorns and the other was pierced by a sword.

The Virgin spoke, this time giving a direct order: "Have a medal struck as I have shown you. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”  Catherine asked how she was to have the medal struck. Mary replied that she was to go to her confessor, a Father Jean Marie Aladel, saying of this saintly priest: "He is my servant."

Catherine explained the entire series of apparitions to her confessor. Father Aladel at first did not believe Catherine.  However, after two years, he finally went to the archbishop, who ordered two thousand medals struck on June 20, 1832. When Catherine received her share of these first medals from the hands of the priest she said, "Now it must be propagated."

The medals first were distributed in Paris. Almost immediately, the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower down on those who wore her Medal and the devotion to it that spread so swiftly was miraculous itself. Marvels of grace, health, peace, and spiritual prosperity followed in its wake. Before long, people were calling it the “Miraculous Medal”, with some of its greatest miracles being those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith. Yet Catherine never revealed to anyone else that it was she who received the vision of the Medal, until just before her death 47 years later. In 1836, a Canonical inquiry undertaken at Paris declared the apparitions to be genuine.

When our Blessed Mother gave the design of the medal to St. Catherine Labouré she said, “Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person.” The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, which provided this story, carries out our Lady’s request in offering a free Miraculous Medal and other sacramentals in their gift shop.
Mary is standing upon a globe, crushing the head of a serpent beneath her foot. She stands upon a globe as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her feet crush the serpent to proclaim Satan and all his followers are helpless before her (cf. Genesis 3:15). The year of 1830 on the Miraculous Medal is the year the Blessed Mother gave its design to Saint Catherine Labouré. The reference to Mary conceived without sin supports the dogma of the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (referring to Mary’s sinlessness, i.e. “full of grace” and “blessed among women,”from Luke 1:28, and not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus). This dogma was proclaimed officially by the Church 24 years later in 1854 and confirmed by Our Lady herself to Bernadette at Lourdes, France in 1858 when the Blessed Mother stated there, “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
The twelve stars refer to the Apostles, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. The stars also recall the vision of St. John, writer of the Book of Revelation (12:1), in which “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The cross symbolizes Christ and our redemption, with the bar under the cross a sign of the earth. The “M” stands for Mary, and the interweaving of her initial and the cross shows Mary’s close involvement with Jesus and our world. In this we see Mary’s part in our salvation and her role as mother of the Church. The two hearts represent the love of Jesus and Mary for us (cf. Luke 2:35).
The Meaning of the Medal Images
The fact that Saint Catherine rested her hands on the lap of the Blessed Mother did not make her a saint. She personally worked no miracles, nor did she practice externally heroic charity like other great saints. She was not materially poor as were the children of Fatima and Bernadette. She sprang from upper middle class parents among the meadows and vineyards of Burgundy, France. Her father was an educated man and an excellent farmer living in the village of Fain-les-Moutiers not far from DiJon. Her sanctity consists in half a century of faithful service as a simple Daughter of Charity.

As the evening Angelus sounded, Catherine was born of Peter and Louise Laboure on May 2, 1806. She was the ninth child of a family of eleven. Fifteen minutes after her birth, her name was entered on the city records. The next day, she was baptized on the feast of the Finding of The True Cross. When Catherine was nine years old, her saintly mother, Louise Madeleine Laboure, died. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady's statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: "Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother."

After living a year in Paris with her Aunt Margaret, Catherine came back to her father's home to supervise the household. She was her father's favorite child, and this efficient, stern, upper middle class farmer depended on her. On January 25, 1818, Catherine received her First Holy Communion. From that day on she arose every morning at 4:00 a.m., walked several miles to church in order to assist at Mass, and to pray.

One day she had a dream in which she saw an old priest say Mass. After Mass, the priest turned and beckoned her with his finger, but she drew backwards, keeping her eye on him. The vision moved to a sick room where she saw the same priest, who said: "My child, it is a good deed to look after the sick; you run away now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God has designs on you - do not forget it." Later, she awoke, not knowing the significance of the dream.

Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity, she noticed a priest's picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: "Our Holy Founder, Saint Vincent de Paul." This was the same priest Catherine had seen in the dream.

In January of 1830, Catherine Laboure became a postulant in the hospice of the Daughters of Charity at Catillon-sur-Seine. Three months later she was again in Paris, this time to enter the Seminary at the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity. Shortly after she entered her new home, God was pleased to grant her several extraordinary visions. On three consecutive days she beheld the heart of Saint Vincent above the reliquary in which his relics were exposed, each time under a different aspect. At other times she beheld our divine Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament; this would occur especially during Mass when he would appear as he was described in the liturgy of the day.

We might expect that praise and prominence would be the lot of one so favored by heaven. But she sought none of it; rather, she fled from it. She wanted to be left alone to carry out her humble duties as a Daughter of Charity. For over forty years, she spent her every effort in caring for the aged and infirm, not revealing to those about her that she had been the recipient of our Lady's medal. The Sisters with whom she lived held her in the highest esteem, and each one longed to be her companion.

In 1876, Catherine felt a spiritual conviction that she would die before the end of the year. Mary Immaculate gave Catherine leave to speak, to break the silence of  forty-six years. To her Sister Superior, Catherine revealed the fact that she was the sister to whom the Blessed Mother appeared. On the last day of December, 1876, Saint Catherine passed on - once again to the hands of Mary - this time, however, in heaven. Today her beautiful remains still lie fresh and serene.

When her body was exhumed in 1933 it was found as fresh as the day it was buried. Though she had lived seventy years and was in the grave for fifty-seven years, her eyes remained very blue and beautiful; and in death her arms and legs were as supple as if she were asleep. Her incorrupt body is encased in glass beneath the side altar at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, beneath one of the spots where our Lady appeared to her. In this Chapel of the Apparition, you can gaze upon the face and the lips that for forty-six years kept a secret, which has since changed the world.

(courtesy of the Association of the Miraculous Medal, Perryville, Missouri)
The Story of St. Catherine Laboure
Photograph of
St. Catherine Laboure
Fifty-seven years after her death, St. Catherine Laboure's body was exhumed and found to be completely incorrupt, as fresh and supple as if she were just asleep.
St. Catherine Laboure's incorrupt body encased in glass in the Chapel of the Apparition
Rue du Bac, Paris, France
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