Catherine Laboure was born on May 2, 1806 in the tiny village of Fain-les-moutiers, not far from Dijon, France. The apparitions that happened in her life would lead the Catholic population in the devotion and the wearing of the now well know Miraculous Medal. Catherine was the ninth of ten children. At age nine her devoted mother passed away. In the mist of her mother's passing Catherine turned to Our Lady. Climbing up on a chair, she reached for a statue of the Blessed Virgin that stood high on a shelf in her mother's bedroom, clasping it to her breast she said out loud, "Now dear Blessed Mother, you will be my mother."
During the next two years, she lived with a kindly aunt, in a near by village. It was here she was to receive an organized course of instruction in Catholic doctrine and spiritual practice. It was the only formal education she was to receive. From the time of her first Communion at Saint Remy, Catherine became a mystic. At age eighteen Catherine had her first mystical experience. It was in the form of a dream of an old priest (who was a stranger to her,) that she assisted during a Mass. Four years later Catherine asked her father for permission to enter religious life. Her father flatly refused. A year later while in a visiting parlor of the Hospital de Saint-Sauveur in Chatillon, Catherine recognized the old priest from her dreams in a portrait of St. Vincent de Paul and knew God meant her to be a Sister of Charity. Sister Superior of the hospital was most reluctant to receive a religious candidate so poorly educated as Catherine. Due to the intercession of the Sister Assistant of the house, Sister Victoire Sejole, begged Mother Superior to accept the girl, Catherine entered the Sisters of Charity as a postulant in Chatillon on January 22, 1830.
On April 21, 1830, Catherine entered the novitiate in Paris. She arrived just in time to assist at the transition of the body of St. Vincent de Paul from the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the newly erected mother church of the Vincentian Fathers. During this time she received her first vision of the heart of St. Vincent de Paul. On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, Our Lord appeared to Catherine during Mass robed at a king. At the reading for the Gospel the symbols of his kingship fell to the ground. Catherine understood in her heart that the King of France, Charles X, would be overthrown.
Catherine received three visions of Our Lady which she gives account of in her own hand, below is this account. "On the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, good Mother Martha spoke to us of devotion to the saints, and to the Blessed Virgin in particular. It gave me so great a desire to see that I went to bed with the thought I would see my good Mother that very night. It was a desire I had long cherished. We had been given a piece of a surplice of St. Vincent. I tore my piece in half, swallowed it, and fell asleep, confident that St. Vincent would obtain for me the grace of seeing the Blessed Virgin. At eleven-thirty, I heard someone calling my name, 'Sister, sister, sister.' Wide awake, I looked in the direction of the voice. Drawing the bed-curtain, I saw a child clothed in white, some four of five years old, who said to me, 'Come to the chapel, get up quickly and come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you here.' At once the thought struck me, someone will hear me. The child answered, 'Do not be afraid. It is eleven-thirty, everyone is asleep. Come, I am waiting for you.' He followed me, or rather I followed him, he kept to my left, and was surrounded with rays of light. Wherever we went, the lights were lit, a fact which astonished me very much. But my surprise was greater at the threshold of the chapel, the door opened of itself, the child scarcely having touched it with the tip of his finger. It was the height of everything, to see that all the torches and tapers were burning. It reminded me of Midnight mass. I did not see the Blessed Virgin. The child led me into the sanctuary, to the side of M. le Director's chair There he remained the whole time. Since the time seemed long, I looked to see whether the watchers were passing by the tribunes. Finally the hour came, the child announced it to me, saying, 'Here is the Blessed Virgin, here she is.' I heard a noise like the rustling of a silk dress, which came from the direction of the tribune near the picture of St. Joseph; a lady was seating herself in a chair on the altar steps at the Gospel side, just like Saint Anne, only it was not the face of St. Anne. I doubted whether it was the Blessed Virgin. Again the child, who stood by, the whole time, said to me, 'This is the Blessed Virgin.' It would be impossible for me to describe what I felt at that moment, or what passed within me, for it seemed to me that I did not look upon the Blessed Virgin. It was then that the child spoke, no longer as a child, but as a grown man, and in the strongest terms. Looking upon the Blessed Virgin, I flung myself toward her, and falling upon my knees on the altar steps, I rested my hands in her lap. There a moment passed, the sweetest of my life. I could not say what I felt. The Blessed Virgin told me how I must conduct myself with my director, and added several things I must not tell. As to what I should do in time of trouble, she pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed. I asked her the meaning of everything I had seen, and she deigned to explain it to me.. I could not say how long I stayed with her. When she left, it was as if she faded away, becoming a shadow which moved toward the tribune, the way she had come. I got up from the steps of the altar and saw that the child was where I had left him. He said, 'She is gone...' I believe that this child was my guardian angel, who showed himself that he might take me to see the Blessed Virgin, for I had often prayed to him to obtain this favor for me. He was dressed in white, and shone with a mysterious light that was more replendent than light itself. He appeared to be four or five years old. Having returned to my bed, I heard two o'clock strike. I slept no more that night."
On July 18, to 1:30 in the morning of the 19th, Saint Vincent de Paul day, Catherine was again visited by Our Lady. Catherine describes it in her writings as the July Conversation with the Most Blessed Virgin. "My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission. you will have much to suffer, but you will rise above these sufferings by reflecting that what you do is for the glory of God. You will know what the good God wants. You will be tormented until you have told him who is charged with directing you. You will be contradicted but, do not fear, you will have grace. Tell with confidence all that passes within you, tell it with simplicity. Have confidence. Do not be afraid. You will see certain things, give an account of what you see and hear. You will be inspirited in your prayers, give an account of what I tell you and of what you will understand in your prayers. The times are very evil. Sorrows will befall France, the throne will be overturned. The whole world will be plunged into every kind of misery. But come to the foot of the altar. There grace will be shed upon all, great and small, who ask for them. Especially will grace be shed upon those who ask for them. My child, I particularly love to shed grace upon your Community. I love it very much. It pains me that there are great abuses in regularity, that the rules are not observed, that there is much relaxation in the two Communities. Tell that to him who is charge of you, even though he is not the superior. He will be given charge of the Community in a special way, he must do everything he can to restore the rule of vigor. Tell him for me to guard against useless reading, loss of time and visits. When the rule will have been restored in vigor, a community will ask to be united to your Community. Such is not customary, but I love them. God will bless those who take them in. They will enjoy great peace. The Community will enjoy great peace. It will become large. But, there will be an abundance of sorrows, and the danger will be great. yet, do not be afraid, tell them not to be afraid. The protection of God will be very present in a special way, and St. Vincent will protect you. I shall be with you myself. I always have my eye upon you. I will grant you many graces. The moment will come when the danger will be extreme. It will seem that all is lost. At that time, I will be with you. Have confidence. You will recognize my coming and the protection of God over the Community, the protection of St. Vincent over both Communites. Have confidence, do not be discouraged. I will be with you then. But it will not be the same for the other communities. There will be victims, among the clergy of Paris there will be victims. Monseigneur the Archbishop. My child, the cross will be treated with contempt. They will hurl it to the ground. Blood will flow. They will open up again the side of Our Lord. The streets will run with blood. Monseigneur the Archbishop will be stripped of his garments. My child, the whole world will be in sadness".
On November 27, 1830, which fell upon a Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, at five-thirty in the evening, in the deep silence after the point of the meditation had been read that is, several minutes after the point of meditation. I heard a sound like the rustling of a silk dress, from the tribune near the picture of St. Joseph. Turning in that direction I saw the Blessed Virgin at the level of St. Joseph's picture. The Virgin was standing. She was of medium height, and clothed all in white. Her dress was of the whiteness of the dawn made in the style called, a la Vierge, that is, high neck and plain sleeves. A white veil covered her head and fell on either side to her feet. Under the veil her hair, in coils, was bound with a fillet ornamented with lace, about three centimeters in height or of two finger's breadth, without pleats and resting lightly on the hair. Her face was sufficently exposed, instead exposed very well, and so beautiful that it seems to me impossible to express Her ravishing beauty. Her feet rested on a white globe, that is to say half a globe, or at least I saw only half. There was also a serpent, green in color with yellow spots. The hands were raised to the height of the stomach and held in a very relaxed manner and as if offering it to God, a golden ball surmounted with a little golden cross, which represented the world. Her eyes were now raised to heaven, now lowered. Her face was of such beauty that I could not describe it.
All at once I saw rings on her finger, three rings to each finger, the largest one near the base of the finger, one of medium size in the middle, the smallest one at the tip. Each ring was set with gems, some more beautiful than others. The largest gems emitted greater rays and the smaller gems, smaller rays. The rays bursting from all sides flooded the base so that I could no longer see the feet of the Blessed Virgin. At this moment, while I was contemplating Her, the Blessed Virgin lowered her eyes and looked at me. I heard a voice speaking these words: 'This ball that you see represents the whole world, expecially France, and each person in particular.' I could not express what I felt at this, what I saw, the beauty and the brilliance of the dazzling rays. 'They are symbols of the graces I shed upon those who ask for me.' (Our Lady said.) This made me realize how right it was to pray to the Blessed Virgin and how generous she was to those who did pray to her, what graces she have to those who asked for them, what joy she had in giving them. 'The gems from which ray do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask,' (the Lady continued.) At this moment I was so overjoyed that I no longer knew where I was. A frame, slightly oval in shape formed round the Blessed Virgin. Within it was written in letters of gold:
The inscription in a semi-circle began at the height of the right hand, passed over the head, and finished at the height of the left hand. The golden ball disappeared in the brilliance of the sheaves of light bursting from all sides, the hands turned out and the arms were bent down under the weight of the treasures of grace obtained. hen the voice said: ' Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces. They should wear it around their necks. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.'
At this instant the tableau seemed to me to turn, and I beheld the reverse of the Medal: a large M surrounded by a bar and a cross: beneath the M were the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword. Within minutes after the vision had disappeared. Footnote: The Miraculous Medal that Catherine was told to have struck was minted in 1832. Today the numbers of Medal that have been struck are countless in the hundred of millions. It was only in 1876, six months before her death that the great secret of Catherine was revealed. Our Lady asked for a statue to be made in honor of the November 27, apparition. Catherine was told it was to be titled, "Virgin of the Globe." Before her death on December 31, 1876, Catherine was to see the plaster model of the statue in the sculptor's studio.
The center panel depicts the first apparition when Our Lady was seated at the foot of the altar after an angel called Catherine from her sleep to come and kneel and converse with Mary for two hours on the evening of July 18th which stretched into July 19th. This is readily recognized as the "Virgin of the Chair." (1st arch). The second arch illustrates Catherine kneeling before Our Lady during the second apparition 4 months later on November 27th. During this apparition, St. Catherine was given two visions. In the first Our Lady appeared hovering above the altar, clouds surrounding her and standing on the globe of the world, crushing the serpent's head. (2nd arch) In her hands she held a glowing golden ball - or globe - radiating as she offered it to the Heavenly Father. The glowing golden ball represents all of mankind's goodness, which, with eyes uplifted, she offers to the Father as Advocate for us. In return the Beatific Vision radiates His Divine Mercy upon His little ones through His Beloved Daughter Mary. For on her hands are rings which diffuse the powerful graces and mercy God gives to His faithful ones, depicted by rays cascading on the globe beneath from the gems on her fingers. Our Lady confirmed to Catherine, "These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask." It is a confirmation of her Divine Son Jesus' words in Matthew 7: 7 and Luke 11: 9, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." It is also an affirmation that His Blessed Mother is the Advocate, Mediatrix and, working with her Divine Spouse the Holy Spirit in preparing for Christ's second coming, the Co-Redemptrix. It was in the first phase of the November 27th apparition where Our Lady conveyed the meaning of the "Virgin of the Globe" or "Virgin Most Powerful." In the final arch of the center panel, (3rd arch) Our Lady appeared above the tabernacle, still standing on the world, still crushing the serpent's head. The glowing golden globe - our gift to God - was now gone and her hands outstretched as she was extending God's gift to us through the rays of Divine Mercy radiating outward and covering the earth. This is the image Mary has always conveyed of her Immaculate Conception and much the same manner she appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous twenty-eight years later. This third arch is the way Our Lady is depicted on the medal that came to be known as the Miraculous Medal, though that was not the title Mary requested. Rather she had requested it be called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. This was twenty-four years before Blessed Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a Dogma of the Church.
The above photos are of the present chapel of Rue de Bac or "Chapel of the Apparitions." In the photo to the left above we can see three altars. Above the main altar is the illustration of Saint Catherine Laboure kneeling as Our Lady imparts her words to the humble nun in July of 1830. The center photo and the larger one at the top of this page shows Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception with rays radiating from her hands over the entire earth as clouds surround the globe. On her head a crown of twelve stars (cf. Apocalypse 12: 1). The photo above to the right of the side altar to the right of the main altar. Here jutting out of the wall in relief is the stunning image of the Virgin of the Globe, Mary Most Powerful. Below the altar is the glassed-encased coffin of the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure, which was placed there in 1933 after her body had been exhumed from her grave 57 years after her death. At this time Church officials discovered - to everyone's amazement and confirmation of her sanctity - that her body was purer than the day she died. God had allowed her earthly remains to be returned to the height of her temporal beauty - a fact that cannot be denied in the argument for supernatural preservation, commonly called "incorrupt."