THE HISTORY OF THE APPARITIONS OF OUR LADY TO SAINT CATHERINE LABOURÉ IN 1830
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF A MISSION
On 18th of June 1830, on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, of which Catherine was so much devoted, the young novice resorts to the intercession of St. Vincent whose heart she has seen overflowing with love, in order to help her fulfill her great desire to see the Holy Virgin. At 11:30 am, she hears somebody call her by name.
A mysterious child at the foot of the bed invites her to get up: “The Holy Virgin awaits you,” he tells her. Catherine dresses and follows the child who spreads rays of light everywhere where he passes.
Having arrived in the chapel, Catherine stops on the side of the priest’s chair, located in the choir. Hearing then a sound “like the rustle of a silk robe.” Her little guide calls out: “Here is the Holy Virgin,”. Catherine hesitates to believe. But the child repeats with a louder voice: “Here is the Holy Virgin.” Catherine runs to kneel beside our Lady who is seated on the chair (of the priest).
“I then sprung to get close to Her, and I knelt on the steps of the altar, my hands resting on Mary’s knees. That moment that I passed at the foot of our Lady was the sweetest moment of my life. It would be impossible for me to related in words what I felt. The Blessed Virgin told me then how I should dispose myself with my confessor and many other things.” Catherine receives the announcement of a mission and the request to form the Confraternity of the Daughters of Mary. This will be done later by his confessor Father Aladel on February 2, 1840.
THE 27th of NOVEMBER 1830
On November 27, 1830, which fell on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, at half past five in the evening, a few minutes after the reading of the point of meditation, in the great silence, I seemed to hear a noise from the side of the tribune, near the picture of St. Joseph, like a rustle of a silk robe. I looked in that direction and saw the Holy Virgin at the height of the painting of St. Joseph, standing on a white globe. She was dressed in white, of medium height, and Her face was so beautiful that it would be impossible for me to describe it. She had a white-aurora dress, made as they say “as the virgin”, with smooth sleeves. The head was covered with a white veil, which fell from both sides to the feet.
Under the veil I saw Her hair spaced in the middle and above them a lace of about three millimeters in height, without folds, that is, resting slightly on the hair. Her face was clearly visible, Her eyes now rising towards the sky and now lowered. The feet rested on a globe, that is a half globe, because I saw only half of it. In Her hands She held another globe, which represented the world, at the level of the heart with an innate maternal care. Her eyes were turned towards the sky and Her appearance was so beautiful that I could not describe it.
Then, suddenly, Her fingers were filled with rings with precious stones, one more beautiful than the other, some larger, others smaller, which emitted rays, one more beautiful than the other … These rays shone from all sides and filled the lower part with such great splendor, so that I no longer saw Her feet in the bright light…
While I contemplated Her, the Holy Virgin lowered Her eyes and looked at me. I heard then a voice that spoke to me:
“This globe represents the whole world, especially France, and every person in particular … The rays are the symbol of the graces that I grant to those who ask of me …”.
I understood then how sweet it is to pray to the Holy Virgin, how much She is generous towards the people who pray to Her … and how much joy She feels in granting graces at such persons. At that moment, I knew not if I still alive or not … I only knew in my heart that I was very happy!
… Then something formed around the Holy Virgin like an oval picture frame, in which these words were written in gold letters:
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”
Then I heard a voice that told me:
“Make a medal according to this model; the people who will wear it around their neck will receive great graces; the graces will be more abundant for the people who will bring it with faith “.
… Suddenly it seemed to me that the painting turned and I saw the back of the Medal. Anxious to know what should be engraved on this side of the Medal, after many prayers, one day, during the meditation, I seemed to hear a voice that told me:
“La M [letter M] and the two Hearts say enough!”
Then everything disappeared like something that went faded away and I was full of something I cannot describe, such blessed feelings of joy and of consolation ».
On the model of medal which Mary Herself commissioned to Catherine was inscribed the inscription that only in 1854 was defined as a dogma: The Immaculate Conception: ” O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” written in gold letters.
THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
In the month of December 1830, during the time of meditation, Catherine heard a rustle again, this time behind the altar. The same oval image with our Lady appeared near the tabernacle, but a little further behind.
«These rays are the symbol of the graces that the Holy Virgin obtains for the people who ask of her» then She concluded saying to Catherine … «You will not see me anymore»
It is the end of the series of apparitions. Catherine tells her confessor, Father Aladel, about the requests of Our Lady. The Priest reacts negatively, forbiding Catherine to think about these things. The shock was strong for her. On January 30, 1831, her novitiate formations end. Catherine then takes her vows and becomes a professed sister. The next day, she is assigned to the hospice of Enghien founded by the Orléans family, which is located at No. 12 of via de Picpus, à Reuilly, in the east of Paris, in a poor neighborhood, where she will serve the poor for good 46 years, unknown to the world. After a few months have passed after the apparitions, Sister Catherine continues her work in the shelter of Enghien (Paris, 12th) to treat the elderly. The young nun goes to work. But an inner voice insists: the medal must be coined. Catherine tells it to her confessor, Father Aladel.
In February 1832 a terrible cholera epidemic broke out in Paris, which will eventually cause more than 20,000 deaths!
Finally, Father Aladel, persuaded of the sanctity of her penitent and of the reality of the celestial communications, and fearing to displease the Virgin whose complaints for the delay were addressed to him, decided to turn to the Archbishop of Paris, Mgr. De Quelen, for permission to proceed with the coining of the Medal. The permit was granted with enthusiasm but the coinage was delayed until June 1832, due to the still raging cholera epidemic that infested Paris.
On June 30, 1832, the goldsmith Aurélien Vachette delivered the first 1500 medals. On the back, where Catherine has quoted the Virgin saying: “The M and the two hearts are enough”, Vachette added the 12 stars of Revelation 12,1 that surround the whole back of the medal. Despite these innovations, Sister Catherine has approved the new Medal of the Immaculate Conception, as it was called in the beginning.
The Archbishop received the first Medals and immediately experienced its effectiveness with the conversion of the former Bishop of Malines, Msgr. Pradt, who had become schismatic, was in danger of dying out of the Church. It was the first miracle of the Medal!
In June, the Daughters of Charity begin to distribute the first medals, as had been coined by Father Aladel. Many healing, miraculous protections and conversions. It was an extraordinary event. The people of Paris called the medal «miraculous».
In autumn 1834 there were already more than 500,000 medals. In 1835 there were already more than a million in the whole world. In 1839 the medal was spread over more than ten million specimens.
At the death of Sister Catherine, in 1876, there were already more than a billion medals!
Its diffusion was truly prodigious, not only in France but throughout Europe. Since the early years millions and millions of Medals were minted, and the graces obtained were so amazing that the Medal was soon called by everyone “Miraculous”. Carry it with faith and love, imitating the purity of the Immaculate, and it will also be truly miraculous for you!
After her death her body was buried in the crypt under the Church of the Convent of Rue du Bac, Paris. In 1933, when she was exhumed, she was found incorrupt. Her remains are currently exhibited in the same chapel where Catherine received the apparitions of the Madonna, not far from the urn where of the heart of San Vincenzo de Paoli is kept.
THE MEANING OF THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
The words and images imprinted on the front of the medal expresses a message with three aspects intimately linked.
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”.
The identity of Mary is revealed to us here explicitly: The Virgin Mary is immaculate from the moment of conception. From this privilege, which derives from the merits of the Passion of her Son, Jesus Christ, springs forth all Her power of intercession, which She exercises for those who pray to Her.
And this is why the Holy Virgin invites all men to resort to Her in the difficulties of life.
His feet are placed on the half-globe and crushes the head to the snake.
The semi-sphere is the terrestrial globe, the world. The serpent, as with the Jews and the Christians, symbolizes Satan and the forces of evil.
The Virgin Mary Herself is engaged in this spiritual battle, in the struggle against evil, of which our world is the battlefield. Mary calls us to enter into the logic of God, which is not the logic of this world. This is the authentic grace, that of conversion, which the Christian must ask Mary to transmit to the world.
Her hands are open and Her fingers are adorned with rings covered with precious stones, from which comes out rays of light, which fall to the earth, spreading outwards.
The splendor of these rays, like the beauty and light of the apparition, as described by Catherine, recall, justify and nourish our trust in Mary’s fidelity (symbolized by the rings) towards Her Creator and towards Her children, in efficacy of Her intervention (the rays of grace, which fall on the earth) and in the final victory (the light), since She Herself, the first disciple, is the first of the saved.
The medal bears on its back a letter and images, which introduces us to the secret of Mary. The letter “M” is surmounted by a cross.
The “M” is the initial of Mary, the cross is that of Christ. The two intertwined signs show the indissoluble relationship that binds Christ to His most holy Mother. Mary is associated with the mission of salvation of all humanity by Her son Jesus and participates through Her compassion (cum + suffering = suffering together), at the very act of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.
Below, we see two hearts, one surrounded by a crown of thorns, the other pierced by a sword. The heart crowned with thorns is the heart of Jesus. Remember the cruel episode of the Passion of Christ, before his death, as told in the Gospels. The heart symbolizes His Passion of love for men.
The heart pierced by a sword is the heart of Mary, His mother. It refers to the prophecy of Simeon, recounted in the Gospels, the day of the presentation of Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph. It symbolizes the love of Christ, which is in Mary and recalls Her love for us, for our salvation and acceptance of the sacrifice of Her Son.
The juxtaposition of the two Hearts expresses that the life of Mary is a life of intimate union with Jesus.
Around also we see twelve stars are depicted. They correspond to the twelve apostles and represents the Church. Being united to the Church means loving Christ, participating in His passion, for the salvation of the world. Every baptized person is invited to join in the mission of Christ, uniting his heart to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The medal is a call to the conscience of each one, so that he may choose, as Christ and Mary, the way of love, until the total gift of oneself.
Officially approved by the Church, the miraculous Medal has spread everywhere and no one can count the “great graces” obtained. Among the best known, the conversion of the Jew Alfonso Ratisbonne, on January 20, 1842, in Rome, in the church of Sant ‘Andrea delle Fratte: a conversion which aroused 75 years later in the young Maximilian Kolbe one of the strongest drives to found the Militia of Immaculate. A marble bust of the Saint recalls the First Mass that he wanted to celebrate on April 29, 1918.
Another famous miracle is that of Felini Lidio, who died at about 85 years, who during the war in Abyssinia was saved from the miraculous Medal that had stopped an explosive bullet. This bullet struck, denting it, the aluminum medallion that Lidio kept in the breast pocket of his jacket, causing only minor injuries. The colonel doctor told him that he had been miraculous saved and the episode was reported by Corriere della Sera (a major Italian Newspaper) at the time.
The truth of faith expressed by the words engraved on the miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin …” anticipated the solemn definition of the Church made by Pius IX on 8 December 1854, later confirmed by Our Lady at Lourdes in 1858 with the words said to Bernadette :
“I am the Immaculate Conception”.
In this truth we highlight at least three of the privileges of which Our Lady is richly filled: the immaculate nature of Her conception, Her universal mediation, Her royalty. Thus Mary is fully entitled to be united in the “Mystery of Christ and of the Church”.
THE MILITIA OF THE IMMACULATE AND THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
In the wake of the Franciscan tradition, the “Mystery of the Immaculate Conception” of Mary becomes for Fr. Kolbe an ideal of life and apostolate. Troubled by the intemperance of those times against the Church and the Pope, he founded in Rome October 16, 1917 the Militia of the Immaculate, a Marian Franciscan missionary movement, open to all Christians. “St. Francis, writes Fr. Kolbe, is the model of the missionary and his example leads to the apostolate directed to the salvation and sanctification of souls “(see SK 299).
The essence of the Militia of the Immaculate is to dedicate oneself without limitation or reserved to the Immaculate.
Its purpose: to bring the Immaculate into the hearts of all men, so that She may bring them to the knowledge of Jesus and inflame them with love for His most Sacred Heart (see SK 486)
The means to use: all the lawful ones at their disposal, but above all the printing and the miraculous Medal; this is the external sign of one’s own consecration and the source of graces promised by Our Lady (see SK 56); it is the instrument of one’s struggle again evil and a reason for prayer. To be, therefore, reliable interpreters of the Gospel and capable of arousing Christian and vocational choices with prayer, penance, good example, cordiality, gentleness, goodness as a reflection of the goodness of the Immaculate (see SK 97).
HOW TO LIVE THE VALUE OF THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
As a visible sign of love for Our Lady and of trust in Her protection,
- bring the miraculous Medal always,
- spread it everywhere and to everyone,
- offer it to those who are suffering, to the sick, to those who no longer have faith,
- make it known to children and young people.
Do not be superstitious! Instead of the “cornetto” (typical Italian little red horn lucky charm or other types of “lucky charms”, you should prefer the miraculous Medal. It is rather better to confide in the help of the Guardian Angel and in the love of Mary. Pray with faith the invocation of the Medal together the proper addition of the Militia of the Immaculate to the prayer as suggested by Father Kolbe:
O Mary, conceived without sin, prays for us that we appeal to you and for those who do not recur to you, especially for the enemies of the holy Church and for those who are recommended to you.
VIDEO PILGRIMAGE OF THE SANCTUARY to RUE DU BAC:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE – http://www.chapellenotredamedelamedaillemiraculeuse.com
The book “The prophecy that does not end” – by Saverio Gaeta, Andrea Tornielli – LINK to Google Books