St. Catherine Labouré and The Miraculous Medal For Today
We briefly interrupt our literary issue to celebrate the providential overlap of the first Sunday Advent and the feast of the Miraculous Medal. —The Editors
One of the great pleasures of parenthood is having an excuse to read favorite children’s books again. For instance, I had always loved The Boxcar Children series (the originals and early rewrite, not the recent ones) when I was young and have recently enjoyed my children reaching the age where I could read the books to them. Even better, in doing so, one sometimes discovers a gem that one either didn’t know about or didn’t exist when one was young.
One such book is an offering from Tan Books: The Miraculous Medal: The Story of Our Lady’s Appearances to St. Catherine Labouré by Mary Fabyan Windeatt. First published in 1950 and part of a wonderful series of saints books for children, the book and, I suspect, the whole series, is one of those gems I never knew about.
I had occasion to learn, however, not long ago when my oldest daughter was ill with one of those 24-hour stomach bugs that children have from time to time. She asked to be read The Miraculous Medal. While it is targeted towards children, I found the book highly insightful and helpful myself. I had never known the story of the Miraculous Medal or St. Catherine (one of the many things my Catholic school never seemed to have got around to teaching me).
And the story was stunning, especially in just how much it has to say to us today. A simple nun, actually a novice, alarmed her confessor by telling him that she had seen several visions of the Blessed Virgin. In the first such vision, her guardian angel led her to the chapel at night to behold a stunning vision: the Blessed Virgin herself! The Virgin warned the novice that she would have much to suffer, but she would do so for the glory of God and receive graces sufficient for the task. Our Lady further warned her that terrible times were ahead for France: a government overthrown, the Archbishop murdered, priests and religious persecuted… but great graces would be given to those who asked.
At another vision on November 27, 1830, the Blessed Virgin appeared, looking, to the sister’s eyes, even more beautiful than at her first vision. A veil covered her head, and in her hands was a golden ball surmounted with a cross. Her fingers glistened with precious stones, some of which sent forth brilliant rays. Yet, the sister noticed, some of the rings on her fingers sent forth no rays. The Blessed Virgin explained that the fingers that sent forth rays were a symbol of the great graces she sent on those who ask for them. Those with no rays, however, represented those graces for which mankind forgets to ask.
Finally, a golden frame appeared about her with the words, Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Mary commanded the sister to have a medal made after that model. She promised that those who wore that blessed medal, especially around the neck, would receive great graces.
After a few years of difficulty convincing her confessor of the veracity of her visions, the medal and the little prayer soon spread over France and the promised graces followed. Mankind had need of such graces. For indeed, revolutionaries continued to wreak havoc in France, the sister had frequent reason to remember the Blessed Virgin’s words at her first vision:
“My child, times are evil. Misfortunes are about to overwhelm France… the whole world will be convulsed with calamities… there will be victims in religious communities… the cross will be despised and trodden underfoot… the whole world will be in sorrow.”
The Blessed Virgin might well have been speaking of our own times. Modern attacks on marriage are well-known and need no repeating; gender ideology threatens to erase the reality of “male and female, He created them”; divorce, drug abuse, pornography, abortion, war, attacks on religion seem prevalent and on the rise. Surely, Sr. Catherine Labouré’s visions have something to say to us as well.
First, we should renew our devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She showed herself to Sr. Catherine Labouré as the giver of great graces, and she remains so still: she through whom Christ came, is the one through whom He gives grace. Second, we must ask for those graces that we so often forget to ask for. We may ask for worthy things: physical healing from illness, resolution to troubles at work, and other good things. But we should also remember to ask for the greater graces that only await our asking, the graces that lead us to heaven. Sr. Catherine proposed that we should pray the simple prayer of the medal often, and ask for the grace to love Our Lord as Our Lady loved Him. And we should do all, as the Virgin told the sister, in confidence.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Pray for us.