Because Every Vocation to Marriage, Religious Life, and Priesthood is a Miracle!
Saint Catherine Labouré is the Society’s namesake and patroness. The name was taken when Our Lady, through Saint Catherine, made herself and her involvement in the work of assisting vocations known. This happened through the very first Labouré Society Aspirants, who were both devoted to Saint Catherine and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
“All who wear the medal will receive great graces.”
Saint Catherine Labouré (May 2, 1806 – December 31, 1876) was a sister of the Daughters of Charity and a Marian visionary who relayed the request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to create the Miraculous Medal worn by millions of Catholics and non-Catholics today.
She was born in the house of farmer Pierre Labouré, the ninth of 11 living children. On October 9, 1815 Catherine’s mother, Madeleine Gontard, died. Catherine was then just nine years old. Pierre’s sister suggested that she care for his two youngest children, Catherine and Tonine. After he agreed, the sisters moved to their aunt’s house at Saint-Rémy, a village nine kilometers from their home.
As a young woman she became a member of the a nursing order founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. She was extremely devout, of a somewhat romantic nature, given to visions and intuitive insights (she chose the Daughters of Charity after a dream about St. Vincent). Having lost her mother at an early age she was very fond of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that after her mother’s funeral, Catherine picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and kissed it; saying “Now you will be my mother.”
Catherine, on the night of July 18, 1830, woke up after hearing the voice of a child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, “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.”
On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Mother returned to Catherine during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, wearing many rings of different colours, most of which shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of her rings did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied “Those are the graces for which people forget to ask.” Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions. “All who wear them will receive great graces.”
Catherine did so, and after two years’ worth of investigation and observation of Catherine’s normal daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing Catherine’s identity. The request was approved and medallions began to be produced. They proved to be exceedingly popular. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been officially promulgated, but the medal with its “conceived without sin” slogan was probably influential in popular approval of the idea. Pope John Paul II used a slight variation of the reverse image as his coat of arms, a plain cross with an M in the lower right quadrant of the shield.
Catherine lived her remaining years as an ordinary nursing sister. She was pleasant and well-liked by patients and her fellow nuns. Catherine never told anyone but her confessor about her visions. So, even at her death in 1876, no one knew that Catherine was the one who brought the Miraculous Medal to the world. On March 21, 1933, Catherine’s tomb was opened and her body was exhumed. The witnesses to this event included representatives from the Archdiocese of Paris, the Daughters of Charity, the Congregation of the Mission, and medical experts. To everyone’s great astonishment, when the coffin was opened, the body of Sister Catherine was found to be incorrupt and it now lies in a glass coffin at the side altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (often simply called by its address, 140 Rue du Bac), Paris, one of the spots where the Blessed Mother appeared to her. On July 27, 1947, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII.