|Catherine Laboure Incorrupt|
I propose to state in barest outline—the space at my disposal renders anything more impossible—a few of the phenomena which accompanied the five great Apparitions granted to France in the nineteenth century—the first in Paris to a Sister of Charity in 1830, the next three to children at La Salette, Lourdes and Pontmain in 1846, 1850 and 1871 respectively, and the last to a domestic servant at Pellevoisin in 1876.
Katharine Laboure was the daughter of a Burgundian peasant. She was not able to read or write at the time when she was made aware by supernatural means that St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, was calling her to enter that holy Institute. She was still a Novice in the Mother-house in the Rue de Bac at Paris, when the three visions were granted her, from which sprang the Medal now known throughout the Catholic world as "Miraculous." It was on July 18, 1830, the Feast of St. Vincent, and Sister Katharine was praying alone in the chapel, when suddenly it was ablaze with light, and she saw a female figure of exceeding beauty enter and take her seat on the left side of the Sanctuary. There then ensued a conversation which the Sister subsequently, in obedience to her Confessor, committed to writing. The heavenly visitant told the highly favoured Novice that in all her troubles she was to throw herself before the altar, and that there she should receive all the consolation that she needed. She added that she was about to entrust her child with a Mission, for the times were evil—troubles were to come upon France, the monarchy would be overthrown, and the whole world would be overwhelmed with misfortunes of every kind—there would be victims amongst the Paris clergy—the Archbishop would die —the cross would be overturned and men would open our Lord's side afresh—the whole world would be in trouble. Katharine tells us that she asked within herself, when all this would happen, and an interior voice answered: " In forty years' time." Forty years later exactly the Commune held sway in Paris, the Archbishop, together with other clergy, was massacred, and the prophecy (committed to writing many years previously) was fulfilled.
About four months had passed after her first vision when, on November 17, Sister Katharine was once again alone in the chapel, making her evening meditation. Once again she saw our Lady, now on the right side of the Sanctuary, standing on half a a globe and holding another globe in her hands We will quote from the Sister's written account:
"Our Lady's eyes were cast upwards and her face became as it were illumined, while she offered the globe to our Lord. Suddenly her fingers appeared covered with rings of precious stones, the rays from which shed such brilliancy around that soon her dress and feet became lost in the blaze of light. The gems were of different sizes and the rays emitted from them were consequently more or less brilliant—I cannot express what I felt or all I learnt in so short a time. As I was absorbed in contemplating her, the Blessed Virgin looked at me, and an interior voice the while said, ' This globe which you see represents the world in general and France in particular.' The beauty and brilliancy of the rays as I then saw them cannot be described. The Blessed Virgin added : ' These rays are a symbol of the graces which I obtain for those who ask them of me.' Soon, an oval outline framing the picture of our Lady from the waist upwards assumed shape, the outline being formed by the words in gold : ' O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.' Then," continues the Sister in her recital, "a voice said to me : Have a medal struck according to this model. All who wear it will receive great graces. Graces will be showered in abundance on those who have confidence.' "
Suddenly the scene before Katharine seemed to turn round and she saw now the letter M surmounted by a cross, and below it two hearts, the one encircled by a crown of thorns, the other pierced with a spear. Ten days later in the same place and at the same hour the vision was repeated with slight variation— once more she saw the picture with its two sides, and once more she heard the words : "Have a medal struck according to this model." The result is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, known all over the world as the Miraculous Medal, in consequence of the innumerable graces of soul and body, many of them miraculous, which God in His Mercy has granted to those who have worn this medal, trusting in the all-powerful intercession of His Blessed Mother.