St. Catherine Labouré is commonly remembered as the “Saint of the Miraculous Medal” and is admired for her tender relationship with the Blessed Mother, who entrusted her with the mission of spreading the message of her immaculate love. Catherine, called “Zoé” by her family, was an ordinary and obedient girl from an upper-middle class family in France. She has been described as “the confidante of the Queen of Heaven [that would] usher in the age of Mary.” After losing her mother at the age of nine, Catherine quickly became a caretaker in their family of eleven children. During this time, young Zoé adopted Mary as her mother after finding a statue of the Madonna and saying, “Now, dear Blessed Mother, now you will be my Mother!”
“Now, dear Blessed Mother, now you will be my Mother!”
At age 11, Zoé was already in charge of the family farm, completing household chores, milking cows, and running the dairy they owned preparing butter and cheese. Often during her adolescence, Catherine would run to the local parish and lay prostrate on the floor in prayer and contemplation. At age 19, Saint Vincent de Paul, whom Catherine initially did not recognize, appeared to her in a dream and instructed her to “do good for the sick.” This dream occurred during a time of great vocational discernment and inspired Catherine’s later entry into Saint Vincent’s religious order of the Daughters of Charity at age 24. As a novice, Catherine was awoken from a dream by an angel child instructing her to go to the chapel. From this first encounter with Our Lady in the candlelit chapel, Catherine came to recognize Mary’s presence by the sound of “swishing silk.” She conversed with Mary for over two hours that night, and Mary entrusted information about the future of France (including the death of an archbishop) and of their community of sisters to Catherine.
Four months later, during her second encounter with Mary, Catherine knelt at the altar in a state she later described as “immersed in supreme delight.” During this contemplation, she looked up to find Mary standing on a globe with the message, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” appearing around her. Mary shared the promise of the Miraculous Medal with Catherine, instructing her to spread the image: “All those who wear [the medal], when it is blessed, will receive great graces especially if they wear it round the neck. Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed on those who have confidence.”
“I knew nothing. I was nothing. For this reason God picked me out.”
Catherine’s sanctity is admirable because she was not especially talented, rich, poor, or more devout than those around her, but she was obedient throughout her entire life, even in carrying the secret of Mary’s revelation to her death. As instructed, she only shared her experience with her spiritual director, Father Jean Marie Aladel, and the Bishop. By the time of her death, over a billion medals had been spread through France and beyond, not due to Catherine’s action but to her quiet trust and obedience. Catherine is also known as the “Saint of Silence,” as she spent her life in the convent attending to her daily duties and tasks while Mary’s message spread to all souls willing to receive it. May we all strive to tend to our daily tasks and God’s will with Saint Catherine’s spirit and by her words: “I knew nothing. I was nothing. For this reason God picked me out.”
Feast Day: November 28