On the night of 18 July, 1830,
a "child" awakened Sr. Catherine Labouré (seen above) in her
Daughters of Charity convent at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, telling her to go
to the convent's chapel where Mary awaited her. There Mary told her:
God wishes to charge you with
a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace.
Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in
France and in the world. Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed
on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek them. Another community
of sisters will join the Rue du Bac community. The community will become
large; you will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent; I will always
have my eyes upon you.
Later that year, on 27 November,
Catherine saw another vision of Mary. She describes her like this:
Her height was medium and
her countenance, indescribably beautiful. She was dressed in a robe the color
of the dawn, high-necked, with plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a
white veil, which floated over Her shoulders down to her feet. Her feet rested
upon a globe, or rather one half of a globe, for that was all that could
be seen. Her hands which were on a level with her waist, held in an easy
manner another globe, a figure of the world. Her eyes were raised to Heaven,
and her countenance beamed with light as She offered the globe to Our Lord.
Mary told her that the globe
represented the whole world, especially France, a country whose faithful
had recently suffered horrible persecutions in the Revolution's Terrors and
was still going through "Enlightenment" perfidy.
The vision changed to Mary, still standing on a globe, rays of light streaming
from her fingers, enframed in an oval frame inscribed with the words, "O
Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." The
whole vision "turned" showing the back of the oval inscribed with the letter
"M" entwined with a Cross, and the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the former
surrounded with thorns, the latter pierced with a sword. 12 stars circled
this oval frame, symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles,
and showing Mary as the Mother of Israel, per the Apocalypse (ch. 12). Mary
told her to strike a medal in this form, and that all who wore it after having
it blessed would receive graces.
Sr. Catherine's spiritual director told Catherine's story to the Bishop of
Paris, who not only allowed the medal to be struck, but received some of
them himself. One of these he had with him when ministering to Napoleon's
dying, heretical chaplain. The dying man had obstinately refused to reconcile
with the Church, but as the Bishop was leaving after trying one last time
to get him to see the error of his ways, the man suddenly broke down and
repented. The Bishop attributed this to the Virgin's intercessions through
Another miraculous conversion involved that of a wealthy Jewish banker-lawyer
named Alphonse Ratisbonne. He was actually dared to wear one of the medals
and to pray the Memorare. This he did, and
as he visited a church to arrange a funeral for a friend, he had a vision
of Our Lady as she appears on the Medal. He instantly converted, and became
The Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now known as the Miraculous Medal,
has become one of the most commonly worn sacramentals in the Roman Church.
St. Catherine Labouré's body remains
incorrupt to this day and can be seen at her convent
at Rue du Bac.
Note: St. Maximillian Kolbe (+ 1941) adopted the miraculous medal as the
badge of the "Pious Union of the Militia of the Immaculate Conception" in
1917, which he founded in Rome while still a young religious of the Conventual