Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 2004
Sr. Catherine meets Our Lady
Daughter of Charity experienced three apparitions
St. Catherine Labouré - - November 28
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Although it doesn't look like an obvious pilgrim location, No. 140 rue du Bac on Paris' left bank attracts thousands of visitors each year.
This is the place where the famous Miraculous Medal originated as a result of the first modern apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Anyone in the seventh arrondisement can direct strangers to the entrance arch in a featureless convent wall that opens into a broad, open-air passageway. This in turn leads to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal where St. Catherine Labour‚, in 1830 was visited three times by the Virgin Mary.
Daughters of Charity
The chapel is part of the Motherhouse of the Company of the Daughters of Charity, founded in 1633 by Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac to provide a vehicle for aiding the poor.
At 24, Catherine entered the order and led a life that was unusual only for her humility, except for a brief period when she experienced the apparitions.
On the evening of July 18, she conversed for the first time with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the convent chapel.
In a second encounter, Mary appeared to Catherine as the Lady of the Globe and later as the Virgin of Radiant Graces. This latter image was surrounded by an oval border and was the model that Our Lady directed be reproduced as a medal.
She also displayed the reverse of the medal with an M, a cross and two hearts surrounded by 12 stars.
A month later in her last appearance, Mary confirmed the mission confided to Catherine and reaffirmed the importance of keeping her experiences secret from all but her confessor. He would initiate production of the Miraculous Medal which would "grant abundant graces to those who wore it."
Amazingly, it was not until her death in 1875 and after millions of medals had been made, that the identity of the novice who had experienced the apparitions became known.
Sister Catherine had kept faith with Our Lady and had spent her 46 remaining years humbly serving others, away from the chapel and in complete anonymity regarding the visions and medal. She was declared a saint in 1947.
Visitors entering the chapel passageway are welcomed in convent offices that open off to the right. On the other side of the entryway is a wall displaying a series of stone panels that tell the story of Catherine and the apparitions.
Inside the chapel, a statue of the Virgin of Radiant Graces, a reproduction of the image seen by Catherine on Nov. 27, dominates the area behind the main altar. This is the figure on the Miraculous Medal. Although it would be another 24 years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined by Pope Pius IX, Our Lady directed that the medal inscription should read "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you."
Our Lady of the Globe
To the right of the main altar on the spot where the second appearance took place, the reliquary of the saint in repose is surmounted by a statue of Our Lady of the Globe. Further to the right is an altar dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul with a statue of the Order's founder and an armchair that the Blessed Virgin occupied during her first visit.
The reliquary of St. Louise de Marillac occupies a similar chapel on the left.
Leaving the chapel, perhaps after attending one of the three daily masses, vespers or other observances, visitors pass again through the open entryway, past statues of the founders and above the exit arch, a sculpted portrayal of St. Catherine meeting Our Lady.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.