On this day: Apparition in the rue du Bac

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day in 1830, St. Catherine Labouré had her first vision of the Virgin Mary in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in the rue du Bac, Paris.

Catherine, who was twenty-four years old, was a novice. On July 18th, the day before the feast of St. Vincent de Paul which was celebrated on July 19th at that time, "the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of them a piece of cloth from his surplice. Catherine earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might with her own eyes see the mother of God.

"She was convinced that she would see the Blessed Virgin Mary that very night; and in her conviction, Catherine fell asleep. Before long, she was awakened by a brilliant light and the voice of a child. 'Sister Laboure, come to the Chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you.'

"Catherine replied: 'We shall be discovered.'

"The little child smiled, 'Do not be uneasy; it is half past eleven, everyone is sleeping... come, I am waiting for you.' She rose quickly and dressed. The hall lights were burning. The locked chapel door swung open at the angel's touch. Amazed, Catherine found the Chapel ablaze with lights as if prepared for midnight Mass. Quickly she knelt at the communion rail, and suddenly, she heard the rustle of a silk dress... the Blessed Virgin, in a blaze of glory, sat in the director's chair. The angel whispered: 'The Blessed Mother wishes to speak with you.'"

--from the "Story of Saint Catherine Laboure", Association of the Miraculous Medal, Perryville, Missouri.

Sr. Catherine related her visions to her confessor, but no one else would know that she was the Daughter of Charity to whom the Virgin Mary appeared until the end of her life. For forty years Catherine Labouré cared for the old men at the Hospice d'Enghien at Reuilly.

"Catherine's day changed very little over forty years; only the faces of her charges changed as new inmates came to take the places of those who had died. Her order of day was substantially the same in 1876 as it was in 1836. The story of how she cared for her beloved old men is, exteriorly, the story of her life: serving their meals, mending their clothes, supervising their recreations, providing them with snuff and smoking tobacco, bringing them into line when they broke her wise regulations, nursing them in their illnesses, watching at their deathbeds. Select any year of the forty, and the results are plain to see: her old men were perfectly cared for in body and soul. Catherine was completely devoted to them, even jealously so. She was rarely off duty, and then only for the good of her own soul."

--from Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal, by Joseph I. Dirvin, C. M., Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1958.

Click here to visit the chapel in the rue du Bac.

Click here for a picture of the Miraculous Medal. (It will still revolve if you copy and paste it.)

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