I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.
Named Zoe Laboure at her birth in the Burgundy region of France in 1806, she was usually called Catherine, her Baptismal name. She was the 9th of 11 children. When she was only nine years old, her mother died. After the funeral, she went to a statue of Our Lady, kissed it and said, “Now you will be my mother.”
Her father’s sister who lived a few miles away cared for Catherine and her sister after their mother’s death for a few years. While at her aunt’s, Catherine had a dream of a priest who asked her to serve the sick. Later, she would recognize the priest as St. Vincent de Paul who had been canonized many years earlier. At the age of 12, Catherine returned to work on the family farm. She often went to the parish church and spent time in deep prayer. When she grew older, her father became concerned that she might have a calling to religious life. So, he sent her to work for his brother in Paris. Her uncle had a place that provided meals to poor laborers. There, Catherine became acutely aware of the suffering of the poor and wanted to help them. This reinforced her call to religious life. At the age of 24, Catherine entered the religious Order founded by St. Vincent de Paul, the Sisters of Charity, noted for their care for the sick and suffering.
When she was in the novitiate, Catherine was awakened in the night by the voice of a child who said “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.” Catherine went to the chapel where she found the Blessed Mother with whom she conversed. Four months later, the Blessed Mother again appeared to Catherine as she knelt at the altar. Mary seemed to be standing on a globe with the message, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Mary asked Catherine to take the image to her spiritual director and tell him to put it on medallions so that all those who wore the blessed medal and who prayed its words in faith would receive great graces. Catherine did as she was told. But, always humble, she never revealed who she was to anyone except her spiritual director until she was on her deathbed. The Miraculous Medal was adopted by millions of Catholics and is worn by many today.
As for Catherine, she took her vows and went to work in a hospice nursing the sick and elderly poor. She also worked on the hospice farm, caring for poultry and cleaning the stables. She was loved for her devotion to the infirm, for her prayer, and for her humility. She died at that hospice farm when she was 70. The Lord and his Mother certainly taught Catherine what was for her good and led her on the way she was to go. She walked the path they showed her right into eternal life, bringing many with her.
St. Catherine Laboure is today’s Ornament of Grace.
OBSERVING THE BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTS
How might saying the words on the Miraculous Medal, remind you to have confidence in your heavenly Mother during difficult times?
“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”