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Saint Catherine Labouré

Catherine Labouré was a down-to-earth woman, a saint close to our heart. Her extraordinary life was both simple and remarkable. She was passionate about God, the Blessed Virgin, Saint Vincent and those who are poor. She was extraordinarily simple and humble.

Catherine was a country girl from Burgundy, the eighth in a family of ten children. Orphaned at the age of nine, she decided to replace the mother she had just lost with our heavenly Mother, Mary. This act of faith was to be a founding event in her privileged relationship with “Heaven.”

1806, 2 MayBirth in Fain-lès-Moutiers
1815Death of her mother
1830, 21 AprilEntrance into the Seminary (novitiate) of the Daughters of Charity in Paris
1830, 18 July and
27 November
Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin
1831, 5 FebruarySent to the Hospice of Enghien to serve people who were old and poor
1876, 31 DecemberDeath of Catherine Labouré
1933Transfer of her body to the chapel of the Mother House.
1933, 22 MayBeatification
1947, 27 JulyCanonization by Pope Pius XII
28 November Liturgical feast
On 25 January 1818, Catherine made her First Communion in the church of Moutiers-Saint-Jean. She became “mystical,” as her little sister Tonine put it. From the age of twelve, Catherine became her father’s principal collaborator on the farm. Overloaded with work, Catherine worked tirelessly, which would reinforce her hard-working temperament and her endurance to overcome fatigue. Every day, she prayed at length. Before starting her day, she found a way to attend Mass at the church in Moutiers-Saint-Jean. At thirteen years old, Catherine was as much a “contemplative” as she was a “housekeeper.”

Around the age of fifteen, while she was asleep, she had a strange dream, called a “vision” in the Gospel, the meaning of which would only be understood later. Catherine received a visit from Saint Vincent de Paul who invited her to follow him.

Around the age of eighteen, she told her father about her desire to join the Daughters of Charity. He refused and hoped to change her mind by sending her to Paris to work as a cook and waitress in the working-class restaurant run by her brother.

When Catherine was twenty-two, her father finally gave in to her desire for a vocation. In April 1830, Catherine entered the Seminary at the Mother House in rue du Bac, Paris. She greatly admired Saint Vincent de Paul and drew strength, patience and light from prayer. Smiling and cheerful, Catherine was focused on people and effective day-to-day service.

As soon as she arrived at the Seminary, Catherine had visions (the heart of Saint Vincent and Christ appearing to her in the Eucharist), followed by two Marian apparitions, which are evangelization messages for the Church and the world. These two apparitions of 18 July and 27 November are inextricably linked. The first prepares the way for the second, which, of course, is of utmost importance: Mary Immaculate entrusts her Medal to the world. Through this sign, Mary reveals her Immaculate Conception. The reverse side of the Medal presents symbols which intimately link Mary to the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.

For Catherine, God was not an idea but a presence: Jesus Christ, God made man among human beings. On 5 February 1831, she was sent to serve the elderly at the hospice in Enghien, persons who are poor in the neighborhood, the afflicted, the bereaved, the marginalized… During forty-six years of tireless service, she was a haven of peace and showed a rare kindness and thoughtfulness towards even the least pleasant elderly men.   She paid special attention to the sick and the dying, for whom she was assigned to keep vigil. She saw the face of Christ in everyone. She was not only a “seer,” she was also and above all, a “believer,” revealing her heroism in unforeseen and difficult situations, notably during the French Commune. “All for God!”

In the first days of 1877, Sister Catherine was buried beneath the house of Reuilly. She was canonized 70 years after her death. In 1933, Catherine’s body was transferred to the Chapel of rue du Bac and placed under the altar of the Virgin of the Globe. In this way, Catherine appears as the first witness of a new type of sanctity, without human glory or triumph, which the Holy Spirit has started to awaken for modern times.