In Paris, at number 140 Rue Du Bac, not far from the Eiffel Tower, there is a shrine. In this Sanctuary there is the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal. It is not very far from the Louvre and can be easily reached by the metro which has one of its stops right on Rue Du Bac.
The Chapel of the Miraculous Medal attracts one million pilgrims every year. People of all races and colors, who come here, in the heart of Paris, to seek an answer to their existential problems. To ask for graces to Our Lady who knows and understands everything and with whom we can let off steam as only with a mother is it possible to do, in absolute silence, in an atmosphere of great fervor and recollection. It is in this place that Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure three times giving her and the whole world the medal of the Immaculate Conception also known as the Miraculous Medal.
Catherine Labouré was born in the village of Fain-lès-Moutiers, in Burgundy (France) on May 2, 1806. Ninth of 11 children, she received a profound Christian education but never attended any school, only later did she learn to write. Her mother died when she was 9 years old. A few days after the death of her mother, she was seen by a maid mounting on a chair to embrace a statuette of the Our Lady placed on the altar, as if to say to her: “You are now my Mother”. Since childhood she felt the desire to become a nun, so much so that on the day of her First Communion she felt inspired to promise this to Jesus.
At 18 years of age she had a dream that confirmed her in her purpose. An old priest appeared to her, first in church and then at the bedside of an infirm. The girl, frightened, wanted to escape, but the priest, with infinite sweetness, said to her: “My daughter, it is a beautiful thing to take care of the sick; you now escape me, but one day you will be happy to come to me. God has plans above you: do not forget it. “
And it was precisely in the parlor of the Hospice of Chatillon-sur-Seine that Catherine, placing her gaze on a painting by Saint Vincent de Paul, recognized the priest of the dream.
Having overcome his father’s reluctance, she entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, in Paris, on April 21, 1830 with the name of Sister Catherine. Saint Vincent immediately wanted to show his predilection for this daughter of him, and in the days that followed the feast of the translation of the relics of the Saint, which took place in that year, she saw the saint’s heart several times rise above the reliquary displayed in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity.
RUE DU BAC: THE APPARITIONS
On the night of July 18, 1830, on the eve of the feast of Saint Vincent, Catherine prayed to the saint to do her the grace to see the Virgin Mary in a dream and fall asleep.
At 11.30 pm she was awakened by a voice that called her three times in a row. And here appears next to the bed a child of the age of about 4 years who gave off light. He was her guardian angel who told her to hurry that the Blessed Virgin was waiting for her in the chapel.
As soon as she entered it, she found the place lit up like a party during Christmas night with torches and candles. The angel told her to kneel beside the priest’s chair in the presbytery and to wait.
At midnight, the boy told her that the Virgin Mary was coming. Here Catherine heard a noise, like the rustle of a silk robe coming from the side of the epistle and the Virgin Mary appeared to her. The woman was of indescribable beauty, sitting on the armchair. Catherine found it hard to believe what she was seeing, even mistaken the Virgin for Saint Anne. But her guardian angel confirmed that she was actually Jesus’ mother.
Catherine knelt down and placed her hands on the knees of the Virgin Mary who spoke to her sweetly giving her recommendations on how she should endure the contrarieties and on how God had entrusted her with an important mission. She consoled her, warning her that she would have to endure many difficulties but that the grace of the Lord would be with her. That praying she would receive inspirations to overcome all this. She also told her that at the foot of this altar the graces would have been granted to young and old if they had been asked with confidence and fervor. Finally she gave her a message for her confessor Father Aladel who was destined to found the brotherhood of the Daughters of Mary.
After saying this, here the face of the Mother changed into a face so sad that Catherine saw a few tears fall and added that France should have suffered great misfortunes. The clergy would have had victims and that the world would have been hit by serious misfortunes all within forty years. The Virgin Mary went away and Catherine was accompanied to her room by her guardian angel who illuminated her passage. Joy pervaded her heart and she reflected on everything that had happened to her.
It was the eve of Advent, November 27, 1830. While Catherine was in the chapel with her sisters to meditate in a profound silence the reading of the day, she heard a rustle of a silk dress. He turned in the direction of the noise and saw the Virgin Mary, who had longed to see again and joy filled her heart.
The Virgin Mary was beautiful, she wore a very simple white silk dress, with a white veil too. The silver-blue cloak, her feet rested on a globe, with her hands holding another smaller and golden globe surmounted by a cross that explained to her to represent the earth and each person in particular. The hands were gently raised, the eyes turned upwards. A greenish snake threatened her heel but she crushed it with her feet. Suddenly she saw the fingers of the Virgin Mary filling up with rings covered with small and large precious gems that emanated beams of light, which due to the great light that they emanated made the dress and feet of the Virgin Mary invisible.
The Virgin explained to Catherine that the rays represented the graces that the people who asked her received, of how generous she was in granting and happy. Afterwards she saw the appearance of golden letters from her right hand to her left hand and Catherine read: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you”. Now the vision took the form of a medal that turned and on the reverse Catherine saw a large letter the “M” surmounted by a cross and under the Sacred Heart of Jesus surrounded by thorns and that of Mary pierced by a sword, all framed from twelve stars.
On a day in December 1830 always around 5.30pm. The Virgin appeared to Catherine taking the form of the Medal reminding her once again that the rays she saw were the graces that she bestowed on those who asked for them. The vision ended with the warning that she would no longer appear to her but that she would hear His voice during prayer.
THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
In the years following the apparitions, everything came true about the events that would occur. The Miraculous Medal was made in 1832. Ten years later, around ten million were distributed worldwide. Father Aladel founded the Brotherhood of the Daughters of Mary in 1838, which in 1969 will take the name of Marian Youth. Today spread all over the world. The dogma of the immaculate conception was defined on December 8, 1854. On December 31, 1876 Catherine Labourè died. But before going into agony she was concerned with making the Medals.
In 1933 in the period preceding his beatification the body was exhumed and with great amazement the body was found intact despite the great humidity of the place. In 1947 she was canonized becoming Saint Catherine Labourè.
HOW TO GET THERE: To reach Rue du Bac and the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal you must use the metro stop on Rue Du Bac.