This is the incorrupt body of Saint Catherine Labouré entombed in a glass coffin at the side altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal often simply called by its address, 140 Rue du Bac in Paris, France.
Catherine was born Zoe Labouré on the evening of May 2, 1806 at Fain-lès-Moutiers, Côte-d'Or, Burgundy, France to farmer, Pierre Labouré and Louise Labouré was the ninth of eleven children. The day after her birth, on the feast of The True Cross, she was baptized Catherine Madeleine Labouré.
From an early age felt a call to the religious life. When Catherine was nine years old, her saintly mother died on October 9, 1815. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady's statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: "Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother." Her father's sister suggested that she care for his two youngest children, Catherine and Tonine. After he agreed, the sisters moved to their aunt's house at Saint-Rémy, a village nine kilometers from their home.
On January 25, 1818, Catherine made her First Communion. One day she had a dream in which a priest said to her: "My daughter, you may flee me now, but one day you will to come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you." Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine, she noticed a priest's picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: "Our Holy Founder Saint Vincent de Paul." This was the same priest Catherine had seen in the dream. Catherine knew she was in the right place.
|St. Catherine Laboure|
Later, on January 1830, at the age of 24, Catherine began her postulancy at Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul at Chatillon-sur-Seine. On April 21, 1830, Catherine Labouré entered the novitiate located at their Mother House, in Rue du Bac 140, Paris taking the name Catherine. On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, July 19, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of the novices a piece of cloth from the holy founder's surplice. Because of her extreme love, Catherine split her piece down the middle, swallowing half and placing the rest in her prayer book. She earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might, with her own eyes, see the Mother of God.
On July 18, 1830, on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent 1830, Catherine woke up after hearing the voice of a "shining child," who she later took to be her Guardian Angel, calling her to the chapel, where she saw and heard the Virgin Mary say to her, "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."
Several months later in the same year, on November 27, 1830, Catherine again saw Our Lady in the chapel during the community evening meditation. The Blessed Virgin Mary shown herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, wearing many rings of different colors, most of which shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words: "Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous" (O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee). As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter "M" surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of her rings did not shed light, Our Lady replied: "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Catherine then heard an interior voice spoke, telling her to take these images to her father confessor, Fr. Aladel, a Vincentian priest, to have a medal struck on this model, promising that "All who wear them will receive great graces."
Click [here] for Our Lady's Messages to Catherine in Rue de Bac.
Catherine did so, and in 1836, after two years of investigation and observation of Catherine's character and behavior, Fr. Aladel took the information to the Archbishop de Quelen of Paris without revealing Catherine's identity. The Archbishop initiated an official canonical investigation into the visions. The tribunal, basing its opinion on the stability of her confessor and Catherine's character, decided to favor the authenticity of the visions. The apparitions were approved as authentic by the Archbishop, confirming that the Miraculous Medal was supernaturally inspired and responsible for genuine miracles.
The design of the medallions was commissioned through French goldsmith, Adrien Vachette and the first medal was struck on June 20, 1832. The Medal was distributed, and rapidly earned the title of the "Miraculous Medal." She urged devotion to it, and, because of the power working through it, numerous documented answered prayers, conversions, and miraculous healing, including those of people for whom there was totally no hope, were attributed to the Miraculous Medal.
|The Miraculous Medal|
The Medal has since been reproduced, now over a billion times and distributed around the world. It was an important element in reviving Catholic belief in France. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been officially promulgated by the Church at the time, but the Medal with its "conceived without sin" served in preparing the way for the proclamation of the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
Catherine lived her remaining years as an ordinary nursing sister in the hospices of her Order. She was pleasant and well liked by patients and her fellow nuns. After receiving permission from the Virgin Mary, Catherine told Sister Dufes, the Mother Superior, of her visions and only a few people knew that Catherine was the one who brought the Miraculous Medal to the world.
Catherine Labouré died on December 31, 1876 and her body was laid to rest on January 3, 1877 in a triple lined coffin in the crypt of the chapel at Reuilly as a requirement back then for religious orders by Paris authorities. Her remains were interred there until the time of her beatification in 1933.
In 1895, her Cause for Beatification was introduced in Rome. On July 19, 1931, Catherine was declared venerable by Pope Pius XI (Decree of Heroic Virtues).
On March 21, 1933, Catherine's tomb was opened and her body was exhumed after entombed for fifty seven years. The outer wooden coffin had already disintegrated but her body miraculously remained perfectly intact seen by several eye witnesses including representatives from the Archdiocese of Paris, the Daughters of Charity, the Congregation of the Mission, and medical examiners. A detailed medical examination of Catherine's exhumed remains concluded: "The body is in perfect state of preservation, and its joints are still supple." After a detailed examination, the body was taken to the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity in Paris.
Months later, on May 28, 1933, Pope Pius XI beatified Catherine. After the celebration of the beatification, the body of Catherine was placed and now lies in a glass coffin under the renovated side altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (often simply called by its address, 140 Rue du Bac), Paris, one of the spots of the apparition, honoring the "Virgin of the Globe" where countless pilgrims have gathered close to pray for her intercession, and that of the Blessed Virgin, and where numerous miracles were reported at her tomb.
On July 27, 1947, she was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII. The Feast Day of St. Catherine Labouré is November 28 (it was formerly celebrated on December 31).
|The Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Rue de Bac in Paris, France where the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure lies in the side altar shown in this photograph.|