From her early moments in the convent, Catherine related to her confessor that she had been privileged to see the heart of the Order's founder - Saint Vincent de Paul. She was also given prophetic messages concerning the two orders the saintly founder had begun. Shortly before this vision of the heart of her founder, in April and May of 1830 Jesus Christ appeared to Catherine at Mass during Holy Communion and also during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
But on the night of July 18, 1830, Catherine was awakened from sleep by the voice of a child, crying "Sister, Sister Catherine, Sister Catherine!" Rubbing sleep from her eyes she beheld a boy of about five or six at the foot of her bed, dressed all in white. "The Blessed Virgin awaits you!", the child informed the postulant. The child, an angel, told Catherine not to be afraid, that it was half past eleven and everyone in the convent was alseep. "Come, I am waiting," was his order. This glowing child led Catherine through the long convent corridors, which were somehow strangely lit, and when reaching the chapel the the angel barely touched the heavy double doors and they swung open as if on springs. Within the chapel all the candles and torches were lit. The child led Catherine to the sanctuary, and bade her kneel beside the Chaplain's chair. Catherine later wrote that she heard the "rustling of a silken robe" coming from the side of the Sanctuary. The Mother of God came forward and bowed before the Tabernacle before seating herself in the Chaplain's chair. Catherine rushed forward and knelt before the Mother of God, her hands on her knees. Our Lady discussed many things with Catherine, reminding her of the need for constant prayer, and especially when her heart felt dark. Then Our Lady told Catherine that God wished to impart to her a very important mission. This mission, the Mother of God told Catherine, would be the cause of great suffering for her, but knowing that it was for the Glory of God, Catherine would surmount all difficulties. Our Lady then said to Catherine: "The times are very evil. Great misfortune will come to France: her throne will be overthrown. The whole world will be upset by evils of every kind...There will also be victims among the clergy of Paris. The archbishop himself will die. The cross will be insulted; blood will flow in the streets." After this message, the Mother of God "disappeared like a shadow" as Catherine later related. The small child, still glowing with a strange interior light, led Catherine back to her bed in the postulant's dormitory.
It was not until the following November on the 27th of the month which happened to be the First Sunday of Advent, did Catherine, now wearing the white veil of a novice, hear again the rustling of silk as she had in July. She raised her eyes from her meditation and beheld the Blessed Virgin on the right side of the main altar. Catherine saw that Our Lady was dressed in a white gown close to the neck and draped down over her shoulders and arms. A long veil was on her head, and only a little of her hair showed, which Catherine related was braided and held in place with lace. The Virgin raised her eyes to Heaven and it was then Catherine noted that she stood upon a green snake coiled over a white sphere. At her breast the Virgin held a golden ball surmounted by a cross. Suddenly the golden ball disappeared, and the Virgin lifted her hands toward Heaven. On each finger was beautiful, exquisite jewel, each a different size and color. Rays of intense light began to fall upon the white sphere beneath Mary's feet. Yet, not every stone emitted this light. The Queen of Heaven spoke to Catherine's heart, explaining that the "rays" were the graces which she bestowed upon the world. But from the jewels which exuded no rays, she allowed Catherine to understand that these were the graces which went unclaimed. Then the vision changed once more. Now an oval frame appeared around the Virgin. Words materialized over the frame in French, which, translated into English, said: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." Immediately the inner voice told the young nun: "Have a medal made after this pattern. Those who wear it blessed about their necks, and who confidently say this prayer, will receive great graces and will enjoy the special protection of the Mother of God." The frame then reversed and Catherine saw a large "M" surmounted by a cross, having a double bar under it. Beneath this "M", the holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary were placed, side by side, the first crowned with thorns, the other pierced by a sword. Around the whole were twelve stars.
This then was to be Saint Catherine Laboure's mission. She went to her confessor and told him all she had seen and had been instructed to do. But she was not believed, and relying upon Our Lady's advice, confidently prayed that the Mother of God would fit all the pieces together that the Divine Will might be fulfilled. Her prayers were rewarded for in less than a year after the apparition in which Catherine saw the "medal" which Our Lady desired, there were three more apparitions for the young nun. In December 1830, March and September of 1831 the Blessed Virgin expressed how displeased she was over the lack of progress on the medal. Then Catherine was told that she would not see the Mother of God again in this life. Instead, Catherine would hear Mary's voice in an interior way through locutions during prayer.
Obedient to her calling, Catherine again repeated the request of the Queen of Heaven to her confessor, and dutifully went about her work in the convent. In the fall of 1831 the young priest who was her confessor finally went to the archbishop and made known what he had been told, and about the request from the Mother of God in private revelation. Meanwhile, Catherine was known only as a good, pious nun who was much loved for the service she gave to the poor, and for her ability to make nourishing meals for them from their own meager stock. But on June 1831 the medal became a reality. Sister Catherine was very pleased and said "I will wear it with veneration, but the important thing now is to make it widely known." This ideal was realized through the two orders - the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and the Lazarists, who spread the word of the medal and its Divine origin throughout the world. Soon millions of medals were cast and the numbers kept growing as those who wore the medal with confidence and faith, and who recited the prayer, the invocation to the Blessed Mother, reported many miraculous cures. Thus the medal became known, as it remains to this day, as "THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL".
Not one of her fellow sisters or superiors ever realized that Catherine was the privileged soul who had seen Our Lady in the chapel at Rue de Bac, nor did they realize the great holiness which was hidden constantly beneath the humility of this self-effacing nun. As forty years passed, Catherine worried that the other request of Our Lady - that a statue of Our Lady in the medal be cast and placed within the Chapel at Rue de Bac - would be fulfilled. Only when she was crippled by arthritis and advancing heart trouble and asthma, did Catherine confide in her superior that it was she to whom the Mother of God had given the mission of the medal and statue. The superior, quite overcome by emotion, agreed to see to the final phase of Our Lady's request. But Catherine did not live to see its fulfillment. Sister Catherine Laboure died on December 31, 1876. Though she had kept it hidden throughout her lifetime of the sublime graces and Heavenly privileges granted her, her death made these Heavenly graces quite evident. In death all the wrinkles were smoothed away and Catherine was young again. Her cause for canonization was not introduced until 1895, and it was not until May 28, 1933 that she was beatified. Her body was found, at that time, to be miraculously preserved and was ten entombed in the motherhouse chapel at Rue de Bac. Finally Catherine was laid to rest beneath the altar upon which rested the statue Our Lady requested, Our Lady of the Globe offering the world to God. Catherine was canonized on July 27, 2947 by Pope Pius XII and her body is still incorrupt today.
Today Our Lady is still offering the world to God, offering us the opportunity to return to God as our only means of salvation - the only reason we are on this earth to begin with. And in the face of the grave warnings and messages which have continued to come from the Mother of God to many throughout the world since this time in Paris, we must reconsider if we are really listening to and responding to our Heavenly Mother's requests, for it is from Rue de Bac and from LaSalette to our present apparitions in the 80's and 90's that those who are gathered beneath her Immaculate Mantle must know we are in the end times, and all Our Lady has foretold will be fulfilled. It is interesting to note that this apparition and Our Lady's subsequent appearance at LaSalette, which we will begin in the next installment, have been approved by the Church. Medjugorje and many of the present day apparitions have not yet been approved by Rome. Yet, the messages of Rue de Bac, LaSalette, Lourdes and Fatima are the same as those of today - Pray and Prepare for all of Scripture is soon to be fulfilled.
NEXT WEEK: The Apparitions of LaSalette: The Warnings from Our Lady of LaSalette part one
60. In this perspective, the biblical theology of the "Sabbath" can be recovered in full, without compromising the Christian character of Sunday. It is a theology which leads us ever anew and in unfailing awe to the mystery of the beginning, when the eternal Word of God, by a free decision of love, created the world from nothing. The work of creation was sealed by the blessing and consecration of the day on which God ceased "from all the work which He had done in creation" (Gn 2:3). This day of God's rest confers meaning upon time, which in the sequence of weeks assumes not only a chronological regularity but also, in a manner of speaking, a theological resonance. The constant return of the "shabbat" ensures that there is no risk of time being closed in upon itself, since, in welcoming God and his kairoi - the moments of his grace and his saving acts - time remains open to eternity.
61. As the seventh day blessed and consecrated by God, the "shabbat" concludes the whole work of creation, and is therefore immediately linked to the work of the sixth day when God made man "in His image and likeness" (cf. Gn 1:26). This very close connection between the "day of God" and the "day of man" did not escape the Fathers in their meditation on the biblical creation story. Saint Ambrose says in this regard: "Thanks, then, to the Lord our God who accomplished a work in which he might find rest. He made the heavens, but I do not read that he found rest there; he made the stars, the moon, the sun, and neither do I read that he found rest in them. I read instead that he made man and that then he rested, finding in man one to whom he could offer the forgiveness of sins". (106) Thus there will be for ever a direct link between the "day of God" and the "day of man". When the divine commandment declares: "Remember the Sabbath day in order to keep it holy" (Ex 20:8), the rest decreed in order to honour the day dedicated to God is not at all a burden imposed upon man, but rather an aid to help him to recognize his life-giving and liberating dependence upon the Creator, and at the same time his calling to cooperate in the Creator's work and to receive his grace. In honouring God's "rest", man fully discovers himself, and thus the Lord's Day bears the profound imprint of God's blessing (cf. Gn 2:3), by virtue of which, we might say, it is endowed in a way similar to the animals and to man himself, with a kind of "fruitfulness" (cf. Gn 1:22, 28). This "fruitfulness" is apparent above all in filling and, in a certain sense, "multiplying" time itself, deepening in men and women the joy of living and the desire to foster and communicate life.
62. It is the duty of Christians therefore to remember that, although the practices of the Jewish Sabbath are gone, surpassed as they are by the "fulfilment" which Sunday brings, the underlying reasons for keeping "the Lord's Day" holy - inscribed solemnly in the Ten Commandments - remain valid, though they need to be reinterpreted in the light of the theology and spirituality of Sunday: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Then you shall do no work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your servant, or your maid, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your beasts, or the foreigner within your gates, that your servant and maid may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded that you keep the Sabbath day" (Dt 5:12-15). Here the Sabbath observance is closely linked with the liberation which God accomplished for his people.
63. Christ came to accomplish a new "exodus", to restore freedom to the oppressed. He performed many healings on the Sabbath (cf. Mt 12:9-14 and parallels), certainly not to violate the Lord's Day, but to reveal its full meaning: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27). Opposing the excessively legalistic interpretation of some of his contemporaries, and developing the true meaning of the biblical Sabbath, Jesus, as "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mk 2:28), restores to the Sabbath observance its liberating character, carefully safeguarding the rights of God and the rights of man. This is why Christians, called as they are to proclaim the liberation won by the blood of Christ, felt that they had the authority to transfer the meaning of the Sabbath to the day of the Resurrection. The Passover of Christ has in fact liberated man from a slavery more radical than any weighing upon an oppressed people - the slavery of sin, which alienates man from God, and alienates man from himself and from others, constantly sowing within history the seeds of evil and violence.
TOMORROW: Part Thirteen of Dies Domini: Chapter Four, DIES HOMINIS Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity part three.
At one Life in the Spirit Seminar, we were preparing people to receive the Baptism in the Spirit. One couple there absolutely hated one another. Their divorce lawyers had lined up the machinery for legally rupturing their marriage. Strangely enough, both had decided to attend the seminar in the midst of dismantling their marriage.
Because our team had heard about their hatred and antagonism for each other, we were secretly praying for them. Then we prayed for them to receive the Baptism in the Spirit. All that hatred and resentment that had been accumulating for years suddenly dissolved. They fell madly in love with each other and started a second honeymoon-which utterly frustrated their divorce lawyers. This was an instantaneous healing of their minds. They had been contaminated with the forces of evil. We prayed for their deliverance from the spirits of divorce, resentment, and hatred before we prayed for their Baptism in the Spirit, and deliverance came. What a fantastic testimony they gave the following week, standing arm-in-arm at the microphone, telling of their miracle of grace!
The couple had not even known we were praying for them. The power of the faith of the core group worked on their behalf, even without their knowledge! Such situations show us that we have control over heaven's floodgate of power and grace. If we exercise the prayer of faith, we can do marvelous things, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. "In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you'll be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16).
The concern of a faith-filled person reflects higher priorities and is very altruistic. The faith champion often asks, "What can I do for this community, how can I enrich others how can I contribute to community spirit, how can I glorify God - not merely, how can I get cured? Hence, this admonition is appropriate: Beware of a selfish attitude in prayer. A weak, almost useless faith is found in persons frequently asking to be prayed over for healing, but who seldom pray for the needs of others except their own family. These persons usually give far more emphasis to petition prayer than to praise prayer. Theirs is a kindergarten faith.
In the next installment, part one of "Survival of the Spiritually Fittest."
It is truly right and just to exalt You, O God of infinite mercy, as we honor with fitting praise Christ, the King of the universe, on the feast of Saint Martha, who was happy to welcome Him into her house and served Him with devotion and loving zeal. By the generosity of her heart she obtained the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, who was four days dead, and she merited to be united for all eternity in the kingdom of Heaven with Him Whom she had received as a guest.