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Saturday, 05 July 2008

The Chapel of Miracles, Paris - Page 2

Written by Marilyn Z. Tomlins
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The silence in the small chapel was both welcoming and intimidating. It was late afternoon on a weekday in Paris and gusts of wind swept a spring drizzle into the faces of shoppers. They scurried for cover, cutting through bumper-to-bumper traffic. It is forbidden to use the car horn in the French capital, but motorists were still doing so: one even beat the side of his car with a clenched fist and shouted something about acting like an imbecile.

The Labouré family also lived off the land. Pierre Labouré, head of the family, bred cattle. Doing well, the family was considered ‘upper middle-class’. He and his wife, Louise Madeleine, already had eight children when that evening of Friday, May 2, at the ringing of the bells to announce the commencement of the Angelus Mass, their ninth child, Catherine, came into the world.

Pierre and Louise Madeleine looked on the coincidence of her birth and the commencement of the Angelus Mass as a good omen. They were devout Catholics and therefore Catherine was baptized as soon as day broke. Those days, illnesses carried newborns off at an alarming rate and the two wanted to make sure that should that happen to their baby, her soul would be received by the Savior.

Catherine, to their delight, was a ‘saintly’ child. She never disobeyed them and therefore never did they have to reprimand her. Her older siblings would later recall what a kind heart she had. When she went visiting an ill relative or neighbor with her mother, she would climb onto the patient’s bed and offer a kiss; a kiss ‘to take the hurt away’, as she used to say.

Nine years after Catherine’s birth, Louise Madeleine died. She had brought another two children into the world, but Catherine had remained her favorite. It was a love that was reciprocated; this meant that young Catherine deeply mourned her mother. For comfort she turned to her faith. A maid told of how she had found her one day standing at a statue of the Madonna and saying: “From now on You will be my Mother”.

Next, Catherine announced that she wanted to take the vows. Her father, though, wouldn’t hear of it. Pierre Labouré had already given another of his daughters, Marie Louise, to the church. He wanted Catherine to marry; she would make a wonderful wife and mother, he thought. Therefore, to prepare her for marriage and motherhood, he sent her to a finishing school, which was run by an aunt. The woman quickly realized that Catherine had no interest in learning to cook and sew. “Allow her heart’s desire,” she told Pierre Labouré. “Allow her to become a nun”. He had no choice but to do so.

As Marie Louise Labouré was a “Daughter of Charity”, the Order founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in 1633, Catherine also joined the Order and entered its convent in Chatillon-sur-Seine, close to Fain-les-Moutiers, in January 1830. She was twenty-four years old. Shortly afterwards she was transferred to the Order’s ‘mother house’ at 140 Rue du Bac in Paris. She settled down rapidly yet she appeared to prefer isolation over camaraderie with the other nuns. Accordingly, when she started to have visions of the Holy Virgin, she did not initially mention it to anyone.The Chapel of Miracles, Paris, The Chapel of the Miraculous Medal, Rue du Bac, Saint Catherine Labouré, The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Fain-les-Moutiers, Burgundy, travel France

She saw the Holy Virgin for the first time on the eve of July 19, the Feast of Saint Vincent, the founder of her Order. It was a Sunday night and she had been at the Rue du Bac convent for only six months.

Catherine was already in bed and fast asleep when a voice awakened her. Opening her eyes, she saw a beautiful little girl standing at the foot of her bed. The little girl told her, “Sister Labouré, come to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you.” Catherine, still obedient, knew that nuns were not allowed to leave the dormitory at night, but she followed the child, in the dark, to the chapel. She knelt, still in the dark, at the Communion Rail and suddenly the chapel was ablaze with light. She heard a faint rustle behind her and when she turned around she saw the Holy Virgin sitting on a chair. The Virgin beckoned to her to join her and Catherine did so, kneeling in front of the Virgin, her hands in the Virgin’s lap.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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