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Saturday, 05 July 2008

The Chapel of Miracles, Paris - Page 4

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.

When news of Catherine’s passing reached the Parisians (by then they knew how the Miraculous Medal had come into being), they marched silently through the Paris streets. Some hung the medal from their front doors and windows.

On Wednesday, January 3, Catherine was buried in the local Reuilly cemetery. Those who prepared her body on her death said that rigor mortis had not set in. By then the Parisians had started to speak of her as The Silent Saint and one billion medals had already been struck and were in circulation worldwide. Bernadette Soubirous (Saint Bernadette) wore the medal when the Virgin appeared to her in Lourdes in 1858. Her description of the Holy Virgin confirmed that of Catherine.

The medal continued to perform miracles for those who wore it and popes referred to it and in 1894, Pope Leon XIII, approved a mass for the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846) kept the medal at the head of his bed. In 1854 Pope Pius IX had already in his ‘Ineffabilis Deus’ referred to the medal in describing the Virgin as a ‘splendid dawn that spreads its rays everywhere’. Finally, after a canonical investigation into the Virgin’s apparitions to Catherine, Pope Pius XII declared her a saint on Thursday, July 17, 1947.

Fourteen years earlier, in 1933, Catherine’s body had been exhumed. At that time, a worldwide campaign had begun for her to be canonized and her old order was going to transfer her remains for reburial in The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Catherine, however, was not reburied.

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 FranceAlthough she had died fifty-seven years earlier and had been buried for all those years, her body was perfectly preserved. Therefore, it was decided that she would lie in a glass coffin in the chapel.

The two million who come to the chapel yearly now see a beautiful young girl and not a 70-year-old woman as she was on her death. Her skin is without wrinkles and her eyes are open and very blue. One has to fight the urge to open the coffin and to touch her hands that are in holding a Rosary in prayer.

Back outside on Rue du Bac, the windows of ‘Bon Marché’ department store beckoned me. It is in this store that Johnny Depp shops when he’s in Paris; he rents an apartment in the area. Those who emerge from the shop that afternoon carried large, heavy shopping bags. In those bags would have been designer handbags, bottles of vintage champagne and things like appellation contrôlée butter – yes, not only wine receives the ‘guaranteed vintage’ label in France, so does butter.

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 FranceSome of the shoppers crossed the street to the chapel, an unassuming stone building. A beggar stood at its gateway, his skin dark with dirt. He smiled with gratitude each time a copper coin dropped into his cup. As I could see, Saint Catherine Labouré still performs miracles every day. So she did each time that beggar heard the clanking of a coin.

How to reach The Chapel of the Miraculous Medal:

The nearest Metro station is Rue du Bac. Upon emerging from the station, walk down Rue du Bac. The chapel is #140 on the right side of the street. It is a few minutes walk. Legend has it that one must approach the chapel on foot.

© Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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

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