Tuesday, November 22, 2016

St. Catherine Laboure: A Saint We Can All Emulate

On November 28th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Miraculous Medal, Mary's gift to us. On November 29th, the Church remembers St. Catherine Labouré, the chosen messenger of the Miraculous Medal. The life of Catherine Labouré has much to teach us and there is much about her life that we can imitate.

I have always found the story of Mary's apparitions to Catherine awesome. Imagine being led to the chapel by an angel in the middle of the night to find Mary waiting there and then to spend several hours in conversation with her! Years later, Catherine would say they were the sweetest moments of her life and she could not begin to describe them. This visit with Mary was followed by an apparition while at prayer with sisters in the chapel. Mary appeared holding a globe which she said "represented the whole world and each person in particular." This image was followed by the image of what we now know as the Miraculous Medal: Mary's hands extended bestowing graces and the word "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

These apparitions and Mary's words to Catherine surely affirm Mary's love for each of us and her constant intercession on our behalf. The apparitions are not part of what we can imitate of St. Catherine; nor are the apparitions what made her a saint. Rather, it is Catherine's fidelity to keeping room for God in her life, paying attention to life and people around, and using the gifts God gave her that make her a saint. And these are things that each of us can also do.

For example, Catherine was a small child when her mother died. Catherine accepted this reality, putting confidence in our Blessed Mother to be her mother and accepting the guidance of her father and her older sister and aunts who cared for her. And Catherine prayed, often in the small village church, and sometimes walking six miles to Mass in the parish church. Some years later, when her older sister wanted to enter the Daughters of Charity, Catherine stepped up to manager the household for her father and brothers who worked the family farm. Each of us can find ways in our life to accept what befalls us, to pray regularly, and to step up and use the gifts God has given us to do what needs to be done.

When Catherine wanted to enter the Daughters of Charity, her father's first response was "No. I have already given one daughter to God." He sent Catherine to Paris to help her brother run his restaurant, thinking that Parisian life would distract her. Catherine went to Parish and worked hard to help her brother, but she was not distracted. She continued to keep room for God in her life. eventually, her father gave his permission and Catherine entered the Daughters of Charity in the Motherhouse at 140 Rue du Bac. It was here during her Seminary that Catherine had her apparitions. She shared the apparitions with her confessor who helped to get the Miraculous Medals made. No one else knew to whom the apparitions were made.

From the Seminary, Catherine was sent to work at a home for the elderly outside Paris. She lived and worked with the local community of Daughters of Charity here for years. She was a faithful Daughter of Charity: a good companion and a gentle and attentive caregiver to the elderly men given to her care. No one knew that she was the one who had received the apparitions of the Miraculous Medal. Catherine was a country girl, not very well educated and, for the most part, unnoticed by others. Her Sister Servant did not particularly like Catherine and often berated her. Catherine never took offense at this behavior, but instead would find a reason to approach the Sister after a confrontation to ask a permission or make a comment so that she would know that there was no offense taken. We can imitate these choices of Catherine: to not look for the praise or attention of others, even for "special" things that happen to us; to be the first to forgive and forget.

St. Catherine Labouré, pray for us.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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