The Everyday Saints

The Everyday Saints

“I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it a holiness found in.. those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’.”
– Pope Francis, ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’

Celebrating All Saints Day, we might be tempted to think only of those whose names the Church places before us – the canonised Saints and the beatified Blesseds. And while this is good, we would be missing so much more.

Today’s feast is really about a different group, people who will never be remembered on any feast day except this one; for this is the feast of all those unnamed persons who have entered the joy of Heaven and upon whose intercession we now rely – and who are the un-canonised and ‘everday saints’.

In his extraordinarily beautiful Apostolic Exhortation ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’, our Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us of these everyday saints who are all around us; they live next door, they live in our own homes; they are our relatives, our friends, our neighbours and those who have had a role in our lives. Pope Francis reminds us of something written by Edith Stein, better known as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross. She wrote –

“The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remain invisible. Certainly, the most decisive turning points in history are substantially determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions.”

Pope Francis tells us that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church” and reminds us that all of us are called to holiness – “each in his or her own way”, he says, quoting the Second Vatican Council. And so he appeals to us – “let the grace of your Baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness”.

When we think about these words of the Holy Father, it may occur to us that he is actually describing many people who have figured in our own lives – parents, relatives, neighbours, teachers and so forth. These are the ones who have put into practice what the Pope described above. It is for this reason that they are now enjoying the glory of Heaven – and it is these who we celebrate today on this feast of All Saints.

If we remember these good souls, it is perhaps because the Holy Father was right – holiness is indeed the most attractive face of our Church. There is something intangible but very real about souls such as this – it is as though their souls speak to ours, with “sighs too deeep for words” (cf. Rom.8:26) as St Paul describes it. But those wordless sighs do touch us and they achieve something within us. Years later, we will remember the effect such a soul had upon us even decades before through their example, a tender gesture, or a kind word. Something about their goodness lives on.

Today, we remember and we celebrate souls such as these, and we give thanks for them.

But if we stop there, we risk having missed the point.

And the point is this – that we learn the example they have placed before us and that we are changed and made better by it. And, God willing, perhaps one day we, too, will leave such an example, and have such an effect, upon a soul who will come after us. And in this way, through the grace and mercy of God, that we also enjoy the Beatific Vision in Heaven for all eternity.

May all the Saints of Heaven, those we know and those known only to the Lord, pray for us. And may Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of All Saints, pray for us.

Our Welcoming Mother

Our Welcoming Mother

“Pray for poor sinners”
– Our Lady at Lourdes

In our hearts, we know that the Most Blessed Virgin is always welcoming toward us and wants our good. Sometimes, however, our sinfulness puts us off approaching Her; we fear that She cannot possibly love one as sinful as us, that we would offend Her by coming before Her. This, of course, is untrue.

Saint Paul tells us clearly that “Christ died for sinful men.. what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (cf. Rom. 5:6,8). And if the Son can love us even as sinners, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Mother – perfectly conformed to the will of Her Divine Son – loves us in the same way. And yes, even while we are still sinners.

Saint Bernadette recounted that during the sixth appearance of Our Blessed Lady at the grotto of Lourdes –

‘The Lady, looking away from me for a moment, directed Her glance afar, above my head. Then, looking down upon me again, for I had asked Her what had saddened Her, she replied – ‘Pray for the sinners’. I was very quickly reassured by the expression of goodness and sweetness which I saw return to Her face, and immediately She disappeared.’

No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter how your sins – even if truly grievous – trouble you and weigh you down, go to your heavenly Mother. Place yourself before Her, ask Her intercession and be absolutely certain that She will give it to you. There is a very good reason why the Church, in her great wisdom, calls the Blessed Virgin the ‘Refuge of Sinners’.

Have courage and have confidence. Go to Her.

A Woman Pre-Figured

A Woman Pre-Figured

“And a great sign appeared in the Heavens, a Woman clothed with the Sun, with the Moon beneath Her feet and upon Her head, a crown of twelve stars..”

– Revelation 12:1

A beautiful woman – a queen, no less – disobeys the King, who issues a decree banishing her from his presence; he then determines that he will give her privileges to another, one more worthy than she. Later, a beautiful young Jewish woman has such a startling beauty that the King is entranced by her, for  “the young woman was beautifully formed and lovely to behold” (Es.2:7). Because of this, he “loved her more than all other women” and “placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen” (Es.2:17) in place of the original queen.

Through a particular set of circumstances, the chosen people stand accused before the King – “they do not obey the laws of the King; so it is not proper for the King to tolerate them” (Es.3:8). Consequently, on the thirteenth day of the month, a decree is issued for their destruction. Learning of the decree, the new queen, Esther, was “overwhelmed with anguish” (Es.4:4). And her uncle wonders – “perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?” (Es.4:14). She then commands her people to fast and determines to plead for them before the King. Praying to God, the queen says –

“Lord, do not relinquish Your sceptre to those who are nothing.. be mindful of us, Lord. Make Yourself known in the time of our distress.. Save us by Your power.. O God, Whose power if over all, hear the voice of those in despair. Save us from the power of the wicked..” (Es.4C:26-30).

The woman then goes before the King, telling him – “You are awesome, my Lord, though your countenance is full of mercy” (Es.4D:14). And the King, listening to her pleas, determines that “Whatever you ask.. shall be granted you. Whatever request you make.. shall be honoured” (Es.7:2). In this way, the Queen saves her people by petitioning the King who has ordered their destruction and in, in the process, the true enemy of the King and the people is destroyed.

The young woman is Queen Esther, after whom the Old Testament book is named, although she is not a real historical person – the story is written to illustrate a point. But in reading the story of Esther, you may find yourself recognising some aspects of it, as though it is familiar. And indeed, it should be.

Interestingly, when She appeared at Fatima in 1917, the Mother of God wore a golden star on Her gown. ‘Esther’ translates as ‘star’. Perhaps this small detail had a certain significance.

The Church tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary is often ‘pre-figured’ in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. In other words, reading those texts after the fact and seeing them with the eyes of the Church and through the prism of history, we can see a ‘fore-shadowing’ of sorts, so that She is there even though those books were written long before She came into existence. Mary is found in so many places within the Old Testment, but She is hidden in plain sight. Now, this might seems a strange thing – until we remember that while we are living in a particular moment of human history, God is not. God is beyond time and history and all human constraints; for God, there is only the eternal ‘now’. 

In the same way that the Prophets and texts of the Old Testament spoke of the Messiah who would come later, so too did these same texts often give clues about His Mother. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the prophecy of Isaiah, who says –

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son..” (Is.7:14).

Another example is the ‘Proto-Evangelium’, found in the Book of Genesis –

“I will put enmity between you and the Woman between your offspring and Hers” (Gn.3:15)

The Proto-Evangelium is interesting in that it specifies the coming of the Lord specifically through the Woman, making an explicit point of mentioning Her directly, as though to emphasise Her importance and Her singular place in the broader plan which will unfold later on.

It is interesting, too, that in the New Testament the Lord refers to His Mother specifically as ‘Woman’ – almost as though He is obliquely reminding us that the Woman through whom the Messiah will come, and the Woman He is presently addressing, are one and the same. This ‘Woman’ will appear again later on, in the revelation of Saint John –

“And a great sign appeared in the Heavens, a Woman clothed with the sun, with the Moon beneath Her feet and upon Her head, a crown of twelve stars..” (Rev:12:1)

In these texts, then, there is a sense of mystery; what they speak of is not yet seen in full light, and they will only be realised later – and on looking back on them afterwards, their meaning becomes clearer.

The Church refers to Mary as ‘the New Eve’, as the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ and other attributions which directly reflect themes already present in the Old Testament, giving them a new meaning, or perhaps more accurately, renewing their meaning.

Taken together, all these various texts suggests something very clear indeed, and it is this; in the Divine plan, the Lord always intended that the Blessed Virgin would be the one through whom the Messiah would come to us, Her place is a singular one and She remains present throughout the entirety of this plan of salvation for poor errant humanity.

The Catechism tells us that “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it” (para.964). Where you find Christ, you will find Mary; and wherever you find Mary She will always point you to Her Divine Son.

Quoting ‘Lumen Gentium’, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Catechism tells us one more thing –

“In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.” (para.972)

Often, then, what is said of the Church is said of the Blessed Virgin, and the words applied to Her apply equally to the Church. In the same way that the Mother of God has already made Her pilgrimage of faith to perfect completion, so too do we hope that the Church will continue to make her own pilgrimage; that one day, the glory presently enjoyed by the Mother of God in Heaven, will be shared by the Church.

May She who is the Woman of both Genesis and Revelation, this Queen who stands pleading for Her people before the Mighty One, never fail to support us as we – together with the entire Church – make our own pilgrimage of Faith as we journey home to the New Jerusalem. 

A Call To Peace

A Call To Peace

“We need to develop the awareness that nowadays we are either all saved together or no one is saved”

– ‘Fratelli Tutti’ (Pope Francis)

In his recent Encyclical Letter ‘Fratelli Tutti’, on the call to fraternity and brotherhood, our Holy Father Pope Francis had written about why he felt this document was necessary in the present moment –

“Issues of human fraternity and social friendship have always been a concern of mine. In recent years, I have spoken of them repeatedly and in different settings. In this Encyclical, I have sought to bring together many of those statements and to situate them in a broader context of reflection.”

Over the last week, the Holy Father has written about the need for education, which “bears within itself a seed of hope: the hope of peace and justice; the hope of beauty and goodness; the hope of social harmony”He has written about the true nature of fulfilment – “We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our hearts are filled with faces and names”And he has written about the theme of the common humanity – “Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all”.

The broad sense throughout these quotations is that we stand or fall together – we are one single human family, regardless of location, race, education, religion, colour or anything else we might use as ways of dividing us.

Writing again today, Pope Francis makes this point very clearly and notes the reality of this unity –

“We need to develop the awareness that nowadays we are either all saved together or no one is saved. Poverty, decadence and suffering in one part of the earth are a breeding ground for problems that will end up affecting the entire planet.”

There is a prophetic witness in these words of the Holy Father. They are very much ‘counter-cultural’ – our society does not presently look up to fraternity as an ideal. Instead, the world of today values separation and isolation, nationalism and division.

This is the age of the individual. Our focus is almost exclusively on ourselves, paying only lip-service to the reality of a common humanity where the whole is affected by issues relating to the various parts.

In a strange way, the present pandemic offers us an opportunity to reflect on these thoughts of the Pope, and to come to see them as a call to action and to change, as a reminder that we experience life together as one human family, rather than as a vast collection of individuals.

Earlier today, I read a very interesting article which touched on some of these themes, but which also took them one step further, and this made me think – and agree.

The author of that article, Massimo Borghesi, said that ‘Fratelli Tutti’ “must be read carefully to be properly understood”. He pointed out that one risk is that we see the words of the Holy Father as little more than “a series of pious intentions”. Instead, he said we should note carefully where these words are coming from – the perspective of one who sees that the world “is headed towards war”. Calamitous as this might sound at first reading, his point is a sobering one – and one worth considering.

He went on to discuss a number of the world changes which have taken place since the 1980s, especially the deconstruction of many of the ideas, commitments and institutions which have played a pivotal role in holding together an otherwise-brittle world. Of particular note, he mentioned changes in Europe, tensions between those nations which are most capable of global destruction, and the growing sense of separatism and isolationism which is spreading throughout the world. Added to all of this is the polarisation at every level, which is covering the world in a dark shadow.

His central point was that it is into this present situation, coloured by all the changes mentioned, that the Holy Father is giving us the benefit of his perspective.

This is why the Holy Father calls us to be part of a new culture of encounter – between peoples, nations, religions – so that through dialogue, we might find common paths, recognising our common humanity as one single family. And all of this, accomplished in the recognition of a Truth which is greater than us, and which provides the possibility of that dialogue and fraternity to which the Encyclical calls us. For the Holy Father, our Christian identity is central to this – it is the spoke of the wheel, as it were. The proclamation of the Gospel is the determining factor in all this, and it is the Gospel which demands that we go forward in the way proposed, and which gives meaning to that impetus.

Yes, our world is in an increasingly precarious position, and the state of individualised and polarised humanity – whether in religion, nationalism or politics – leaves a lot to be desired. All of this is certainly true. But more than this, there is hope – there is always hope. And for us as Christians, “we put our hope in the Lord.. in Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name” (Ps33:20-21).

All of this brought me back to the message of Fatima and some of the words spoken there by the Blessed Virgin Mary –

“..pray the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only She can help you..”

In those few words, delivered at Fatima in July 1917, She seemed to summarise all that would come later in the words of Pope Francis and of Massimo Borghesi. She seemed, too, to give us the cure for the evils that would descend upon us. Prayer, reparation, the living of a Sacramental life, and devotion to Her Immaculate Heart – this devotion being the specific way to change some things, whilst preventing other things.

It was clear, too, in Her words that the Lord God is concerned not only for our spiritual health, but also for our temporal well-being. More than this, the two were intrinsically linked – war was a punishment for sin; prayer and reparation had the power to change human history.

Perhaps much of what we are presently experiencing stems from our having stopped our ears, so that we no longer hear or pay attention to that heavenly message from 1917 – a message which is as crucial now as then, if not more so.

Listening to the Holy Father, and to those who rightly understand his words and echo their prophetic call in these days, perhaps we need now to go back to basics, recognising that all we are living through may well be the realisation of some of what was referred to all those years ago at Fatima. 


Catherine and the Medal

Catherine and the Medal

“Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace..”

– Pope Pius IX, ‘Ineffabilis Deus’

They call Paris the ‘City of Lights’. A vast city, comprised of twenty arrondisements, it is filled with the most stunning architecture – much of which was built to give glory to God. There are great Cathedrals and multiple Churches, all so beautiful and many of them very ancient, such as the great Cathedral of Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité, which has stood there for the best part of a thousand years. And it was to this city that a very special visitor would come – but not to any of these marvellous Gothic structures whose spires towered heaven-ward.

The Rue du Bac sits on the seventh arrondisement. A long street, it’s name comes from the bac or ferry, which originally ran there to take quarried stone to the Palais des Tuileries. The street had several variations of it’s name over the years, originally being called the Grande Chemin du Bac before finally settling with the diminutive form by which it is still known. At 140 Rue du Bac, there is the Maison des Filles de la Charité de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul – the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity, established by Saint Vincent de Paul. The mortal remains of this great French Saint, known fondly as Monsieur Vincent, are just round the corner, in a glass catafalque high above the main altar in the great Church named in his honour on the Rue des Sevres. But his heart is in a crystal reliquary in the Chapel of this convent on the Rue du Bac. And it was there in that Chapel, on 18 July 1830, that the Mother of God descended to the earth.

The heavenly visit took place at midnight. Half an hour beforehand, Catherine had been awoken by her Guardian Angel, appearing to her in the form of a young child; he told her to dress quickly, announcing she was to meet the Blessed Virgin. Doing as she was told, Catherine followed the child downstairs and toward the Chapel. Each door they passed, although all securely locked, opened effortlessly at his touch. Arriving at the Chapel, all of the candles were lit and shining brightly – “as on Christmas morning”, as Catherine would later describe it. Kneeling in front of the sanctuary, the Angel close by, Catherine waited impatiently, her heart racing at the thought of what was to take place. Finally, the Angel said “here is the Blessed Virgin”. 

The chair on which the Blessed Virgin sat when She appeared to St Catherine

Catherine heard a rustle like the sound of a silk dress, then an exceptionally beautiful young Woman came from the left side of the sanctuary, descended the steps in front of the altar and then sat Herself in the Father Director’s chair which was placed at the front of the sanctuary, on the left side. The Angel then announced solemnly “this is the Blessed Virgin”.

And then Catherine did something which no other Saint has done – dashing forward, she knelt before the Blessed Virgin, and she was permitted to place her joined hands in the lap of the Mother of God, where they remained until the end of this singular visit. Many years later, Catherine would comment that this was the sweetest moment of her entire life. 

The Blessed Virgin spoke –

“My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission”.

She warned the young sister of many trials which would follow in the undertaking of her mission but She also promised that Catherine would always know with certainty what the will of God was in every moment, despite the obstacles and contradictions which would follow her –

“..Do not fear, you will have grace. Tell with confidence all that passes within you ; tell it with simplicity. Have confidence. Do not be afraid. You will see certain things; give an account of what you see and hear. You will be inspired in your prayers; give an account of what I tell you and of what you will understand in your prayers..”

Our Lady told Catherine many things which were about to occur in France, great sorrows which would include the overturning of the French throne, and a warning that in those evil times, the whole world would be upset by miseries of every kind –

“There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. Monseigneur the Archbishop.. My child, the Cross will be treated with contempt; they will hurl it to the ground. Blood will flow; they will open up again the side of Our Lord. The streets will stream with blood. Monseigneur the Archbishop will be stripped of his garments.. My child, the whole world will be in sadness.”

Catherine understood that these events would take place in forty years time.

And then the Blessed Virgin said –

“Come to the foot of this altar. There, graces will be shed upon all, great and little, who ask for them. Graces will be especially shed upon those who ask for them.”

The Blessed Virgin then described various situations relating specifically to the community of sisters, including a prophecy regarding a new community of Sisters who would join the present community. This prophecy was fulfilled nineteen years later, when Mother (now Saint) Elizabeth Ann Seton’s community was received, leading to the foundation of the Sisters of Charity in the United States.

Speaking again about the terible events to occur soon, the Mother of God reminded Catherine not to be fearful but to trust in God and to have confidence –

“I shall be with you myself, always. I have My eye upon you. I shall grant you many graces”.

All was prepared, then. Catherine knew she was to receive a great mission, a mission for the entire world, even whilst this first visit of the Mother of God had a very deeply personal quality about it.

“Come to the foot of this altar; there, great graces will be shed on all who ask for them.”

On 27 November of that same year, the Blessed Virgin would return to the Chapel on the Rue du Bac. It was a Saturday. Catherine was in the Chapel with the community, listening to one of the Sisters readuing the meditation. Suddenly Catherine heard a sound she had heard once before – that rustle of Our Lady’s dress as She walked. Looking up, Catherine saw the Blessed Virgin “in all Her perfect beauty” as she would put it later on. Dressed in a white silk robe “of the colour of the dawn”, a white veil fell down behind Her to Her feet. She was standing upon a globe suspended above the sanctuary, the space filled with a blazing light. In Her hands, She held a smaller globe and She seemed to be raising this to Heaven, Her eyes looking in that direction, while Her lips moved in prayer. 

Catherine noted that the fingers of the Blessed Virgin were covered in jewelled rings, which flashed and glittered, catching the heavenly light. Beneath Her feet, She was crushing the head of a coiled serpent. And then the Blessed Virgin looked directly at Catherine, and the nun heard a voice –

“The ball which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. These rays symbolise the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.”

Suddenly, the smaller globe disappeared and the arms of the Blessed Virgin opened wide as though She was reaching out to the whole world. Dazzling streams of light fell from the rings upon Her fingers, down toward the larger globe upon which She continued to stand. As this happened, an oval frame appeared around Her and then within it, there appeared letters inscribed in gold, which read –

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.”

Later on, Catherine would note that Our Lady’s hands “were bent down under the weight of the treasures of graces obtained”. And then she heard the voice once again –

“Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.”

The vision then seemed to revolve and Catherine saw the obverse of the design of the medal.

A large letter ‘M’ was surmounted by a cross with a bar beneath it. Under the M there were two Hearts – on the left, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the wound visible, and crowned with thorns; and to the right, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword. Around all of this, there was an oval frame comprised of twelve glittering stars.

Now, Catherine’s mission had been revealed. She was to have this medal made and then spread throughout the world.

Despite various obstacles and difficulties, Catherine was faithful to the mission given to her. Two years later, the design of the medal was delivered to Monsieur Vachette, an engraver. He expressed that it would be difficult to make a medal – given the technical ability of engravers at that point – to accurately portray the first phase of the vision, with the Virgin holding up the globe, without it appearing ‘flat’. And so a decision was made to represent the Blessed Virgin in the moment when She opened Her arms and the rays of divine grace fell down upon the earth. Seeing the cut medals for the fist time in 1832, Catherine said only – “now, it must be propagated”.

As well as the various oral accounts which Catherine gave to her spiritual director, Father Aladel, she also wrote full accounts of her visions in 1841, 1856 and 1876. He noted with surprise that there was no prayer on the reverse of the medal and told Catherine to pray about this and to ask Our Lady what should be written there. Catherine did as she was commanded and in her prayers she heard these words –

the M and the two Hearts express enough”.

Despite giving a full account of all that had  taken place, Father Aladel was uncertain what to do. In the midst of this uncertainty, the Medal vision was repeated five more times, each occasion a silent reproval that the work had not been completed.

Finally going to the Archbishop, permission for the Medal was granted and it was propagated as Catherine desired; within a few years, millions of Medals were in circulation. Very quickly, the reports of miracles of grace and of nature began – the most famous being that of the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne in Rome, which I have related elsewhere. Not surprisingly, it was not very long before the people gave a name to this little Medal. They began to call it ‘the Miraculous Medal’.

In the years which followed, Catherine went about her work as a nun and did all the duties of her state without complaint, with nothing making her stand out from the ordinary. She maintained her anonymity completely, such that even her own community did not know to which particular Sister the Blessed Virgin had appeared in the summer and winter of 1830. Her confessor had revealed only to one living soul – and then, for good reasons – the identity of the nun. It was a further thirty years before her identity would be revealed to one more soul. But throughout those years, there were rumours – never confirmed, needless to say – that Catherine was the sister to whom Our Lady had appeared.

At last, in May 1876, Catherine determined to do the one thing requested of her and which she had not, so far, been able to do.

The Blessed Virgin had asked that a statue be made representing Her at the moment She lifted the small globe to Heaven; despite Catherine’s efforts, this had not been done. By this time, she had an intuition that her time was running out and so she she approached the Superior of the Community, Father Boré, to ask for the statue. However, she could not adequately make the request without first revealing that she was the Sister to whom the Blessed Virgin had appeared. And so, unable to say why she wanted the statue made, the request was refused.

Catherine returned to her own community house and spoke to Sister Dufés, the superior of the house. She said –

“Since I have not much longer to live, I feel that the moment to speak out has come. But, as the Blessed Virgin told me to speak only to my confessor, I shall say nothing to you until I have asked Our Lady’s permission in prayer. If She tells me I may speak to you, I will do so; otherwise, I will remain silent.”

The incorrupt body of St Catherine Labouré in the chapel on the Rue du Bac.

The following morning, Sister Catherine met again with Sister Dufés – Our Lady had granted Her permission. And so, over the next two hours, Catherine told the Superior everything – the first vision, the visions of the Miraculous Medal, the various other visions she had been granted, and the foreknowledge of events that were still to take place. Sister Dufés was so astonished that neither she nor Catherine sat, remaining standing the entire time.

In conclusion, Catherine said very emphatically that the statue of the Virgin holding the globe needed to be made. Sister Dufés asked if, in light of what Catherine had told her regarding the globe, it was necessary to change the design of the Medal. Catherine replied – “Do not touch the Medal. It is only necessary to erect an altar on the spot of the Apparition, as the Blessed Virgin asked, and to place above it Her statue, with a ball in Her hands.” 

After confirming, from the original notes made at the time of the Apparitions, that Catherine was indeed the Sister of the visions, Sister Dufés arranged for a sculptor to carve the statue. Catherine’s mission was finally completed in all it’s details.

Over the next months, she began to speak more – and more openly – about her impending death. She even commented that she would not see the New Year. The Sisters were certain that this elderly but quite robust nun had to be mistaken.

Finally, the last day of the year 1876 came, 31 December. Catherine had been unwell for a while by then but on that day, her health deteriorated very suddently. That afternoon, her niece, Marie, had called to visit her and before she left, Catherine had given her the last of the original Miraculous Medals she had kept.

At 7 o’clock that evening, Sister Catherine left this world, very peacefully.

It was a mere ten days after her funeral that the first miracle was reported at her tomb.

In 1895 her cause for canonisation was put before Rome. Catherine Labouré was beatified in Rome on 28 May 1933. Upon opening her tomb in the community house in Reuilly, where she had been buried for fifty seven years, there was astonishment when her body was found to be entirely incorrupt, such that her cornflower-blue eyes were as vibrant as ever and her limbs as supple as though she was merely asleep. Fourteen years after this, on 27 July 1947, Sister Catherine Labouré was declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Today, her still-incorrupt body lies beneath the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding that globe, on the spot where the vision took place, in a convent on a long street in Paris called the Rue du Bac.