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St Catherine Labouré 1806 - 1876

Catherine grew up as a girl who was strong, balanced, joyful sensible and hard working. Her parents taught her and the family good values: respect, honesy, haring and appreciation for work.


In 1815, Catherine’s mother, Madeleine died. It was then she chose the Blessed Virgin to be her mother. This made her feel stronger. She reflected on the fact that Mary suffered at the foot of the cross when her son died.   At age 12, Catherine’s older sister left home to become a Daughter of Charity. Catherine took over the management of the farm with her younger sister Tonine. Catherine worked hard every day and she still found time each day to pray and to go to Mass. She worked with enthusiasm and courage. One day she told her sister Tonine that she wanted to become a religious but she didn’t know where or how.   One night Catherine had a dream. She dreamt she was in the Church in Fains and an elderly priest went to the altar and began to say Mass. His face fascinated her and at the end of Mass the priest signalled her to approach him. He said ‘One day you will be happy to come to me God has his designs on you.’


At age 18, Catherine went to a boarding school in Chatillon sur Seine. During her time there she visited the home of the Daughters of Charity and Catherine saw the portrait of St Vincent de Paul, the priest she had seen in her dream. Catherine understood the meaning of the dream; God was calling her to be a Daughter of Charity.

When she told her father he was very opposed to the idea and he sent her to Paris to stay with her older brother Charles who had a restaurant. She worked there for some time and eventually her father consented that she became a Daughter of Charity.

In April 1830, Catherine arrived at the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in rue du Bac, Paris to begin her formation as a Daughter of Charity. She prayed faithfully each day and worked hard growing always in God’s love. Her fervour for God became strong that she had a privileged encounter with the Virgin Mary in the chapel. The first meeting took place on 18 July 1830 and lasted approximately two and a half hours.   Four months later on 27 November Catherine was entrusted with a message to transmit: ‘Have a medal struck and those who wear it with confidence will receive great graces.’ Catherine confided all she saw and heard to her confessor who was sceptical and he told her to forget the visions. Catherine obeyed though an inner voice urged her to transmit the message to the priest who finally sought the advice of the archbishop of Paris who responded: “we are simply going to distribute a medal. The tree will be judged by its fruits.”1

On 5 February Catherine was sent to a neighbourhood in the southeast of Paris, to serve the elderly in the hospice in Reuilly. Here Catherine learned how to recognise God in daily life in the face of persons, especially those who suffered. Catherine wanted the elderly people to discover their human dignity and their greatness in God’s eyes.

During her time in Reuilly she did not limit her service to the elderly in the hospice. She was attentive to the needs and distresses of the families in the region and the poverty they endured. Catherine had a concern for children. She encouraged them to gather together in this new Marian Association requested by Mary during her visit on 18 July 1830. During the civil war of 1871, Catherine had to appear before the Commune to come to the defence of her Sisters who were falsely accused. They wanted to have her arrested. Her friends the poor people of the neighbourhood opposed her arrest.   After spending 46 years among her brothers and sisters in difficulty, Catherine died on 31 December 1876.  





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