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Catherine Labouré
Catherine Laboure.jpg
Sister of Charity, Marian visionary
Born (1806-05-02)May 2, 1806
Fain-lès-Moutiers, Côte-d'Or, France
Died December 31, 1876(1876-12-31) (aged 70)
Reuilly Paris, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified May 28, 1933, Vatican by Pope Pius XI
Canonized July 27, 1947, Vatican by Pope Pius XII
Major shrine Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Paris, France
Feast 28 November
31 December
Attributes Daughters of Charity habit, Miraculous Medal
Patronage Miraculous Medal, the infirm, the elderly

Catherine Labouré, D.C. (May 2, 1806 – December 31, 1876) was a French nun who was a member of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and is a Marian visionary. She is believed to have relayed the request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to create the famous Miraculous Medal of Our Lady of Graces worn by millions of people around the world. Labouré spent forty years caring for the aged and infirm. For this, she is called the patroness of seniors.

Childhood and youth

Labouré was born on May 2, 1806, in the Burgundy region of France to Pierre Labouré, a farmer, and Madeleine Louise Gontard. She was the 9th of 11 living children. Her baptismal name was Zoe, after Saint Zoe, whose feast day falls on her birthday, but her family rarely used that name. Catherine was her baptismal name. Labouré's mother died on October 9, 1815, when Labouré was nine years old. It is said that after her mother's funeral, Labouré picked up a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and kissed it, saying, "Now you will be my mother."

Her father's sister offered to care for her and her sister Marie Antoinette and the sisters moved to their aunt's house at Saint-Rémy, a village 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) from their home. It is there that Catherine had a dream of a priest, whom she later recognised as Vincent de Paul. The priest said to her: 'My daughter, it is good to care for the sick. For now, you flee from me, but one day you will be glad to approach me. God has plans for you. Don't forget it!'.

At the age of 12, Catherine returned to her father's farm to help care for her family. Later, her father, wishing to deter her from her religious vocation, sent her to Paris to work in his brothers’ eating establishment for poor workers. There, she observed their suffering and her decision to enter the nursing order of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Daughters of Charity, was reinforced.

Labouré began her noviciate on April 21, 1830 at the convent on the rue du Bac in Paris and on, January 30, 1831, she took her vows. It is at this Convent that she had the visions of the Virgin Mary that led to the creation of the Miraculous Medal.


Vincent de Paul

In April 1830, the remains of Vincent de Paul were translated to the Vincentian church in Paris. The solemnities included a novena. On three successive evenings, upon returning from the church to the rue du Bac, Catherine reportedly experienced, in the convent chapel, a vision of what she took to be the heart of de Paul above a shrine containing a relic of bone from his right arm. Each time the heart appeared a different color: white, red, and black. She interpreted this to mean that the Vincentian communities would prosper, and that there would be a change of government. The convent chaplain advised her to forget the matter.

Blessed Virgin Mary

Catherine Labouré
Portrait of Sister Catherine at the time of the apparitions

Labouré stated that on July 19, 1830, the eve of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, she woke up after hearing the voice of a child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, "God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world".

Paris - Maison des Filles de la Charité - 136-140 rue du Bac - 005bis
Convent of the Sisters of Charity, 136-140 rue du Bac, Paris

On November 27, 1830, Labouré reported that the Blessed Mother returned to her during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe; rays of light came out of her hands in the direction of a globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." As Labouré watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath. Asked why some of the rays of light did not reach the earth, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Mary then asked her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions. "All who wear them will receive great graces."

Chapelle de la Médaille Miraculeuse @ Paris (33392223870)
Detail from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris

Labouré did so, and after two years of investigation and observation of her normal daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing her identity. The request was approved and the design of the medallions was commissioned through French goldsmith Adrien Vachette. They proved to be exceedingly popular -- the Miraculous Medal was quickly adopted by millions of the Catholic faithful. It also played an important role in the proclamation by Pope Pius IX of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been officially promulgated, but the medal, with its "conceived without sin" slogan, was influential in popular approval of the idea.

Later life and service to the poor and elderly

Plaque Catherine Labouré, 77 rue de Reuilly, Paris 12
Plaque commemorating Catherine Labouré at 77 rue de Reuilly, Paris 12

Immediately after taking her vows, Labouré was sent to the Hospice d'Enghien, located in the village of Reuilly, which, at the time, was slightly outside the city limits of Paris. She spent the next forty years there, caring for the elderly and infirm. For this, she is called the patroness of seniors.

During this time, she not only cared for the sick, but also worked on the hospice's farm, looked after the poultry and cleaned the stables. Her life was notable for her devotion to the poor and elderly and for her humility and profound silence.

Death and legacy

Labouré died at the Hospice on December 31, 1876, at the age of seventy. Her body was later moved and is now encased in glass beneath the side altar in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 rue du Bac, Paris.

Her cause for sainthood was declared upon discovering that her body was incorrupt. She was beatified on May 28, 1933, by Pope Pius XI and canonized on July 27, 1947, by Pope Pius XII.

Labouré's feast day is observed on November 28 according to the liturgical calendar of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Paris. She is listed in the Martyrologium Romanum for December 31.


See also

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