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“Come to the chapel, the Holy Virgin is waiting for you.” Zoe Catherine Laboure, a postulant in the Daughters of Charity, awoke to see a child about four or five years old standing at the side of her bed. He was enveloped in a golden light. She later said that she believed him to be her guardian angel.

This happened in the mother house of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The date was July 18,1830, the eve of the feast of St Vincent de Paul, founder of the community.


Catherine sat up, astonished and a little troubled. “How can I get up and running cross the dormitory without waking my companions?” she asked.

“Be at ease,” the child replied. “It is half past eleven and everyone is asleep. I will come with you.”

Catherine followed the child to the chapel, which, to her surprise, was lit up, “as if for Midnight Mass.” He led her to the altar rail, and she knelt down. “Here is the Holy Virgin,” he announced.

Almost at once, a sound like the rustling of silk caused her to look up. A Lady of incomparable beauty appeared at the foot of the altar. She stepped forward and sat on the chair normally reserved for the Director of the seminary. She was dressed in an ivory robe and blue mantle. A white veil fell over her shoulders.


Catherine rushed forward and threw herself to her knees. She rested her clasped hands on the knees of the Blessed Virgin. It was “the sweetest joy of my life,” she said later, “a delight beyond expression.”

“My child,” the Blessed Mother said, “God wishes you to undertake a mission. For it, you will have much to suffer, but you will overcome that by recalling that you do so for the glory of God…”

Much of what our Lady said was for Catherine’s ears alone and has never been revealed. The words which we do know began Mary’s message to the modern world, a message which was climaxed at Fatima and which has not yet been concluded.


“The times are evil,” our Lady said. “Terrible things are about to happen in France. The throne will be destroyed, and the whole world will be convulsed by terrible calamities.

“But come to the foot of the altars. Here great graces will be poured out upon all who ask them with confidence and fervour. They will be bestowed upon the great and upon the small.”

Our Lady made some declarations about the community to which Catherine belonged, adding: “I love it very much.

“But grave troubles are coming. There will be great danger. Do not fear. God and Saint Vincent will protect the community. I myself shall be with you…


“At one moment, when the danger is acute, everyone will believe all to be lost. You will recall my visit and the protection of God…

“There will be victims in other communities. There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. The Archbishop will die… The cross will be trampled upon… Blood will run in the streets… The world will be plunged into sadness…”

Catherine understood that some of the events described would take place soon. The others would take place in about forty years, or about 1870.


Our Lady’s last words to Catherine on this visit were: “My eyes are ever upon you. I shall grant you many graces. Special graces will be given to all who ask them, but people must pray.

When our Lady had disappeared, “like a cloud that had evaporated,” the child led Catherine back to her dormitory. The clock was striking two as she got back into bed.


Catherine was not allowed to tell anyone of her experience, except her confessor, Father Aladel. The priest was inclined to dismiss the story as the product of an overwrought imagination.


Father Aladel was surprised a few days later when a Revolution broke out in Paris, but Catherine was not surprised. Our Lady had foretold it. Many were killed. Bands of men and boys broke into churches. Crucifixes were profaned. Convents were pillaged. Priests were ill-treated, and the Archbishop was forced to go into hiding. The mother house in the Rue du Bac shook with gunfire and was surrounded by an angry mob. It did seem that all was lost, but true to our Lady’s promise, the buildings remained unharmed.


Our Lady’s second visit to Catherine took place on November 27, 1830, four months after the first one. This time Mary appeared over the high altar in the convent chapel. Her head was covered with a soft white veil. She was standing on a globe. In her hands she held a smaller globe with a tiny cross at the top. She held it out as if offering it to God. Rays of light streamed down to the larger globe from some of the gems in her fingers.

Lowering her eyes, our Lady said to Catherine: “This ball you see is the world. I am praying for it and for everyone in the world. The rays are graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of these stones, for many people do not receive graces because they do not ask for them.”


The vision changed. An oval frame appeared around our Lady. The small globe disappeared, and our Lady dropped her hands to her sides. She became brighter and lovelier as she did so. Around the oval frame appeared in gold the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”


A voice said to Catherine: “Have a medal made according to this picture. All those who wear it when it is blessed will receive many graces, especially if they wear it suspended from their necks.”

Suddenly the entire picture seemed to turn. On the reverse Catherine saw the letter M surmounted by a cross with a crossbar beneath it. Below were two hearts. That of our Lord was encircled by a crown of thorns while that of our Lady was pierced by a sword. Enclosing the entire picture were twelve stars within a golden frame.

In December, the Blessed Virgin appeared for the third time and repeated her request for the medal.

Catherine again transmitted the request to her spiritual adviser, Father Aladel, but the priest did not know what to do. He did not wish to be in the position of disobeying an order from heaven, but he said to Catherine: “I do not have the authority to have such a medal struck. Besides, it is to say ‘O Mary conceived without sin,’ and the Immaculate Conception is not a dogma of the Church.” (In 1830, this doctrine had not yet been promulgated. That was to come twenty-four years later.)


Father Aladel investigated Catherine’s story very carefully, and he prayed for divine guidance. Then he consulted the Archbishop of Paris. The medals were struck and distributed in Paris two years after our Lady had made her request. By this time, Catherine had received the habit of the Daughters of Charity, and had taken the name Sister Catherine.


Sister Catherine was so humble that she did not tell anyone that the Blessed Mother had appeared to her. Not more than two or three persons knew to whom our Lady had given her request for the medal. Even the other Sisters in her convent did not know. Sister Catherine carried her secret to the grave.

During the War of the Commune in 1871, many of the events fortold by our Lady in the first apparition came true. Blood ran in the streets. Many priests were killed. Msgr. Duboy, Archbishop of Paris, was brutally murdered. The insurrectionists were strongly influenced by the teachings of Karl Marx…

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954

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Posted by on October 15, 2019 in Words of Wisdom


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Catherine Laboure’s pastor in 1830 was Father Charles du Friche des Gennettes. Father des Gennettes’ parish included the area in which the mother house of the Daughters of Charity was located. Father probably did not know Sister Catherine because the community had its own spiritual adviser, Father Aladel. He was very familiar, however, with the story of our Lady’s appearances in the convent chapel and with the Miraculous Medal.

In 1832, Father des Gennettes was transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Victories. This church had been built in 1629 by King Louis XIII in thanksgiving for favours granted him by the Blessed Virgin. The parishioners, for a century and a half, were known for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.


With the French Revolution, the church fell upon evil days. All sorts of outrages were performed in it by the revolutionaries. Afterwards, it was used by a schismatic sect, and after that it became a stock exchange. In 1809, it was restored to its original purpose, but there were few parishioners left.

Father des Gennettes found that scarcely anyone came to Mass or received the sacraments. Being a very apostolic man, he tried in every way he could think of to bring the people back to their faith. He met with nothing but indifference. At length, Father became discouraged. Perhaps another priest might be able to do better, he thought. He decided it was his duty to resign as a failure.


On Sunday, December 3,1836, Father des Gennettes began to say Mass in an almost empty church. He was seized by a frightful distraction, the conviction that he must resign. He could scarcely keep his mind on the Mass. When he reached the Canon, he cried out in distress.

At that moment he heard a calm distinct voice say very solemnly: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

After Mass, Father wondered whether he had really heard these words. He convinced himself that it had been his imagination and knelt to say his thanksgiving. Again he heard the words: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”


He could doubt no longer. Taking up a pen, he composed the rules for a confraternity of our Lady. The Bishop approved the rules that same week.

The following Sunday, Father told the ten people at Mass about his project. He said there would be Vespers of our Lady that evening and that he would then give the full details of the Confraternity.

When Father des Gennettes entered the church that evening, he found it full for the first time in years. More than 400 people were there. The parish continued to flourish from then on. People began to come to Our Lady of Victories from other parts of Paris, and then from all France, and soon the fame of the shrine was worldwide. Today, about 90,000 thank offerings for cures line the walls.


In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI made the Confraternity the Archconfraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners. There are affiliated societies throughout the world.

In March 1855, an octave of thanksgiving was held at the shrine for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At the end of the octave, the statue of the Immaculate Heart was seen to move. This happened again. Pope Pius IX took this as a sign of approval for his act, and ordered the statue to be crowned, June 1, 1856.


St Therese of the Child Jesus visited the shrine on November 4, 1887. “Having arrived in Paris,”  she wrote, “Papa took us to see the sights. For me there was only one – Our Lady of Victories. What I felt in her sanctuary, I cannot say. The graces she granted me resembled those of my First Communion. I was filled with peace and joy. It was there that my Mother, the Virgin Mary, told me distinctly that it was indeed she who cured me. With what fervour did I beg her always to keep me and to bring about my dreams., to enfold me ever beneath the shadow of the cloak of her Virginity. I besought her again to keep all occasions of sin away from me.”

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954


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Posted by on September 27, 2019 in Devotions, Prayers to Our Lady


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“The Franco-Prussian War, which began in 1870, was the backdrop to this silent apparition of Our Lady at Portmain in northwestern France. By January 1871, the country was in a very serious position militarily, with the Prussians controlling two thirds of the country and Paris besieged. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Mayenne and Brittany, the northwestern part of the country, would also be taken. The next attack was expected at Laval, the capital of Mayenne, less than 30 miles from Pontmain, where the Blessed Virgin would appear.

Guided by their parish priest, they sought to live as good Christians

At the time, Pontmain was a small village, inhabited by simple and hardworking country folk, who, guided by their parish priest, Abbé Michel Guerin, sought to live as good Christians.

The Barbedette family consisted of father Cesar, his wife, Victoire, with their two sons Joseph and Eugene, aged ten and 12, and another older brother who was away in the army.

On 17th January 1871, after going to early morning Mass, the boys spent the day at school as usual. On their return, they were helping their father in the barn when a neighbour, an elderly lady named Jeannette Details, called in and began to talk with Cesar. During the conversation, the older boy, Eugene, walked over towards the door to look out, and noticed one area practically free of stars above a neighbouring house. This puzzled him; but, as he gazed at it, suddenly he saw an apparition of a beautiful woman smiling at him; she was wearing a blue gown covered with golden stars, and a black veil under a golden crown.

His mum suggested they should all say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys in her honour

As Jeannette Details was about to leave, Eugene asked her if she could see anything, and as she replied in the negative, his father and brother came out to look. Joseph immediately said he too could see the apparition, although their father, like the old lady, saw nothing. He asked Eugene if he could still see the lady and on being told ‘Yes’, asked him to go and fetch his mother. Victoire arrived but like the other adults she could see nothing, although she was puzzled because her boys were usually very truthful.

She suggested that it might be the Blessed Virgin, and that they should all say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys in her honour. By this time the neighbours were coming out to see what was going on, and the Barbedettes withdrew into the barn to pray.

The family servant, Louise, was called but she too could see nothing; and as it was now about a quarter past six, the family went inside for supper. Victoire gave the boys permission to go out again soon after, and, on hearing that the lady was still there, went to fetch Sr Vitaline, the local schoolteacher.

He pointed to three bright stars in the shape of a triangle

Eugene pointed to three bright stars in the shape of a triangle and told her that the lady’s head was in the middle of them. Although Sr Vitaline could see the stars, she saw nothing else, and so she went to get three young girls from the school to see their reactions. Immediately they arrived, the two youngest of these, aged nine and 11, expressed their delight at the apparition, describing it as the boys had done, although the oldest girl saw nothing. The three stars were seen by everyone that evening, but disappeared after the apparition.

It was decided to fetch other children, and another sister called at the presbytery to tell Fr Guerin, who, after some hesitation, decided to come out as well. As he reached the barn with his housekeeper, a child of two and her mother had just arrived. Immediately the infant looked with delight at the apparition, clapped her hands, and called out the name of Jesus, as taught by her mother. The next evening the child was taken back to the same spot at the same time and told to look, but gave no indication of seeing anything.

They began to say the rosary, and as the rosary progressed, the stars began to multiply around her

The adults in the crowd, which had now grown to about sixty people, including the priest, could still see nothing and began to say the rosary, as the children exclaimed that something new was happening. A blue oval frame with four candles, two at the level of the shoulders and two at the knees, was being formed around the lady, and a short red cross had appeared over her heart. As the rosary progressed, the figure and its frame grew larger, until it was twice life size; the stars around her began to multiply and attach themselves to her dress until she was covered with them.

“My Son allows himself to be moved”

As the Magnificat was being said, the four children cried out: ‘Something else is happening.’ A broad streamer on which letters were appearing unrolled beneath the feet of the lady, so that eventually the phrase, ‘But pray, my children,’ could be read. Fr Guerin then ordered that the Litany of Our Lady should be sung, and as this progressed new letters appeared, making the message: ‘God will soon answer you.’ As they continued to sing, another message was formed, one that removed any doubt that it was the Blessed Virgin who was appearing to the children: ‘My Son allows himself to be moved.’

The children were beside themselves with joy

The children were beside themselves with joy at the beauty of the lady and her smile, but her expression then changed to one of extreme sadness, as she now contemplated a large red cross that had suddenly appeared before her, with a figure of Christ on it in an even darker shade of red. One of the stars then lit the four candles that surrounded the figure, the crucifix vanished and the group began night prayers.

As the group began night prayers a white veil lifted

As these were being recited, the children reported that a white veil was rising from the lady’s feet and gradually blotting her out, until finally, at about nine o’clock, the apparition was over.

It is worth noting that earlier that evening, at the house near Paris where Catherine Laboure – the seer of Rue du Back and the Miraculous Medal – lived, the sisters observed the remarkable colour of the western sky, which some felt was an omen. Catherine looked but said nothing, although later, when the events of Pontmain became known, it was suspected that she had some inkling of what had happened. In any event, it appears that she certainly believed that Our Lady appeared there, since she said as much to a fellow nun in 1872, telling her to send her prayer intentions to the village, because ‘the Blessed Lady revealed herself there…’

Our Lady of Hope

The following March a canonical inquiry into the apparition was held, and in May the local bishop questioned the children. The inquiry was continued later in the year, with further questioning by the theologians and a medical examination. The bishop was satisfied by these investigations, and in February 1873 declared his belief that it was the Blessed Virgin who had appeared to the children. Joseph Barbedette became a priest, a member of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, while his brother Eugene became a secular priest. One of the girls who had seen Mary assisted him as his housekeeper, while the other, Jeanne-Marie Lebosse, became a nun. A large basilica was built at Pontmain and consecrated in 1900.

During his reign, Pope Pius XI confirmed the decision of the bishop and granted a Mass and Office for Pontmain under the title ‘Our Lady of Hope’.”

– This article by Donal Anthony Foley was published in the Catholic Times newspaper, issue 16th January 2015. For subscriptions please contact: The Universe Media Group, Allerton House, St Mary’s Parsonage, Manchester M3 2WJ.


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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Prayers to Our Lady


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The medal of the Immaculate Conception, commonly called the Miraculous Medal, was manifested to a spiritual daughter of Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Catherine Laboure. This took place in the chapel of the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity, 140 rue du Bac, Paris, France. St Catherine saw the Blessed Virgin standing on a globe: “A frame formed round the Blessed Virgin. Within it was written in letters of gold: ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.’ Then a voice said, ‘Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck.’ At this instant the tableau seemed to turn, and I beheld the reverse of the Medal: a large ‘M’ surmounted by a bar and cross; beneath the ‘M’ were the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword.”


O Immaculate Virgin Mother! We contemplate you with your arms open pouring down graces upon those who ask for them. We are full of trust in your powerful intercession, which was manifested innumerable times by the Miraculous Medal. Although we recognise our unworthiness because of our numerous faults, we gather around your feet to present our most urgent needs to you during this novena (mention your requests). Grant us, then, O Virgin of the Medal, the favour we confidently seek for the greater glory of God, the enhancement of your name and the good of our souls. And in order to better serve your divine Son, inspire in us a profound hatred of sin and grant us the courage to always affirm that we are true Christians.

(Say three “Hail Marys”.)


Most Holy Virgin! I believe in and proclaim your Holy and Immaculate Conception, pure and without blemish. O purest Virgin Mary, through your Immaculate Conception and glorious prerogative of Mother of God, obtain for me from your beloved Son humility, charity, obedience, chastity, holy purity of heart, body and spirit, perseverance in practising goodness, a saintly life and a good death. Amen.


1st apparition: Let us contemplate the Immaculate Virgin in her first apparition to St Catherine Laboure. The pious novice, led by her Guardian Angel, is presented to the Immaculate Lady. Consider her ineffable joy. We will also be joyful like St Catherine if we work arduously for our sanctification.


Tears of Mary: Let us contemplate Mary crying about the calamities that will come upon the world when she thinks about how the Heart of her Son will be hurt, the Cross made fun of and her favourite sons persecuted. Let us trust in the compassionate Virgin and also participate in the fruit of her tears.


Protection of Mary: Let us contemplate the Immaculate Virgin in her first apparition to St Catherine: “I myself will be with you; I will not lose sight of you and will grant you abundant graces.” Immaculate Virgin, be to me a shield and defence in all my needs.


2nd apparition: When Catherine Laboure was praying on November 27, 1830, the most beautiful Virgin Mary appeared to her crushing the head of the infernal serpent: in this apparition her immense desire to always protect us against the enemy of our salvation can be seen. Let us invoke the Immaculate Mother with confidence and love!


The hands of Mary: Let us contemplate Mary giving out luminous rays from her hands. “These rays,” she said, “are representations of the graces that I pour down on those who ask for them and those who wear my medal with faith.”


3rd apparition: Let us contemplate Mary appearing to St Catherine, radiating light, full of goodness, surrounded by stars, and ordering the minting of a medal, promising many graces to all who wear it with devotion and love. Let us fervently keep the holy Medal and, like a shield, it will protect us in danger.


Supplication: O Miraculous Virgin, lofty Queen, Immaculate Lady, be my refuge on this earth, my consolation in sorrow and affliction, my fortress and advocate at the hour of death.


Supplication: O Immaculate Virgin of the Miraculous Medal, make these luminous rays, which radiate from your virginal hands, enlighten my understanding to know better the good and light up my heart with lively feelings of faith, hope and charity.


Supplication: O Immaculate Mother, make the cross of your Medal always shine before my eyes, soften the sorrows of the present life and lead me to eternal life.


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