Tradition tells us that at the moment Zoe Laboure was born in 1806, church bells rang to remind everyone in the village to stop their work and pray the Angelus. The Angelus is a prayer to our Blessed Mother. It begins with the words, “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.” The ringing of the Angelus bells was a sign of the special role Mary would play in Zoe’s life.
Zoe felt called to the religious life when she was a very young girl. One day, while visiting a Catholic hospital run by the Sisters of Charity, she decided that she, too, wanted to be a Sister of Charity and to care for the sick.
She joined the order and began her training in living as a nun. She was given the name Sister Catherine. One night, she woke up and heard a voice telling her to go to the chapel. To Catherine’s surprise, the chapel was filled with light as if all the candles were lit! There, right before her eyes, was a woman. Catherine knew immediately that it was our Blessed Mother, Mary.
Mary spoke to Catherine. She asked her to have a special medal made. She described the medal to the young nun. Our Blessed Mother told Catherine that anyone who wore the medal would receive special graces, or gifts, from God.
Catherine asked Mary what she would need to do to have the medal made. Jesus’ mother told her to tell Fr. Aladel, Catherine’s spiritual adviser, about her vision and that he would make sure that her request was granted.
Fr. Aladel did not believe Catherine at first, but after two years of questioning her and making sure that she had not imagined her visions of Mary, he was convinced. The priest went to the archbishop of Paris and told him what our Blessed Mother had asked of Catherine. The bishop ordered two thousand medals to be made. The medal was first called the “Medal of the Immaculate Conception” but today we call it the “Miraculous Medal” because the people who have worn it say that their lives have been blessed and their prayers answered. People still wear the medal today, nearly two hundred years later!
Catherine never told anyone else about her visits with Our Blessed Mother. She wanted only to be to a faithful Sister of Charity. For forty years, she cared for the sick and the elderly.
We honor Catherine as a saint and believe that she is now in heaven with Our Blessed Mother and Jesus. St. Catherine’s example teaches us to love Mary and to turn to her for help in living our faith.