DAUGHTER OF CHARITY.
HER BIRTH—EARLY LIFE—VOCATION—ENTRANCE INTO THE COMMUNITY—APPARITION OF THE VIRGIN—THE MEDAL—SISTER CATHERINE IS PLACED AT THE HOSPITAL D’ENGHIEN—HER HUMBLE, HIDDEN LIFE—HER DEATH.
It is an extensively credited assumption, that those who are favored with supernatural communications should have something extraordinary in their person and mode of life. One easily invests them with an ideal of perfection, which, in some measure, sets them apart from the majority of mankind. But if, at any time, an occasion occurs of proving that such an assumption is erroneous, if we discover in these divine confidants weaknesses or only infirmities, we are astonished and tempted to be scandalized. Among the Christians who knew St. Paul only by reputation, some were disappointed on a closer acquaintance; they said his appearance was too unprepossessing and his language too unrefined for an apostle. Were not the Jews scandalized that Our Lord ate and drank like others, that His parents were poor, that He came from Nazareth, and that He conversed with sinners? So true is it, that we are always disposed to judge by appearances.
Not so with God. He sees the depths of our hearts, and often what appears contemptible in the eyes of the world, is great in His. Simplicity and purity He prizes especially. Exterior qualities, gifts of intellect, birth and education, are of little value to Him, and when He has an important mission to confide, it is ordinarily to persons not possessing these qualifications. Thus, does He display His wisdom and power, in using what is weak, to accomplish great results. Sometimes, He chooses for His instruments subjects that are even imperfect, permitting them to commit faults in order to keep them in all humility, and convince them that the favors they receive are not accorded their own merits, but are the gift of God’s pure bounty.
These observations naturally prelude Sister Catherine’s biography; they explain in advance the difficulties which might arise in the mind of the reader at the contrast between a life so simple and ordinary and the graces showered upon her.
Sister Catherine (Zoé Labouré) was born May 2, 1806, in a little village of the Côte-d’Or Mountains, called Fain-les-Moutiers, of the parish of Moutiers-Saint-Jean. This last place, particularly dear to St. Vincent, was not far from the cradle of St. Bernard, that great servant of Mary, nor from the spot where St. Chantal passed a part of her life, as if in the soil as well as the blood there was a predisposition to certain qualities or hereditary virtues.
Her parents, sincere Christians, were held in esteem. They cultivated their farm, and enjoyed that competency which arises from rural labor joined to simplicity of life. God had blessed their union with a numerous family, seven sons and three daughters.
At an early age, the sons left the paternal roof; little Zoé, with her sisters, remained under the mother’s eye, but this mother, God took from Zoé, ere she had completed her eighth year. Already capable of feeling the extent of this sacrifice, it seemed to her as if the Blessed Virgin wished to be her only Mother.
An aunt, living at Rémy, took Zoé and the youngest sister to live with her; but the father, a pious man, who in his youth had even thought of embracing the ecclesiastical state, preferred having the children under his own eye, and at the end of two years they were brought home.
Another motive, also, impelled him to act thus. The eldest sister thought seriously of leaving her family to enter the Community of Daughters of Charity, and the poor father could not bear the idea of confiding his house to mercenary hands. And thus, at an age when other children think only of their sports, Zoé was inured to hard work.
At the age of twelve, with a pure and fervent heart, she made her First Communion in the church of Moutiers-Saint-Jean. Henceforth, her only desire was to be solely His who had just given Himself to her for the first time.
Very soon after, the eldest sister left home to postulate at Langres; and Zoé, now little mistress of the house, did the cooking, with the assistance of a woman for the roughest work. She carried the field hands their meals, and never shrank from any duty however laborious or severe.
Moutiers-Saint-Jean possesses an establishment of the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Zoé went to see them as often as her household duties permitted, and the good Sister-Servant, who loved her much, encouraged the child in her laborious life; yet the latter never spoke to the Sister of her growing vocation, but awaited, with a secret impatience, until her sister (two years her junior) would be able to take charge of the house. It was she to whom Zoé confided her dearest desires, and then commenced for the two that tender intimacy of life, one of pure labor and duty, and whose only relaxations were attending the services of the parish church.
The two young girls, thinking themselves able to dispense with the servant, dismissed her, and now shared between them all the work. Zoé, who was very sedate and trustworthy, watched over everything with the utmost vigilance, and took care of her sister with a mother’s tenderness.
One of her favorite occupations was the charge of the pigeon house, which always contained from seven to eight hundred pigeons. So faithfully did she perform this duty, that they all knew her, and as soon as she appeared they came flying around her in the shape of a crown. It was, says her sister, a most charming spectacle—innocence attracting the birds, which are its symbol.
In youth, we see her, already modest in deportment, serious in character, pious and recollected in the parochial church which she regularly attended, kneeling upon the cold stones even in winter. And this was not the only mortification she practiced; to bodily fatigue, she added from her tenderest youth that of fasting every Wednesday and Saturday. It was for a long time without her father’s knowledge; at length, discovering his daughter’s pious ruse, he endeavored to dissuade her; but all his reproaches were not able to overcome her love of penance, she believed it her duty to prefer the interior voice of God to that of her father.
In all this we clearly discern the character of the future Sister, with its virtues and defects. On one side, we see true simplicity, unselfishness, constant application to the most laborious duties under the safeguard of innocence and fervor; on the other, a disposition accustomed to govern, and which could not yield without an internal struggle.
During this life of rural toil, she never lost sight of her vocation. Several times was her hand asked in marriage, but she invariably answered that, long affianced to Jesus her good Saviour, she wished no other spouse than Him. But had she yet made choice of the Community she would enter? It is doubtful, especially when we consider the following event of her life, which deeply impressed her, and always remained graven in the memory of her dear sister who related it.
Being still in her father’s house at Fain-les-Moutiers, she had a dream, which we may consider as an inspiration from God and a preparation for her vocation.
It seemed to her that she was in the Purgatorian chapel of the village church. An aged priest of venerable appearance and remarkable countenance appeared in the chapel, and began to vest himself for Mass; she assisted at it, deeply impressed with the presence of this unknown priest. At the end of Mass, he made her a sign to approach, but affrighted, she drew back, yet ever keeping her eyes fixed upon him.
Leaving the church, she went to visit a sick person in the village. Here, she again finds herself with the aged priest, who addresses her in these words: “My daughter, it is well to nurse the sick; you fly from me now, but one day you will be happy to come to me. God has His designs upon you, do not forget it.” Amazed and filled with fear, the young girl still flies his presence. On leaving the house, it seemed to her that her feet scarcely touched the ground, and just at the moment of entering her home she awoke, and recognized that what had passed was only a dream.
She was now eighteen years old, knowing scarcely how to read, much less write; as she was doubtless aware that this would be an obstacle to her admission into a Community, she obtained her father’s permission to visit her sister-in-law, who kept a boarding school at Châtillon, and there receive a little instruction. Her father, fearing to lose her, reluctantly consented to her departure.
Incessantly occupied with thoughts of the vision we have already related, she spoke of it to the Curé of Châtillon, who said to her: “I believe, my child, that this old man is St. Vincent, who calls you to be a Daughter of Charity.” Her sister-in-law having taken her to see the Sisters at Châtillon, she was astonished on entering their parlor to behold a picture, the perfect portrait of the priest who had said to her in her dream: “My daughter, you fly from me now, but one day you will be happy to come to me. God has His designs upon you, do not forget it.” She immediately inquired the name of the original, and when told that it was St. Vincent, the mystery vanished; she understood that it was he who was to be her Father.
This circumstance was not of a nature to quench the ardor of her desires. She remained but a short time with her sister-in-law. The humble country girl was ill at ease amidst the young ladies of the school, and she learned nothing.
It was at this time she became acquainted with Sister Victoire Séjole, who was afterwards placed over the house at Moutiers-Saint-Jean. Though young, already thoroughly devoted to God and His poor, Sister Victoire divined the candor of this soul and its sufferings; she immediately begged her Sister-Servant to admit Zoé as a postulant without delay, offering herself to bestow particular pains upon her, instructing her in whatever was indispensable for her as a Daughter of Charity.
But Zoé could not yet profit by the interest good Sister Victoire had taken in her; this happiness was to be dearly bought.
When she acquainted her father with her intentions, the poor father’s heart rebelled; he had already given his eldest daughter to St. Vincent’s family, and now, to sacrifice her who for years had so wisely directed his household, seemed indeed beyond his strength. He considered a means of dissuading her from her plans, and thought he had found it by sending her to Paris, to one of his sons who kept a restaurant, telling him to seek by various distractions to extinguish in the sister’s heart all idea of her vocation. Time of trial and suffering for the young aspirant, who, far from losing the desire of consecrating herself to God, only sighed more ardently after the happy day when she could quit the world.
She now thought of writing to her sister-in-law at Châtillon, and interesting her in the matter. The latter, touched with this mark of confidence, had Zoé come to her, and finally obtained the father’s consent. Zoé became a postulant in the house of the Sisters at Châtillon, in the beginning of the year 1830.
Zoé Labouré was very happy to find, at last, the end of those severe trials which had lasted almost two years. The 21st of April, 1830, she reached that much desired haven, the Seminary.
Behold her, then, in possession of all that had been the cherished object of her desires and affections from earliest childhood! Her soul could now dilate itself in prayer, and in the joyful consciousness of being entirely devoted to the service of its God.
During the whole of her Seminary term, she had the happiness of having for Director of her conscience M. Jean Marie Aladel, of venerated memory, a priest of eminent piety, excellent judgment and great experience, austere as a hermit, indefatigable in work, a true son of St. Vincent de Paul. He was a prudent guide for her in the extraordinary ways whither God had called her. He knew how to hold her in check against the illusions of imagination, and especially the seductions of pride at the same time, that he encouraged her to walk in the paths of perfection by the practice of the most solid virtues. M. Aladel did not lose sight of her, even after she was sent to the Hospital d’Enghien. He thereby gained much for his own sanctification and the mission confided to him.
Informed by her of God’s designs, he devoted himself unreservedly to the propagation of devotion to Mary Immaculate, and during the last years of his life, to extend among the young girls educated by the Sisters of St. Vincent, the association of Children of Mary. He died in 1865, eleven years before his spiritual daughter.
Three days before the magnificent ceremony of the translation of St. Vincent de Paul’s relics to the chapel of St. Lazare, a feast which was the signal of renewed life for the Congregation of the Mission, Sister Labouré was favored with a prophetic vision. The same God who had called Vincent from the charge of his father’s flocks to make him a vessel of election, was now going to confide to a poor country girl the secrets of His mercy. Let us give the account of this first impression in her own simple language.
“It was Wednesday before the translation of St. Vincent de Paul’s relics. Happy and delighted at the idea of taking part in this grand celebration, it seemed to me that I no longer cared for anything on earth.
“I begged St. Vincent to give me whatever graces I needed, also to bestow the same upon his two families and all France. It appeared to me that France was in sore need of them. In fine, I prayed St. Vincent to teach me what I ought to ask, and also that I might ask it with a lively faith.”
She returned from St. Lazare’s filled with the thought of her blessed Father, and believed that she found him again at the Community. “I had,” said she, “the consolation of seeing his heart above the little shrine where his relics are exposed. It appeared to me three successive days in a different manner: First, of a pale, clear color, and this denoted peace, serenity, innocence and union.
“Afterwards, I saw it the color of fire, symbolic of the charity that should be enkindled in hearts. It seemed to me that charity was to be reanimated and extended even to the extremities of the world.
“Lastly, it appeared a very dark red, a livid hue, which plunged my heart in sadness. It filled me with fears I could scarcely overcome. I know not why, nor how, but this sadness seemed to be connected with a change of government.”
It was strange, indeed, that Sister Labouré, at that time, should have these political forebodings.
An interior voice said to her: “The heart of St. Vincent is profoundly afflicted at the great misfortunes which will overwhelm France.” The last day of the octave, she saw the same heart vermilion color, and the interior voice whispered: “The heart of St. Vincent is a little consoled, because he has obtained from God (through Mary’s intercession) protection for his two families in the midst of these disasters; they shall not perish, and God will use them to revive the Faith.”
To ease her mind, she related this vision to her confessor, who told her to think no more about it; Sister Labouré never dreamed of aught but obeying, and in no way did she ever reveal it to her companions.
We find this singular favor mentioned in a letter written by Sister Catherine, in the year 1856, at the command of M. Aladel. The year she entered the Seminary, this worthy missionary was almost the only chaplain of the Community. The Congregation of the Mission, scarcely restored at this epoch, counted at its Mother House but nine priests in all, and at least half that number were in the Seminary. M. Étienne, of venerated memory, was Procurator General, and M. Salhorgne, Superior of St. Vincent’s two families. If the laborers were few, the deficiency was supplied by the devotedness of these few, who multiplied themselves for the service of the Community. The Divine bounty has prepared for their charity a beautiful recompense.
According to the notes which Sister Catherine wrote later in obedience to M. Aladel, the humble daughter during all her Seminary term enjoyed the undisguised sight of Him whose presence is concealed from our senses in the Sacrament of His love. “Except,” said she, “when I doubted, then I saw nothing, because I wished to fathom the mystery, fearing to be deceived.”
Our Lord deigned to show Himself to His humble servant, conformably to the mysteries of the day, and, in connexion with this, she mentions one circumstance relative to the change of government, which could not have been foreseen by human means.
“On the Feast of the Holy Trinity,” says she, “Our Lord during Holy Mass appeared to me in the Most Blessed Sacrament as a king with the cross upon His breast. Just at the Gospel, it seemed to me that the cross and all His regal ornaments fell at His feet, and He remained thus despoiled. It was then the gloomiest and saddest thoughts oppressed me, for I understood from this that the king would be stripped of his royal garb, and great disasters would ensue.”
When the humble daughter had these forebodings concerning the king, he was then apparently at the pinnacle of fortune. The siege of Algiers was in progress, and everything predicted the happy success of his arms. During the early part of July, this almost impregnable fortress of the pirates fell into the power of France; the whole kingdom rejoiced at the memorable victory, and the churches resounded with hymns of thanksgiving.
Alas! this triumph was to be quickly followed by a bloody revolution, which would overthrow the throne and menace the altars. That very month, the clergy and religious communities of Paris were seized with terror. M. Aladel was greatly alarmed for the Daughters of Charity and the Missionaries, but Sister Labouré never ceased to reassure him, saying that the two communities had nothing to fear, they would not perish.
One day she told him that a bishop had sought refuge at St. Lazare’s, that he could be received without hesitation, and might remain there in safety. M. Aladel paid little attention to these predictions, but returning sadly to his house, he was accosted on entering by M. Salhorgne, who told him that Mgr. Frayssinous, Bishop of Hermopolis, and Minister of Religious Worship under Charles X, had just come, begging an asylum from the persecution that pursued him.
These revelations bore an impress of truth which it was difficult to ignore; so in feigning to mistrust them, M. Aladel listened with the deepest interest. He began to persuade himself that the spirit of God inspired this young Sister; and after seeing the accomplishment of several things she had foretold, he now felt disposed to give credence to other and more marvellous communications she had confided to him.
According to her testimony, the Most Holy Virgin had appeared to her, these apparitions were repeated various times, she had been charged to acquaint her Director with what she had seen and heard, an important mission had been confided to her, that of having struck and circulated a medal in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
The third chapter of this volume gives a detailed account of these visions, just as they have been transmitted to us from the hand of the Sister herself.
Notwithstanding the sensible assurances of the Sister’s veracity, M. Aladel listened to these communications with mistrust, as he tells us himself, in the canonical investigation prescribed in 1836 by Mgr. de Quélen; he professed to consider them of little value, as if they had been the pious vagaries of a young girl’s imagination. He told her to regard them in the same light, and he even went so far as to humble her, and reproach her with a want of submission. The poor Sister, unable to convince him, dared speak no more of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin; she never mentioned the subject to him except when she felt herself tormented and constrained to do so by an almost irresistible desire.
“Such was the reason,” says M. Aladel, “that she spoke to him concerning the matter but three times, although the visions were much oftener repeated.” After thus relieving her heart, she became perfectly calm. The investigation also shows us that Sister Catherine sought no other confidant of her secrets than her confessor; she never mentioned them to her Superior or any one else. It was to M. Aladel Mary had directed her, to him only did she speak, and she even exacted of him the promise that her name would never be mentioned.
After this pledge, M. Aladel related the vision to M. Étienne and others, but without designating the Sister’s identity, directly or indirectly. We shall see later how Providence always guarded her secret.
These celestial communications, we may easily imagine, produced in the soul of Sister Labouré profound impressions, which usually remained even after she had finished her devotions, and which rendered her in some degree oblivious of what was passing around her. It is related that after one of these apparitions she rises like the others at the given signal, leaves the chapel, and takes her place in the refectory, but remains so absorbed that she never thinks of touching the meal apportioned her.
Sister Caillaud, third Directress, going her rounds, says bluntly to her: “Ah! Sister Labouré, are you still in an ecstasy?” This recalls her to herself, and the good Directress, who knows not how truly she has spoken, suspects nothing.
Meanwhile, Sister Catherine approached the end of her Seminary term, and in spite of her affirmations at once so artless and so exact, her Director always refused to credit them. She had the affliction of leaving the Mother House without being able to obtain anything, even a hope.
It was because the affair was graver than she thought; the supernatural origin of the favor he was directed to communicate to the public could be contested, and the prudent Director saw that in such a matter he could neither exact too many proofs, nor take too many precautions.
Sister Labouré was clothed with the holy habit in the month of January, 1831, and sent under the name of Sister Catherine to the Hospital d’Enghien in the faubourg St. Antoine. Here she could continue her communications with M. Aladel. This good father did not lose sight of her; though apparently giving no credit to his penitent revelations, he was studying her carefully to convince himself whether or not these visions were the product of a weak, enthusiastic mind and excited imagination. But the more he studied her, the more confident he felt that there was nothing of this in Sister Labouré. The judgment formed of her by the Directresses of the Seminary was, that she had a somewhat reserved but calm, positive character, which M. Aladel qualified as cold and even apathetic.
This last epithet, however, was not applicable to Sister Catherine, in whom her companions, on the contrary, recognized a very impulsive temperament. But his opinion proves, at least, that there was no excessive imagination. Moreover, she proved herself solidly grounded in virtue, whilst no one ever perceived anything extraordinary in her demeanor, and especially in her devotions.
Before going to her new destination, Sister Labouré passed some days in one of the large establishments of Paris. Wishing to examine the young Sister more leisurely, M. Aladel made a pretext of visiting the Sisters at this house. The account of these visions had already been circulated throughout the Community, and it was known that M. Aladel had received the Sisters’ confidence; hence, as soon as he appeared, the Sisters surrounded him, and each one eagerly plied him with questions. He had his eye upon Sister Catherine, who, without being disconcerted, quietly mingled her inquiries with the others. The worthy missionary was reassured, understanding that the Sister kept her secret.
The last time the Blessed Virgin appeared to Sister Labouré in the sanctuary of the Mother House, she said to her: “My daughter, henceforth you will see me no more, but you will hear my voice during your meditations.” And, indeed, during the whole course of her life, she had frequent communications of this kind. They were no longer sensible apparitions, but mental visions, that she well knew how to distinguish from the illusions of imagination or the impressions of a pious fervor.
Her mission had not been accomplished in regard to the medal. Some months elapsed, and the Immaculate Virgin complained to Sister Catherine that her orders had not been executed.
“But, my good Mother,” replied Sister Catherine, “you see that he will not believe me.” “Be calm,” was the answer; “a day will come when he will do what I desire; he is my servant, and he would fear to displease me.”
These words were soon verified.
When the pious missionary received this communication, he began to reflect seriously. “If Mary is displeased,” said he, “it is not with the young Sister, whose position prevents her doing anything; it must be with me.” This thought troubled him. A long time previous, he had related these visions to M. Étienne, then Procurator General. One day, at the beginning of the year 1832, when they had gone together on a visit to Mgr. de Quélen, M. Aladel profited by the opportunity to speak to the latter of these apparitions, and especially of his own embarrassment, since the Blessed Virgin had complained to the Sister of the delay in fulfilling her commands.
Mgr. de Quélen replied that, seeing nothing in it at all contrary to faith, he had no objection to the medal being struck at once. He even asked them to send him some of the first.
The ravages of the cholera, which had broken out meanwhile, retarded the execution of this design until June; the 30th of that month, two thousand medals were struck, and M. Aladel hastened to send some of them to the Archbishop of Paris.
Mgr. de Quélen wished to make an immediate trial of its efficacy; he was very much troubled concerning the spiritual condition of the former Archbishop of Mechlin, Mgr. de Pradt, now on the verge of death; he desired his conversion so much the more earnestly, as the death of this prelate might be the occasion of scandal and grave disorders, such as have accompanied the interment of the constitutional bishop Gregory. Providing himself with a medal, he went to visit the sick man. At first he was refused admittance, but very soon the dying man repents of it, and sends him an apology, with a request to call again. In this interview, he testifies to His Grace a sincere repentance for his past life, retracts all his errors, and after receiving the Last Sacraments, he dies that very night in the arms of the Archbishop, who, filled with a holy joy, eagerly imparts this consoling news to M. Aladel.
The worthy missionary sent a medal to Sister Catherine, who received it with great devotion and respect  and said: “Now it must be disseminated.” This was easy to do among the Daughters of Charity, who had all heard whispers of these apparitions; the eagerness to receive the medals was general, they were distributed freely, and cures and conversions multiplied themselves accordingly in all ranks of society, so that very soon the medal received the appellation of miraculous.
A witness of these wonders, the heart of Father Aladel dilated with joy, and he believed it his duty to publish a notice of the origin of the medal, and thus satisfy all the inquiries addressed him on the subject. For the glory of God and Mary, he added an account of all the consoling facts that had come to his knowledge.
What said Sister Catherine in hearing of these wonderful occurrences? Less than any one; she was astonished; doubtless her joy was great, but it was confined within the silence of her heart. Occasionally she sent some new message to M. Aladel, begging him to have an altar erected commemorative of the apparition, and telling him that many graces and indulgences would be attached thereto, and fall most abundantly upon himself and the Community.
She urged him also to solicit particular spiritual favors, assuring him that he might ask freely, for all his requests would be granted.
But this worthy priest, whose position in the Community, as we have already said, was that of simple chaplain, prudently kept silence, holding himself in reserve until the favorable moment should arrive for him to act. Some years after, M. Étienne, his intimate friend, was elected Superior General, and he was made assistant of the Congregation and Director of the Daughters of Charity; in concert, they formed the design of erecting to the Immaculate Mary an altar more in accordance with her maternal bounty and the gratitude of her children. Providence itself seemed to co-operate with the execution of their plan, the Community receiving from the government just then a present of two magnificent blocks of white marble, in recognition of the Sisters’ services to the cholera patients and their orphans. One was destined for an altar, the other for a statue of the Immaculate Mary.
Meanwhile, the number of inmates at the Mother House, the Seminary especially, increased daily. The new life infused into the Community had awakened many vocations, and the centre of reunion had become inadequate in size to its purposes, the chapel particularly was much too small. In enlarging it, the architect had a difficult problem to resolve: he must respect the sanctuary honored by Mary’s visit, and yet extend the enclosure. He did so by adding side aisles, on a lower foundation, surmounted with galleries. If the edifice, always too low and small, gained nothing in the way of art, it has, at least, the advantage of preserving intact the exact spot where the Most Holy Virgin appeared.
The former altar was taken into the side chapel dedicated to St. Vincent, and the holy founder was there represented holding that heart, burning with love of God and the poor, as it had appeared to Sister Catherine in the vision. A plaster statue of the Immaculate Conception occupied temporarily the place over the main altar, destined for the marble statue, which for various causes was not solemnly inaugurated till 1856.
It was a day of great rejoicing for the Mother House; the statue was not a cold, mute representation; … it was an eloquent image of Mary; here had this merciful Mother spoken and promised her graces; daily experience had confirmed these promises, and the statue still awakens in the hearts of those who come to pray at her feet, the deepest and tender emotions. Yes, Mary is indeed here. She speaks to the hearts of her children. She makes them feel that she loves and protects them!
Sister Catherine said also to M. Aladel, in the early period of her vocation: “The Blessed Virgin wishes you to found a Congregation, of which you will be the Superior. It is a Sodality of Children of Mary; the Blessed Virgin will shower many graces upon it, and indulgences will be granted it.”
The reader will see, in the course of the volume, how this work was realized, and how admirably Providence has extended the association.
She also told him that the month of May would be celebrated with much magnificence, and become universal in the Church; that the month of St. Joseph would likewise be kept with solemnity; that devotion to this great Saint would greatly increase, as well as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
So many miracles wrought everywhere and every day, so many signal testimonies of Mary’s protection, made it an obligation on the Community, and especially the Seminary where they had originated, to perpetuate so precious a souvenir.
Two pictures were therefore ordered, one representing the vision of the medal, the other that of St. Vincent’s heart. The artist, wishing to depict the Blessed Virgin as accurately as possible, consulted M. Aladel as to the color of the veil.——
The missionary’s embarrassment was great; he had forgotten this item, but attaching more importance to the details than Sister Catherine thought, he wrote to her, and under the pretext of warning her against the illusions of the demon, he asked her to describe again the Blessed Virgin’s appearance in the vision of the medal. Sister Catherine made this answer: “Just now, my Father, it would be impossible for me to recall all that I saw, one detail alone remains, it is, that the Blessed Virgin’s veil was the color of morning light.”
This was just what M. Aladel wished to know, and precisely the only thing Sister Catherine could recollect.
These little incidents, regulated by Providence, were not lost; they increased the confidence of the wise Director. When the pictures were placed in the Seminary, M. Aladel discreetly took measures to have Sister Catherine come to see them, just at the very time he would be there as if by chance. Another Sister, accidentally meeting them there, has a suspicion of the truth, and turning suddenly to the worthy Father, she says: “This is certainly the Sister who had the vision!” He is greatly embarrassed, and sees no way of extricating himself from the difficulty, except by calling upon Sister Catherine to answer. She laughed, saying: “You have guessed well,” but with such simplicity that the other Sister said to the Father: “Oh! I see plainly that it is not she; you would not have asked her to tell me.”
During the course of her long life, Sister Catherine was subjected to trials of this sort.
The details Mgr. de Quélen had received from M. Aladel concerning the vision of the medal interested him deeply, and he was anxious to become acquainted with the favored Sister. M. Aladel replied that the Sister insisted upon remaining unknown. “As for that,” said His Grace, “she can put on a veil and speak to me without being seen.” M. Aladel excused himself anew, saying it was for him a secret of the confessional.
M. Ratisbonne, miraculously converted in 1842 by the apparition of the Miraculous Medal, also ardently desired to speak with the Sister first favored by this celestial vision, and he often but vainly entreated her Director’s permission.
Those around her frequently asked embarrassing questions, or expressed their suspicions. When too closely pressed, she found means of making the curious feel their indiscretion, so that it was not repeated. Moreover, her great simplicity ordinarily disconcerted her interrogators.
On several occasions, the Blessed Virgin seemed to aid her; thus, in the investigation of 1836, and in the deposition made to the Promoter, M. Aladel declared that he had vainly endeavored to persuade Sister Catherine to be present, he could not overcome her repugnance; and moreover, they would interrogate her to no purpose, she had forgotten everything concerning the event.
The same thing happened one day, it is said, in the presence of M. Étienne, then Superior General; he could not succeed in making her speak, she remembered nothing. It is this which gave rise to the rumor in the Community, that the vision was completely effaced from the memory of the Sister who had been favored with it.
Thanks to this opinion, Sister Catherine was enabled to remain long years truly concealed in her modest duties; employed first in the kitchen, then in the clothes-room; afterwards, for nearly forty years, she had charge of the old men’s ward of the Hospital d’Enghien, combining with this duty the care of the poultry yard.
She loved these humble duties. Everything was kept in perfect order, and for her there was no greater happiness than that of being among her poor. At the end of her life, she spoke of it as her chief consolation. “I have always,” said she, “loved to stay at home; whenever there was question of a walk, I yielded my turn to others that I might serve my poor.”
And this was true. One walk only was she unwilling to forego, that which led to the Community, and she knew no other road but that to the Mother House. When she could make this visit she never yielded her turn.
Her attraction for silence and the hidden life always kept her in the rear, as the place most suitable for her, and most favorable to the spirit of recollection. She ceded to none the lowest and most repulsive duties of her ward, duties which she termed the pearls of a Daughter of Charity; she moved calmly and quietly, avoiding precipitation, and when advanced in years, the young Sisters, her assistants, often heard from her lips these words: “Ah! my dear, do not be so agitated, be more gentle.”
She regarded as one of the most cherished souvenirs of her Community life, that of her first Sister-Servant, “a dear soul,” said she, “who every year sent the first fruits of her garden to the indigent families of the faubourg, or to her old men. The Sisters were not allowed to touch them until this had been done.”
This aged Superior was Sister Savard, who never supposed that Sister Catherine was favored with especial graces, and particularly with the vision of the Blessed Virgin.
Our humble daughter Catherine respected and loved all the Sisters under whom she served, and never did she utter a word against them; she saw only their virtues and good qualities.
“Child of duty and labor, but especially of humility,” says her last Superior, “Sister Catherine was not truly appreciated except by those who studied her sufficiently to perceive the great simplicity, uprightness, and purity pervading her soul, her mind, her heart, her whole person.
“Never arrogating to herself the slightest merit on account of the singular favors with which the Immaculate Virgin had loaded her, she said, one day towards the close of her life, when Providence permitted a slight allusion to this subject: ‘I, favored Sister! I have been only an instrument; it was not for myself the Blessed Virgin appeared to me. I knew nothing, not even how to write; it was in the Community I learned all I know; and because of my ignorance the Blessed Virgin chose me, that no one might doubt.”
Is not the conclusion inspired by the spirit of St. Vincent, “I have been chosen, because being nothing, no one could doubt that such great things are the work of God.”
Sister Catherine cared little for the esteem or contempt of others. Despite her rigid silence, there always hovered over her the suspicion that it was she who had seen the Blessed Virgin; no one dared tell her so; but in consequence of the suspicion, she was more closely observed, and more severely judged than any one else, and if by chance her companions discovered in her some slight weakness of nature, or even the absence of some heroic virtue, the thought was immediately rejected that the Blessed Virgin had chosen so ordinary a person.
The testimony of one of her first companions confirms the impression on this point, an impression repeated a hundred fold. This companion writes to Sister Dufès: “Having passed six years with Sister Catherine, and worked constantly with her one year, it would seem that I could cite a great number of details full of interest and edification; but I am forced to confess that her life was so simple, so uniform, that I find nothing in it to remark. Notwithstanding the whispered assurances that she was the Sister so favored by the Blessed Virgin, I scarcely credited it, so much was her life like that of others. Sometimes, I sought to enlighten myself indirectly on the subject by questioning her as to the impression such extraordinary occurrences had produced in the Seminary, hoping that her answers would betray her, and thereby satisfy my curiosity, but she replied with so much simplicity that my hopes were always deceived.”
It is true, Sister Catherine had nothing remarkable about her, and yet nothing common or trivial.
Her height was above the medium; her regular features bore the seal of modesty; and her clear blue eye was indicative of candor. She was industrious, simple, and not the least mystical in her spiritual exercises; she affected neither great virtues nor particular devotions, well pleased to cherish them in the depths of her heart, and practice them according to the rule with fidelity and exactness.
After her death, some notes were found written by her own hand during one of the annual retreats. Everything in them is simple, solid, practical, and there is not one word of allusion to the extraordinary graces she had received; even when addressing the Blessed Virgin, nothing recalls the familiarity with which Mary had treated her. Here are some extracts, in which no changes have been made except those of fault-spelling.
“I will take Mary for my model at the commencement of all my actions; in everything, I will consider if Mary were engaged thus, how and wherefore she would do this, with what intention. Oh! how beautiful and consoling is the name of Mary … Mary!
“Resolution to offer myself to God without reserve, to bear every little contradiction in a spirit of humility and penance, to beg in all my prayers that the will of God may be accomplished in me. O my God! do with me as Thou wilt! O Mary! grant me your love, without which I perish; bestow upon me all the graces I need! O Immaculate Heart of Mary! obtain for me the faith and love which attached you to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ!
“O sweet objects of my affections, Jesus and Mary, let me suffer for you, let me die for you, let me be all for you and no longer anything for myself!
“Not to complain of the little contradictions I meet with among the poor, and to pray for those who cause me suffering. O Mary, obtain for me this grace, through your virginal purity!
“To employ my time well, and not to spend one moment unprofitably. O Mary, happy those who serve you and put their confidence in you!
“O Mary, Mary, Mary, pray, pray, pray for us, poor sinners, now and at the hour of our death! Mary, O Mary!
“In my temptations and times of spiritual dryness, I will always have recourse to Mary, who is purity itself. O Mary, conceived without sin!——
“O Mary, make me love you, and it will not be difficult to imitate you!
“Humility, simplicity and charity are the foundation of our holy vocation. O Mary, make me understand these holy virtues! St. Vincent, pray, pray for us!
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray, pray for us! Deign, O Queen of Angels and of men, to cast a favorable eye upon the whole world … especially upon France … and each person in particular! O Mary, inspire us what to ask of you for our happiness!”
Sister Catherine lived forty-six years in a large establishment, under the direction of five successive Superiors; she was brought in contact with many companions of different dispositions and different degrees of virtue, consequently the esteem in which she was held varied. If they sometimes gave her to understand that her mind was failing, such things troubled her little, and she always quietly went her way, receiving kindness with grateful simplicity, and ungracious words without flinching.
Faithful to the rule with such uniform exactness, that merit seems to disappear before habit, she never uttered a word against charity. Even when age had given her some privileges over her young companions, rarely did she allow herself to blame or advise them; not, at least, unless they consulted her, then she advised submission. “Everything is in that,” said she, “without obedience, Community life is not possible.” To the very end of her days, her obedience to her Superior was as perfect as when she left the Seminary.
We must not, however, suppose that Sister Catherine was of a yielding, gentle temperament, to which obedience was natural; no, on the contrary, she had a strong will and quick temper. Thoroughly versed in household labors, she performed her part with great care and assiduity, and directed most scrupulously all that was entrusted to her charge. Her impulsive temper sometimes displayed itself in little sallies of impatience, the firm tone of her words revealing at times what virtue ordinarily caused her to repress. When the first heat was over, she immediately repented of it and humbled herself.
It was often observed that this first movement of surprise, just ready to escape, was held captive, not by human respect, but by a superior will; thus proving that her implicit obedience was due her fidelity to grace.
Understanding her nature, we can now form an idea of what Sister Catherine suffered from the opposition she experienced in realizing her mission; even though these contradictions, especially after the medal had been struck, were more apparent than real on the part of her wise Director, they were none the less painful to her. Might we not say that these trials constituted an interior martyrdom sustained by God and known to him alone?
Sister Catherine, despite her strong constitution, was not exempt from physical suffering, and her companions were sometimes astonished at the simplicity with which she asked for little comforts that a mortified soul would have denied itself. These slight defects formed a veil that obscured the sight of many, and partially concealed the beauties of her soul.
Apparently, the very depths of this simple nature might be read at a glance, and yet she faithfully guarded the secrets of God. In her were seen, by a singular contrast, prudence and discretion allied to perfect simplicity. Thus, whilst some found her a little too thoughtful of her health, others observed that on all great feasts of the Blessed Virgin, particularly that of the Immaculate Conception, she was either sick or suffering acute pain, which trials the humble Sister received as a favor from her celestial Mother.
The Superior of the Hospital d’Enghien relates that, one year, when Sister Catherine had gone with several of her companions to spend the beautiful Feast of December 8th at the Community, on getting into the omnibus that evening she fell and broke her wrist. She said not a word, and no one perceived the accident. Some minutes after, seeing that she held her arm in her handkerchief, Sister Dufès inquired what had happened. “Ah! Sister,” she quietly replied, “I am holding my bouquet; every year the Blessed Virgin sends me one of this sort.”
Detachment from the esteem and affection of creatures was still another trait characteristic of our dear Sister. God sufficed her; that God who had manifested Himself to her in so wonderful a manner, that Immaculate Virgin whose charms had ravished her heart, were her sole joy and delight. The Blessed Virgin, pointing to the sacred tabernacle where her divine Son reposes, had said to her: “In all your trials, my daughter, it is there you must seek consolation.” Faithful to these words of her good Mother, Sister Catherine in moments of trial sought the chapel, whence she soon returned to her occupations with renewed serenity of soul and countenance ever cheerful. Jesus and Mary alone received the confidence of her sufferings and her fervor, so that her virtues in a measure were concealed from creatures.
One of the Sisters of the house says that, having often observed her closely to discover, if possible, some trace of her communications with God, she could find nothing especial except that during prayer she did not cast down her eyes, but always kept them fixed upon the image of Mary. She remarks, also, that Sister Catherine never wept except from great anguish of heart, but many times she saw her shed tears in abundance on listening to some traits of protection or some conversion obtained through the Blessed Virgin’s intercession, or, as in 1871, at the evils afflicting the Church and France.
Solidly pious in the midst of companions apparently more so, we see nothing indeed in our humble Sister to distinguish her from others. Only one especial circumstance has been remarked, the importance she attached to the recitation of the chaplet. Let us hear what her Sister-Servant says on this point—
“We were always struck,” writes Sister Dufès, “when saying the chaplet in common, with the grave and pious manner in which our dear companion pronounced the words of the Angelical Salutation. And what convinced us of the depth of her respect and devotion was the fact that she, always so humble, so reserved, could not refrain from censuring the indifference, the want of attention, which too often accompanies the recitation of a prayer, so beautiful and efficacious.”
Her love for the two families of St. Vincent, far from diminishing with age, only incited her to employ continually in their behalf the sole influence at her disposal, prayer; regularly every week, she offered a Communion to attract the benediction of Heaven upon the Congregation of the Mission; her prayers for her Community were incessant.
Sister Catherine always retained the same duty at the Hospital d’Enghien; with truly admirable solicitude, she nursed the old men entrusted to her, at the same time not neglecting the pigeon house, which recalled the purest and sweetest joys of her childhood. The young girl of former days, whom we have seen with her dear pigeons hovering round her, was now a poor Sister, quite aged, but none the less attentive to her little charge.
Sister Catherine was, then, the soul of the little family in charge of the hospital. During these later years, the number of our Sisters had increased considerably, and consequently the administration of the two houses, d’Enghien and Reuilly, being very difficult for one person, an assistant was sent me for the hospital. If Sister Catherine had not for years been moulded to obedience and abnegation, it would have been hard to her quick, impulsive nature, to recognize the authority of a companion so much younger than herself; but far different were the thoughts of this humble Sister, who always endeavored to abase herself.
“She was the first to tender her perfect submission. ‘Sister,’ said she, ‘be at ease, it suffices that our Superiors have spoken; we will receive Sister Angélique as one sent from God, and obey her as we do you.’ Her conduct justified her words.
“Although Sister Catherine guarded rigorously the supernatural communications she had received, she occasionally expressed her views to me on actual occurrences, speaking then as if inspired by God.
“Thus, at the time of the Commune, she told me that I would leave the house accompanied by a certain Sister, that I would return the 31st of May, and she assured me I need have no fears, as the Blessed Virgin would take my place and guard the house. At the time, I paid very little attention to the good Sister’s words.
“I left, indeed, and realized, contrary to my plans, and without a thought on the subject, all that Sister Catherine had predicted. On my return from the Community, May 31st, I expressed my anxiety concerning the house, which had been in the hands of the Communists, and, it was said, plundered. Sister Catherine endeavored to reassure me, repeating that the Blessed Virgin had taken care of everything, she was confident of it, for the Blessed Virgin had promised her.
“We found on our arrival that this Mother of mercy had, indeed, guarded and saved all, notwithstanding the long occupation of our dear house by a mob of furies, whose Satanic pleasure was to destroy.
“One circumstance in particular struck me most forcibly; these wretches had made useless efforts to overthrow the statue of Mary Immaculate placed in the garden—it had withstood all their sacrilegious attempts.
“Sister Catherine hastened to place upon the head of our august Queen the crown she had taken with her in our exile, telling the Blessed Virgin she restored it in token of gratitude.
“Many times did Sister Catherine thus reveal her thoughts to me with the simplicity of a child. When her predictions were not realized, she would quietly say: ‘Ah! well, Sister, I was mistaken. I believed what I told you. I am very glad the truth is known.'
“Meanwhile, time fled, and our good Sister often spoke of her approaching end. Our venerated Superiors began to feel anxious about losing her, and the Superior General one day sent for her to come to the Community that he might receive from her own lips certain communications which he considered very important.
“Sister Catherine, to whom this was wholly unexpected, was almost speechless with amazement. On her return, she expressed to me her emotion, and, for the first time, opened her heart to me concerning that which she had formerly so much feared to reveal.
“This repugnance had vanished; seeing herself on the borders of the tomb, she felt constrained to make known the details which she thought buried with the venerated Father Aladel, and she expressed great grief that devotion to the Immaculate Conception was less lively and general than it had been.
“These communications, moreover, were for myself alone; I did not impart them to the other Sisters. It is true, the greater number were informed of this pious secret, but they never learned it from Sister Catherine herself. All they could observe in connexion with it was her ardent love for Mary Immaculate and her zeal for the propagation of the Miraculous Medal, also that, when she heard one of our Sisters express a desire to make the pilgrimage to Lourdes or some other privileged sanctuary of Mary, she could not refrain from saying, somewhat impetuously: ‘But why do you wish to go so far? Have you not the Community? Did not the Blessed Virgin appear there as well as at Lourdes?’ And a most extraordinary fact is, that, without having read any of the publications concerning this miraculous grotto, Sister Catherine was more familiar with what had taken place there than many who had made the pilgrimage. Leaving these incidents aside, never did she utter a word calculated to give the impression that she had any part in the singular favors the Blessed Virgin had lavished upon our humble chapel at the Mother House.
“Since opening her heart to me, this good companion had become very affectionate; it was a rest for her, a consolation to find some one who understood her. Our worthy Father Chevalier, Assistant of the Congregation of the Mission, occasionally visited her to receive her communications concerning the apparition. One day, he spoke to her of the new edition he was preparing of the notice of the medal. ‘When M. Aladel’s edition of 1842 appeared,’ replied Sister Catherine, ‘I said to him, truly, that he would never publish another, and that I would never see another edition, because it would not be finished during my lifetime.’ ‘I shall catch you there,’ replied M. Chevalier, who expected it to appear very soon. But unforeseen difficulties having retarded the publication, he subsequently recognized that the good Sister had spoken rightly.
“From the beginning of the year 1876, Sister Catherine alluded very frequently to her death; on all our feast days, she never failed to say: ‘It is the last time I shall see this feast.’ And when we appeared not to credit her assertion, she added: ‘I shall certainly not see the year 1877.’ We could not, however, believe her end so near. For some months she had been obliged to keep her bed, and relinquish that active life she had led so many years.
“Her strength was gradually failing; the asthma joined to some affection of the heart undermined her constitution; she felt that she was dying, but it was without a fear, we might say without emotion. One day, when speaking to her of her death: ‘You are not afraid, then,’ said I, ‘dear Sister Catherine.’ ‘Afraid! Sister!’ she exclaimed; ‘why should I be afraid? I am going to our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, St. Vincent.’
“And, truly, our dear companion had nothing to fear, for her death was as calm as her life.
“Several days previous, one of our Sisters was talking familiarly with her, when, without any allusion to the subject from the other, our sick Sister said: ‘I shall go to Reuilly.’ This was the name given the House of Providence, separated from d’Enghien Hospital by a vast garden, and similar to it in the nature of its works. ‘What! to Reuilly?’ answered her companion; ‘you would not have the heart to do so, you who love so well your Enghien, that you have never left.’ ‘I tell you, I shall go to Reuilly.’ ‘But when?’ ‘Ah! that is it!’ said Sister Catherine, in a decided, mysterious tone, that disconcerted her companion. After a few moments, she added: ‘There will be no need of a hearse at my funeral.’ ‘Oh! what do you mean?’ replied the Sister. ‘It will not be needed,’ said the sick one, emphatically. ‘But why not?’ ‘They will put me in the chapel at Reuilly.’ These words struck her companion, who repeated the conversation to me. ‘Keep that to yourself,’ said I.
“On the 31st of December, she had several spells of weakness, symptoms of her approaching end. We then proposed to her the last consolations of religion; she gratefully consented, and received the Sacraments with indescribable peace and happiness; then, at her request, we recited the litany of the Immaculate Conception.
“Being one day near her bed, speaking to her of Heaven and of the Blessed Virgin, she expressed a desire to have during her agony sixty-three children, each invoking the Blessed Virgin by one of her titles in the litany of the Immaculate Conception, and especially these very consoling words: ‘Terror of demons, pray for us.’ It was observed that there were not sixty-three invocations in the litany. ‘You will find them in the office of the Immaculate Conception,’ said she. Measures were taken to comply with her desires, the invocations were written upon slips of paper and kept for the final hour, but, just at the time of her agony, we could not collect the children; she then asked that the litany be recited, and had us repeat three times the invocation which makes hell tremble.
“Our Sisters were especially touched to hear her exclaim, with an accent of deep tenderness: ‘My dear Community! my dear Mother House!’ So true is it, that what we have loved most in life returns to us with renewed vigor at the hour of death!
“Some of her former companions and friends of the House came during the day to see her for a last time; one of them, holding an office in the Seminary, approaching her, said sadly: ‘Sister Catherine, are you going to leave us without telling me a word of the Blessed Virgin?’ Then the dying Sister leaned towards her, and whispered softly in her ear quite a while. ‘I ought not to speak,’ said she; ‘it is M. Chevalier who is commissioned to do that.’ … She continued, without interruption: ‘The Blessed Virgin has promised to grant especial graces every time one prays in the chapel, but particularly an increase of purity, that purity of mind, heart, will, which is pure love.’
“This good daughter, animated with the true primitive spirit of the Community, was, in uttering these last words, the unconscious echo of the venerable Mother Legras, whose writings breathe the same thought.
“A Sister-Servant, who came to visit her, approaching the sick Sister, reminded her of the necessities of the Community and of the Seminary, and ended by saying: ‘Dear Sister Catherine, when you get to Heaven, do not forget all this, attend to all my commissions.’ Sister Catherine answered: ‘Sister, my will is good, but I have always been so stupid, so dull, I shall not know how to explain myself, for I am ignorant of the language of Heaven.’ Upon which the other, delighted with so much simplicity, was inspired to say: ‘Oh! my dear Sister Catherine, in Heaven we do not speak as we do on earth; the soul regards God, the good God regards the soul, and all is understood—that is the language of Heaven.’ Our dear Sister’s countenance became radiant at this, and she answered: ‘Oh! Sister, if it is thus, be tranquil, all your commissions will be fulfilled.’
“M. Chevalier came, also, that day to give her his blessing, and he spoke to her on the same subject. Sister Catherine answered him with faculties undimmed, and said to him, among other things: ‘The pilgrimages the Sisters make are not favorable to piety. The Blessed Virgin did not tell me to go so far to pray; it is in the Community chapel she wishes the Sisters to invoke her, that is their true pilgrimage.’
“The poor, to whom she was so devoted, likewise occupied her thoughts.——
“At four in the afternoon, another attack of weakness collected us all around our dear, dying one, but the supreme moment had not yet come. We surrounded her bed until evening. At seven, she seemed to sink into a slumber, and without the least agony or the least sign of suffering, she yielded her last sigh. Scarcely could we perceive that she had ceased to live…. Never have I seen a death so calm and gentle.”
“The deepest emotion now filled our hearts; we pondered the celestial interview of our blessed companion with that good God who had so often revealed Himself to her during her Seminary life, and that beautiful Virgin, whose charms can never be depicted on earth.
“It was not sorrow which pervaded our hearts; not a tear was shed in these first moments; we yielded to an indescribable emotion; we felt ourselves near a Saint; the veil of humility under which she had lived so long concealed was now rent, that we might see in her only the soul favored by Heaven.
“Our Sisters disputed the happiness of passing the night beside her venerated remains, a magnetic attraction drawing them to her.
“To perpetuate the fact that she had received these favors whilst still a Seminary Sister, we thought of having her photograph taken, also, in the Seminary habit; it succeeded completely in both costumes.
“We now carried her blessed remains into the chapel. There the Immaculate Virgin watched over her; lilies and roses surrounded her virginal body, and her cherished device—’O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee’—surrounding this little sanctuary, seemed the last echo of her life.
“Then commenced the miracle of glorified humility; this humble Sister, who in life had been scarcely noticed, was suddenly surrounded by persons of every age and condition, who considered it a very great happiness to come, not to pray for her, but to recommend themselves to her blessed intercession.
“As for us who were keeping watch around our dear relic, we could not bear to think of the moment which would take her from us. This house which had been protected by her presence for forty-six years, would it be deprived of her forever? The thought was heart-breaking; it seemed as if we were about to lose the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, who would henceforth cease to hover over us.
“On the other hand, to keep our dear Sister with us appeared impossible. Our Superiors being consulted, permitted us to take measures in accordance with our wishes. We had a world of difficulties to surmount.
“‘Pray,’ said I to our Sisters; and they passed the night supplicating the Immaculate Mary to let our beloved companion remain with us.
“All night long, I vainly tried to think of a suitable resting place for her, when suddenly, at the sound of the four o’clock bell, I thought I heard these words: ‘The vault is under the chapel of Reuilly.’ ‘True enough,’ said I, joyfully, like a person who suddenly sees the realization of a long deferred hope. I remembered now that, during the construction of the chapel, a vault had been made communicating with the children’s refectory. Our worthy Mother Mazin had assigned to it no actual purpose, saying we might have use for it hereafter.
“There was no time to lose. We were on the eve of her funeral, and the authorization, so difficult to obtain, had not yet been solicited.
“The vault was hastily prepared, and the petition, sustained by influential persons, succeeded as if by enchantment.
“January 3d, the feast of St. Genevieve, was the day appointed for the interment of her, whom we regarded as the tutelary angel of our house. But the word ‘interment’ is not appropriate here—’triumph’ is the proper expression—for it was a veritable triumph for our humble Sister.
“A deputation was sent from all the houses of our Sisters, that had received timely notice, and the little chapel was much too small to accommodate the numbers that came. Mass over, the funeral cortege which was to accompany the body in procession from d’Enghien Hospital to the vault at Reuilly was organized, as follows: The inmates of our industrial school, Children of Mary, came first, bearing their banner; next to these, all our little orphans; then, our young girls of the Society (both externs and those belonging to the house), wearing the livery of the Immaculate Mary; the parishioners, and lastly, our Sisters preceding the clergy.
“This lengthy procession passed slowly through the long garden walk, and whilst the solemn chants of the Benedictus resounded afar, the modest coffin appeared in sight, covered with lilies and eglantines, emblems of purity and simplicity.
“At the entrance of the vault, the crowd stood aside, and our Children of Mary greeted the arrival of the body by singing the blessed invocation: ‘O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!’ It would be impossible to describe the effect of these funeral obsequies, of a nature so entirely new.
“To preserve our treasure, it was necessary to wall up the subterranean entrance, but we had an opening made communicating with the chapel.
“The poor, whom Sister Catherine had nursed, lay a magnificent crown on the tomb of St. Vincent’s humble daughter, who, in life, sought only the lowliest paths, and who had supplicated the Blessed Virgin to keep her unknown and unsought.——”
The life of dear Sister Labouré was the faithful realization of Our Lord’s words in the Gospel: “I return Thee thanks, Father, that Thou hast concealed these things from the wise of this world and hast revealed them to little ones.” Never were the gifts of God better concealed in a soul, under the double mantle of humility and simplicity.
For forty-six years did she lead a life of obscurity and toil, seeking no other satisfaction than that of pleasing God; she sanctified herself in the lowliest paths by a faithful correspondence to grace, and an exact compliance with the practices of a Community life. The favors she received from Heaven never filled her heart with pride; witness of the wonders daily wrought by the medal, she never uttered a word that might lead others to suspect how much more she knew about it than any one else.
Might we not say, she had chosen for her motto these words of À Kempis: “Love to be unknown and accounted as nothing?” How faithfully these traits portray the true daughter of the humble Vincent de Paul!
What, in Heaven, must be the glory of those whose earthly life was one of self-abasement? Do we not already perceive a faint radiance of this glory? The obsequies of the humble servant of the poor resembled a triumph; by an almost unheard of exception, her body remains in the midst of her spiritual family; her tomb is visited by persons of every condition, who, with confidence, recommend themselves to her intercession, and many of whom assure us that their petitions have been granted. In fine, this biographical notice discloses what Sister Catherine so carefully concealed, and thus accomplishes Our Lord’s promise: “He who humbleth himself, shall be exalted.”
 St. Vincent desired that the sojourn which the young Sisters make at the Mother House, to be there imbued with, and instructed in, the spirit and duties of their vocation, should be called the Seminary term; he feared lest the word “novitiate,” applicable to religious Orders, might cause the Daughters of Charity to be regarded as such.
 The Life of M. Aladel has been published; 1 volume in 12mo. It can be procured in Paris, rue du Bac, 140.
 Verbal process of the investigation made by order of Mgr. de Quélen in 1836, upon the origin of the medal, MS. p. 10.
 Verbal process of the investigation, p. 5.
 Verbal process of the investigation.
 Persons favored with supernatural communications are not thereby preserved from error. They may be deceived in misunderstanding what they see or hear, they may be duped by the illusions of the demon, they may involuntarily mingle their own ideas with those which come from God, and they may fail in transmitting with accuracy what has been revealed to them. We must also remark that prophecies are frequently conditional, and their accomplishment depends upon the manner in which the conditions are fulfilled; so that, when the Church approves these private revelations, she does nothing more than declare that, after grave examination, they may be published for the edification of the faithful, and that the proofs given are sufficient to ensure belief.