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Who was Catherine Labouré?

Do you know why Catherine Labouré is a saint? Catherine Labouré is known for receiving the devotion of the Miraculous Medal on November 27, 1830. Two years later, over 1,500 copies of the Miraculous Medal were made, inaugurating a devotion now beloved by the faithful seeking protection across the globe. This week, as we celebrate the anniversary of the devotion, we invite you to learn more about the life of Catherine and where you can find her portrayed in the Basilica.

Early Life

Miraculous Medal Chapel
The Miraculous Medal Chapel at the Basilica

Born in 1806, Catherine served as a nun at the convent of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at Châtillon-sur-Seine in France. According to accounts, one night, she was suddenly awoken by a luminous child, who she followed down the hall to the chapel. There, she saw an even more brilliant figure: the Blessed Mother, who she proceeded to speak to for two hours. Catherine went back to bed after the incident, and months later, saw Mary once more in an image of splendor. On one side, she saw the Blessed Mother standing atop a globe, her hands emanating beams of light. On the other side stood a cross with an “M,” and two hearts – one with a crown of thorns, and the other with a sword through it. In the apparition, Mary told her to make the image into a medal, which would provide protection and grace to those who wore it.

Although Catherine only told her confessor of the phenomenon, he had the image made into a medal in 1832, and that year, 1,500 copies of it were produced. Official investigations into her visions determined them to be authentic, but Catherine insisted on remaining anonymous during her lifetime, continuing to live in selfless service, caring for the elderly and managing the convent.

Miraculous Medal Today, millions of the faithful wear the medal, which has continued to be produced and is immensely popular.

Find Catherine Labouré Portrayed in the Basilica

You can find St. Catherine Labouré portrayed not once, but twice in the Basilica in the Miraculous Medal Chapel in the reredos (pictured right). The center reredos depicts Mary as she appeared to Catherine Labouré and as she appears on the Miraculous Medal. To the left of the image, Catherine is portrayed as a novice with her guardian angel, kneeling in awe of the Blessed Mother. On the right, Catherine is dressed as a professed Daughter of Charity and has two children at her side. Etched in marble under the image is the phrase, “Come to the foot of the altar,” – Mary’s words to Catherine. 


The Way of the Saints, Dr. Tom Cowan

Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour BookWashington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.

Light a Candle at the Basilica

Light a Candle at the BasilicaIn honor of the Blessed Mother, we invite you to light a candle today at the National Shrine. Vigil candles burn in the chapels throughout the Great Upper Church and lower crypt level of the National Shrine. Each candle represents the faith of the supplicants and their fervent prayers entrusted to the loving intercession of the Blessed Mother.

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