In 1980, when Pat and I entered a building in a back street near the center of Paris, we saw the corpse at once. Displayed in an illuminated glass coffin was the body of an elderly lady dressed in the black robes of a French nun. The body had not deteriorated in any way. Indeed, she was so lifelike that she could have been in the middle of a peaceful sleep. The building that we had entered was the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, which is located at 140 Rue du Bac in the seventh arrondissement of Paris, France. In life, this elderly lady had been Catherine Laboure, who was born in the Burgundy region of France in 1806 and who died and was buried in 1876. Many years later, the Roman Catholic Church was considering conferring sainthood upon her and, in 1933 in relation to that, her body was exhumed. It was found to be what the Church calls “incorrupt”. In other words, the body was and still is in exactly the same state as at the time of death, despite the fact that no preservatives of any kind had been used. This was the body that we were looking at over a century after her death. The Church considers this to be a miracle. In 1947, it canonized her, not just because of the condition of her body but because of the events in her life that we describe below, and she is now Saint Catherine Laboure.
At the time, Pat and I had needs in our own lives that called for a couple of miracles. We were living in the Marylebone area of London and visited a local church on nine occasions to pray for these miracles to be granted to us. We were undertaking what is known in the Church as a “novena” and selected the Novena of the Miraculous Medal, which brings us back to Saint Catherine Laboure. Her story is that, as a young woman, she became a member of a nursing order founded by St. Vincent de Paul. She was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, particularly after the death of her own mother. On a number of occasions in 1830, when she was 24 years of age, she believes that she was visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary who showed her certain images. Mary told her to take details of these images to her father confessor and to ask him to create medallions containing them. Mary then told her that all who wear the medallion will “receive great graces”. The father confessor referred the situation to the church hierarchy. Within a few years, after due investigation of Catherine and her story, a Miraculous Medal containing those images was created by the Church and distributed. This was done without any mention of Catherine. Indeed it was not until after her death many years later that her part in the creation of the Miraculous Medal became known. Catherine lived out the rest of her seventy year life as an ordinary nursing sister, humble and well liked, with her peers unaware that they were in the presence of a saint.
While Pat and I were undertaking our novena, we both wore the Miraculous Medal. Then, to give our nine prayer sessions a special emphasis, we visited the little chapel at 140 Rue du Bac and prayed again in front of Saint Catherine Laboure. Shortly afterwards, our prayers were answered and our miracles arrived. Precisely what we asked for is not relevant to this story. Suffice it is to say that what we were asking for certainly needed miracles. Our medallions were not some kind of good luck charm. Instead, they are a testimony to faith and to the power of trusting prayer. I recall that, many years ago, my dear mother prayed as hard as any human being could for something that she particularly wanted. She was truly a most deserving person. Yet her prayers went unanswered, for the simple reason that she did not believe that they would be answered. So the moral of this story is to trust in the power of prayer !!!