08 July 2008

140 Rue du Bac

One hundred years ago this July, the Church gave formal approval to the Association of the Miraculous Medal, formed after St. Catherine Labouré received visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary to strike a medal in her honor. The medal quickly proliferated, and has now been distributed to the furthest parts of the world.

You can read a wonderfully detailed account of the saint's life and visions written by Fr. Joseph Dirvin here, "the full and authoritative story on the life and works of St. Catherine."

Several months ago on our pilgrimage to Paris, one of our first stops was the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal on 140 Rue du Bac, in the 7th arrondissement.

It's easy to miss this little grotto in the heart of the city. The street is just as any other street in busy Paris, and apart from this little plaque on the entrance, there is little else to mark the site.

Just inside the entrance above the front gate is this statue of the Virgin with St. Catherine. “I’ve been made guardian. The protection of God is always there!”

“It’s in this chapel that in 1830 the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, manifested herself to Sister Catherine Labouré and gave to the world the Miraculous Medal.”

Interior of the chapel.

Incorrupt body of St. Louise de Marillac. (Apologies for the grainy photo; I couldn’t get any closer.) [Thank you, Fr. M, for the correction.]

As at so many other shrines, plaques line the wall donated by the faithful.

On July 18th, 1830, the Blessed Virgin made these predictions:
The times are very evil. Sorrows will come upon France; the throne will be overturned. The whole world will be upset by miseries of every kind.
Indeed, it occurred just as She said. Only ten days later, the House of Bourbon would fall, Charles X being forced to abdicate his throne in favor of the House of Orléans. To this day (ignoring the Napoleonic pretender), the two claimants to the French throne descend, one from the House of Bourbon (Louis-Alphonse), the other from the House of Orléans (Louis-Philippe), the Orléanists claiming Louis-Philippe’s right is rooted directly in the July Revolution and Charles's abdication. The Legitimists, who support Louis-Alphonse (Louis XX), claim abdication does nothing to altar the Bourbon’s rightful succession (Guy Stair-Sainty seems to take the same view). You can see a photo of Louis XX with his family here.

Mary continued her predictions:
You will recognize my coming, you will see the protection of God upon the Community, the protection of St. Vincent upon both his Communities. Have confidence. Do not be discouraged. I shall be with you. It will not be the same for other communities. There will be victims.... There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. Monseigneur the Archbishop . . . My child, the cross will be treated with contempt; they will hurl it to the ground. Blood will flow; they will open up again the side of Our Lord. The streets will stream with blood. Monseigneur the Archbishop will be stripped of his garments....
Our Lady foretold the martyrdom of Monseigneur Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, forty years later during la Semaine Sanglante (“The Bloody Week”), when the Paris Commune took prominent Catholic clergy hostage to negotiate with the government. When nothing came of it, the communists shot him. From the eyewitness account of Mgr. Darboy’s martyrdom:
Monseigneur Darboy stepped forward, and addressing his assassins, uttered a few words of pardon. Two of these men approached the Archbishop, and in face of their comrades knelt before him, beseeching his forgiveness. The other Federals at once rushed upon them and drove them back with insulting reproaches, and then, turning toward the prisoners, gave vent to most violent expressions. The commander of the detachment even felt ashamed of this, and, ordering silence, uttered a frightful oath, telling his men that they were there “to shoot those people, and not to bully them.” The Federals were silenced, and upon the orders of their lieutenants, loaded their weapons. Father Allard was placed against the wall and was the first shot down. Then Mgr. Darboy, in his turn, fell. The whole six prisoners were thus shot, all evincing the utmost calmness and courage.
In one of the side chapels of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris stands a statue in homage to this martyr, poised to give his executioners a blessing.

As a remedy to such evils, Our Lady encouraged all to come to the foot of the altar at the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal and there beseech graces for themselves and for the whole world. The Miraculous Medal was also given as a remedy for the conversion of souls. In the U.S., you can order them here. In France, they can be ordered here.

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