What was the “secret” mission of St. Catherine Laboure?

For many today it is still a “secret” that there was second mission entrusted to St. Catherine Laboure. This mission seems to be a secret today.

Keeping the secret of her role with the Miraculous Medal

Regular visitors to this site know full well the contents of the secret that Catherine kept to herself for 46 years. For 46 years the people of Paris knew only that someone had been blessed with a vision of Mary.  Not even the Daughters of Charity she lived with knew!

The year 1830 was a terrible time in Paris.  Unemployment was rampant.  Bread prices soared.  In July a revolution ripped the city into small pieces. France was ripped apart. A time not unlike our polarized society. Our Lady told Sister Catherine about the evils of the world, which were to become more intense in the years that lay ahead.

Many among us think that the message of this apparition simply to have a medal struck. Mary did not give the name of this medal. It was the people who experienced the miracles who quickly named it the Miraculous Medal since miracles of grace abounded. And people have thought of this Miraculous Medal as their “go-to” source when needing a favor. But keep in mind…we often forget that the call of the Medal is to be like Mary, the first disciple.

The “secret “ message

But there was a second message! A message that Popes such as St John Paul and Pope Francis stressed without mentioning Catherine Laboure by name. These Popes have been champions of youth and challengers to imitate Mary as the first disciple.

This is how Catherine explained this mission to her Director, Father Aladel, in her communication with him:

The Blessed Virgin wishes to give you a mission…You will be the founder and director of a Confraternity of Children of Mary.”

In effect, she was calling attention to youth as both needing to be evangelized … and a force themselves for evangelization.

This part of Catherine’s mission flourished in the beginning.  Then it faded. Now in the last several decades, Vincentian Marian Youth is a movement flourishing once again.  Worldwide membership in the Vincentian Marian youth groups has grown to 80,000.  These groups exist in more than 50 countries.

This part of the message is extremely relevant today too and therefore should not be secret.  Is there anything that Pope John Paul II  and Pope Francis emphasized so often, both in word and in action, than youth?  The young are the future of the church.  They are the third millennium.  It belongs to them.  The future of the church lies in their hands.

So Mary says to us today.

Learn the lesson of the Medal. Live what it asks of us, not just what we ask of it, miracles. Former Superior General Robert Maloney reminded us of the above in a homily he gave on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the Miraculous Medal

First, the medal urges us, like Mary, to have these three characteristics:

To be faithful listeners to God’s word.  The gospels present Mary as the model for all believers.  Beyond all others, she knew how to “listen to the word of God and act upon it” (Luke 8:21). On the deepest level, those who wear the medal are making a statement: I commit myself to live like Mary and to listen attentively each day to what God is saying to me.

To be faith-filled pray-ers.  In a frantically busy, seemingly self-sufficient world, quiet prayer is extremely important. The message that the Miraculous Medal shouts out to the world is this: that prayer is essential; that those who ask, receive; that those who seek, find; that to those who knock, the door is opened.

To live in solidarity with the poor.  In the gospels, Mary lives in solidarity with the poor of Israel.  In fact, she is their spokesperson in Luke’s and John’s gospel.  She cries out in gratitude to God for his many gifts: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
And she recognizes that God can turn the world upside-down: “He casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.”

Second, in 1830, Mary, through Catherine Labouré, called young people to stand in solidarity with society’s poorest.  This message is all the more relevant today when the Church proclaims Mary as Mother of the Poor.

Put the medal in the hands of young people.  Encourage them to wear it.  Form them into groups that believe deeply and that love the poor, as Mary did. What these groups are called may not matters as much as what they live.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with how we are living up to the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, and how you can help.