This year marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. Those who specialize in Marian studies point out that 1830 to 1954 was the “age of Mary”. In 1830, Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and there was a Marian Year in 1954. Within the span of that 125 years, there were at least eight major Marian apparitions and the official declarations of two Marian dogmas. In the coming weeks, we are going to review the major Marian events occurred during the “age of Mary”.
St. Catherine Laboure was the saint chosen by God to usher in the age of Mary. As the evening Angelus bells sounded, Catherine was born on May 2, 1806. She was the ninth child of a family of eleven. The baby girl was baptized the next day.
When Catherine was nine years old, her mother died. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady’s statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: “Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother.”
One day Catherine had a dream in which she saw an old priest saying Mass. After Mass the priest turned and beckoned to her with his finger, but she drew backwards, keeping her eyes on him. The vision moved to a sickroom where she saw the same priest, who said: “My child, it is a good deed to look after the sick; you run away from me now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God has designs for you. Do not forget it!”
Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity, Catherine noticed a priest’s picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: “Our Holy Founder Saint Vincent de Paul.” Catherine had seen this same priest in the dream.
In 1830, Catherine entered the Daughters of Charity. God granted her the gift of extraordinary visions of the heart of St. Vincent de Paul. She also saw Our Lord during Mass, and he would appear as he was described in the liturgy of the day.
On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of them a piece of cloth from his surplice. Catherine earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might see the Mother of God with her own eyes. She was convinced that she would see the Blessed Virgin Mary that very night. In her conviction, Catherine fell asleep. Before long, a brilliant light and the voice of a child awakened her. “Sister Laboure, come to the Chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you.”
When Catherine went to the chapel, she found it ablaze with lights as if prepared for Midnight Mass. Quietly, she knelt at the Communion rail, then she saw Our Lady sat in the director’s chair. The angel whispered: “The Blessed Mother wishes to speak with you.”
Catherine rose, knelt beside the Blessed Mother and rested her hands in Our Lady’s lap. Mary said: “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.” A pained expression crossed Our Lady’s face. She said, “Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who ask for them. You will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent. I always will have my eyes upon you. There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground and blood will flow.”