Father John Mary Aladel was the spiritual director of St. Catherine Labouré, and he was involved in the propagation of the devotion of the Miraculous Medal. The devotion was given by Our Lady to St. Catherine in 1830. Father Aladel did not expect that about ten years later he would be involved in the propagation of another Marian devotion.
On January 28, 1840, Our Lady appeared Sister Justine Bisqueyburu, who belonged to the same religious community of St. Catherine Labouré. Our Lady was dressed in a long white gown over which was a mantle of very light blue. Our Lady wore no veil and she held her Immaculate Heart in her hands. Our Lady appeared to Sister Justine a few times in 1840.
On September 8, 1840, Our Lady appeared and holding in her right hand her Immaculate Heart surmounted by flames. She held in her left hand a kind of scapular. It was green. On one side was a picture of Our Lady such as she had shown herself in the preceding apparitions. On the other side was the Immaculate Heart, pierced with a sword. The Immaculate Heart was encircled by an inscription of oval shape surmounted by a gold cross, and thus worded: ‘Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.’
An interior voice said “By this means, God would bring to Himself, through the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary, those who had lost their faith or had been separated from Holy Church. They would be assured of a happy death, including eternal salvation.” Sister Justine understood that this holy picture was to contribute to the conversion of souls and to procure a good death, and that copies should be made as soon as possible and distributed with confidence.
The same apparition was again repeated on August 15 and September 13, 1841. Sister Justine informed Father Aladel of the apparitions. However, there was delay in the propagation of the devotion, and when it was propagated it was done with little confidence. Our Lady appeared to Sister Justine in 1842 and 1846 complaining about the delay and the lack of confidence. Our Lady said, “If it be given with confidence, there will be a great number of conversions.”
There were questions regarding the nature of the devotion. For example, must it be submitted to a special blessing? Must it be imposed with certain ceremonies? Sister Justine was commended by her director to beg Our Lady to give the answer.
On September 8 ,1946, Our Lady appeared to Sister Justine and gave her a better understanding of the devotion: Since the Green Scapular is not the badge of a confraternity but simply a double image attached to a single piece of cloth and suspended from a cord, investiture is not required. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by one for whom it is intended. If a person is unable or even unwilling to wear it or carry it, it may even be slipped, unknown to him, into his clothes, bed, room, or possessions.
The only prayer is the inscription surrounding the heart on the reverse of the scapular: “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” This prayer is to be said at least once a day. If the person who is the intended beneficiary of the scapular’s use did not say it, then someone else can say it in his place. The Green Scapular may be used anywhere, for anyone. The greatest graces are attached to its use; but these graces are more or less great in proportion to the degree of confidence which accompanies it.
Following the instructions of Our Lady, the devotion resulted in the conversions of numerous sinners. Pope Pius IX approved the devotion and said, “Write to these good Sisters that I authorize them to make and distribute it.”