May is the month of Mary. Ave Maria! One of the Blessed Virgin’s most notable historical apparitions occurred in 1830 when she appeared to a young French novice, Sister Catherine Labouré, in her convent on the Rue du Bac (in English, Ferry Street) in Paris from which came the Miraculous Medal.
What is the Miraculous Medal? And why does it matter? Father Tim MacDonald, Pastor of Queen of the Miraculous Medal in Jackson and Pastoral Administrator of Saint Catherine Labouré in Concord, now explains:
In August of 1997, World Youth Day took place in Paris. I was a seminarian living in Italy at the time. I traveled from Rome by train to meet up with Bishop Mengeling and all the seminarians of the Diocese of Lansing who were flying over for the occasion.
Anyone who knows our emeritus bishop realizes that he is a Renaissance Man who loves the church and its history, art and architecture. On this trip he wanted to instill those same loves in the future priests of the diocese.
Bishop Mengeling took us to imposing and beautiful Gothic churches and cathedrals in and around Paris: Notre Dame, Chartres, Reims, even Lisieux to see St. Therese, the Little Flower.
One stop, perhaps the most memorable, was to #140 Rue de Bac in Paris, Le Chapelle Notre Dame de Medaille Miraculeuse, the Chapel of Our lady of the Miraculous Medal. It serves as the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Merillac. St. Louise is buried there as is the heart of Vincent. Alongside them is a wax effigy in a glass altar, inside of which you will find the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Labouré.
Pilgrims can visit the very chapel where the Blessed Mother appeared three times to Sister Catherine in 1830. The chapel has been renovated and added on to more than once but it preserves the very spot where, on various occasions, Catherine saw her guardian angel, the crucified Christ and she also had a vision of St. Vincent, the founder of her order, who had passed from this life more than 150 years before Catherine was born.
It was in that chapel that the Blessed Mother called upon Catherine to have the Miraculous Medal designed and disseminated to the faithful all-around Paris, Europe and the world, with the inscription ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee'.
I joined all the other seminarians present there, and our Bishop, praying that we might become holy priests in service to the people of God in the Diocese of Lansing. Surrounded by the tombs of saints, and in front of the very same tabernacle where St. Catherine said Our Lady prostrated herself before her son in the Eucharist, we were caught up in mystery and miracle.
Little could I have known then how much my visit there would come to mean to me during my priesthood. In 2010, I became pastor of Queen of the Miraculous Medal in Jackson. I have been there ever since. In addition, I took over the duties as pastoral administrator of St. Catherine Labouré in Concord in 2022.
Now, every day when I say Mass, I do so in the shadow of the Miraculous Medal and surrounded by the statues of the very saints buried in the Miraculous Medal Chapel on the Rue de Bac in Paris. Through Our Lady’s intercession, God answered my prayers offered in that chapel in a most excellent way. My life will never be the same.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
May these words continue to echo in time, in eternity and in the hearts of the People of God of our great Diocese who see and seek and pray for miracles every day.