Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Miraculous Medal

Today is the feast of the Miraculous Medal. The apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré at the convent of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue de Bac in Paris are quite famous. Many people are unaware that the novice from Burgundy also experienced a vision of Christ the King, which foretold to her the July Revolution of 1830, and the final fall of the House of Bourbon. The July Revolution sent the Duchesse d'Angoulême and her family into permanent exile, as is told in the novel Madame Royale.

Fr. Joseph Dirvin describes the vision of June 6, 1830 in detail in his biography of St. Catherine.

On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, Sister Laboure was given a special vision of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or more specifically of Christ as King. This time she is precise as to the moment of the vision. Our Lord appeared to her, robed as a king, with a cross at His breast, during the Gospel of the Mass. Suddenly, all His kingly ornaments fell from Him to the ground—even the cross, which tumbled beneath His feet. Immediately her thoughts and her heart fell, too, and were plunged into that chasm of gloom that she had known before, gloom that portended a change in government. This time, however, she understood clearly that the change in government involved the person of the King, and that, just as Christ was divested of His royal trappings before her, so would Charles X be divested of his throne.
It is a startling thing, this sacred vision of God Himself coming in majesty to foretell the fall of an earthly monarch, and the vision of Christ the King to Catherine Laboure seems to have had no other purpose than to foretell the fall of Charles X of France. The mystery of it will never be fully solved; yet here and there the mind may mull over certain clues.
The greatest of these clues is the nature of the French monarchy itself, which, as Hilaire Belloc understood so well, was a holy thing, wedded to the people it ruled, and the prototype of all the monarchies of Europe. This ancient royalty had its roots in Rome and had received its Christian mandate in the crowning of Charlemagne by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800 A.D. It had lived for more than a thousand years in one line of men. No matter how great the goodness or wickedness of these royal men—and there was an ample supply of both—the sanctity of the monarchy itself and its mystical espousal to the French people is not to be questioned. In its institutions, its duties, its relationship to those it governed, its elaborate ritual, it was an imitation on a much lower plane of the Church of God. The French, kings and subjects alike, knew this well. Jeanne d'Arc was in an agony until the Dauphin should be crowned at Rheims and his body anointed and consecrated in the sacred rite which was so essential to this kingly religion; in a sense, it was her sole mission, and it is significant that her fortunes declined afterward. Louis XI had the Ampulla of holy oil brought from Rheims that his dying eyes might rest on it. Napoleon III sought to sanctify his usurpation by having himself anointed with the small, hard lump that was all that remained of the holy oil in 1853. The Kings of France, no matter how absolute their rule, had to be born and to die, had to eat and drink, take their recreation, and pray in the sight of the people. At the birth of her ill-fated Dauphin, Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation, because of the press of the common people in her chamber, witnessing her lying-in; only the quick-witted action of a bystander, breaking a window to let in the fresh air, saved her.
The double religious family to which Catherine belonged had had official relationships with the French monarchy. Louis XIII had died in the arms of Vincent de Paul. The Founder continued to serve his widow, Anne of Austria, during the early part of her Regency, both as her confessor and as an important member of the royal Council of Conscience, a body established for the reform of the Church. Under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Vincentian Fathers had been royal chaplains at Versailles, and, after the restoration, had been privileged to form a guard of honor about the bier of Louis XVIII.
That the vision of Christ the King had some intimate relationship with the end of the Bourbon dynasty seems evident, for Charles X was the last of the royal Bourbons; his cousin Louis Philippe, who succeeded him, belonged to a lateral line. Again we are confronted with the astonishing preoccupation of Heaven with the fortunes of France.
Before leaving this vision, we must point out the noteworthy fact that Catherine Laboure was the first saint in modern times to be vouchsafed a vision of Christ as King. In the light of the great present-day devotion to the Kingship of Christ, we would seem justified in questioning whether the vision might not have a mystical meaning. In announcing the end of the oldest of monarchies, might not Christ have meant to point up the passing quality of all earthly authority, and to foretell present-day devotion to His Kingship as the index of the eternal quality of His own Reign?
Certainly, however, Sister Laboure did not ponder thus in her heart. She knew only, as the common people know, that there was to be "a change in government," and that, as inevitably came to pass, "many miseries would follow." She knew only, as the common people know, that there had been too many changes of government in France over the last forty years, too many miseries following, and, with this instinctive knowledge of the people, she grew sad and feared.
The statesmen and politicians of the land would have laughed at the long, prophetic thoughts of the little Sister, for national order seemed well established and peace reigned. Indeed, the government was enjoying the flush of esteem that had come with the brilliant victory of the French troops in Algiers, a victory which the nation had asked through the intercession of St. Vincent. In certain coffee houses and wine shops of Paris, however, there would have been no laughter. The brutal men assembled there would merely have smiled with grim satisfaction at this forecast of success for the revolution they were plotting.
(~from St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal by Fr. Joseph Dirvin)


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