Many of us already know the story of how St. Catherine Laboure received the Miraculous Medal from Our Lady, but long before becoming a Daughter of Charity, Catherine Laboure already showed great love for and devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.
St. Catherine Laboure's Feast is celebrated this year on Saturday, Nov. 28. Catherine was baptized and given the name of Zoe because it was on the feast of Saint Zoe that she was born. It is common knowledge that the Virgin Mary appeared Catherine Laboure, telling her to have a medal struck in honor of her Immaculate Conception. Few people remember that Zoe first went to the Virgin Mary...not then but much earlier in her life at a most appropriate time.
At the time Zoe was 9 years old. I placed the age here as a numeral to emphasize it because the day was October 9, 1815. There were tears and sobbing throughout the house. Her mother had just died. A hired servant kept a watch on the youngsters and noticed Zoe moving in a determined step. She was too small to do what she wanted so she grabbed a chair, dragged it in front of the fireplace, and stood on it. She reached up and took the statue of the Virgin Mary from the mantle, wrapped it in her young arms, and held it to her breast. The servant heard her say, "Now you will be my mother." Tears came, but she checked them and climbed down to the floor. She now had her new mother.
There had been 17 children in the family. Only 10 survived infancy. After the funeral an aunt offered to take the two youngest girls, Zoe 9 and Tonine 7. In a time of stress it helped the father. The new home for Zoe was occupied with 4 boy cousins and 2 girl cousins ranging from age ten to eighteen. After two years the father asked to have Zoe and Tonine return; he missed them. In her joy returning home Zoe began preparing for her first Holy Communion at age 12. It was about that time she also told her father that Tonine would help her, but she was going to take over all the household duties including the garden and the dovecote which was home to some 600 to 800 pigeons. In fact it had 1121 nest places.
Zoe became "the woman of the house" caring for the needs of cooking, baking, washing, feeding the pigeons and cleaning their dovecote, and caring for the garden. She did this until she was 21 when she went to the city hoping to learn how to read and write. During this time Zoe had a daily routine she had worked out including a quick run to the local church which was no longer used for daily worship. But for her, it was God's House. There in the silence she could talk to her Mother without distraction for a few moments before returning for her daily workload.
It was at this time in her life that the calling to religious life took hold of Zoe's soul and the rest is history as she becomes a the Daughter of Charity chosen by Our Lady to give the world the Miraculous Medal!