St. Catherine Labouré
As regular readers will by now already know, Pope Francis has promised to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13th, 2013, as part of several planned events to mark the end of the Year of Faith. This act seems a rather fitting close to a year that has already proven itself to be of major prophetic importance. Between the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s abdication and the lightning strikes on St. Peter’s Basilica that followed just hours afterwards on 11th February, to the Chelyabinsk Meteor Strike a few days later on 15th February, as well as the timing of the election of Pope Francis in relation to the “Worthy Shepherd Prophecy” of Bl. Tomasuccio de Foligno, this year has already been stacked full of both “signs in the sky” and striking prophetic coincidences in connection with them. So the timing of the appearance of Comet ISON in November of this year just after the scheduled date for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13th would also appear to be of some similar prophetic significance. Christ Himself foretold that there would be several important “signs in the sky” to announce the approach of His Second Coming:
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven”.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
We are therefore instructed to take notice of any significant astronomical events, in order to discern the “signs of the times” we are living in, so that we might lift our heads up to the realization that the redemption of Christ is drawing near to us. So in addition to the various other “signs in the sky” we have already witnessed this year, we should also take into consideration the timing of the appearance of this comet in relation to the upcoming consecration. Comets have been viewed as a harbinger of world changing events since biblical times, and there is a consensus among theologians that the Wormwood Star of the Book of Revelation, described as falling from heaven whilst “burning like a torch” (Rev 8:10-11), is an accurate depiction of a comet, similar to how they were described in other contemporary first century AD accounts. The arrival of comets in the night skies should definitely be considered to rank among the “signs in the sky” that we have been instructed to be on the lookout for by Christ.
While the display of ISON is no longer thought to be of the proportions previously expected, due to an apparent “flat-lining” of its increase in brightness since the start of the year, the true extent of the appearance of this comet is still as of yet an unknown quantity and there is still a good chance that it will be one of the most noteworthy comets of this century (see here for one of the latest updates on the level of ISON’s brightness). Whether or not ISON will be as spectacular as Hale-Bopp in 1997 (which currently looks unlikely), the timing of the appearance of this comet in November still appears to be of some significance, not only in relation to the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in October, but also in the fact that is the first in a series of heavenly portents that will take place during Jewish feast days between now and 2015. The perihelion of Comet ISON (the point at which it will be closest to the Sun, and consequently appear at its brightest) will take place on November 28th, which it has been noted coincides with the Feast of Hanukkah. Several prophecy commentators have already compared the timing of this event with the much vaunted coming of the tetrad sequence of blood moons occurring on Jewish feast days next year, which will start on the Feast of Passover on April 15th, 2014.
For quite some time now, certain prophecy teachers have been pointing to the significance of these tetrad blood moons (a sequence of four total lunar eclipses), which as well as in April 2014, will also occur on the Feast of Tabernacles on October 8th 2014, Passover on April 4th 2015, and again on the Feast of Tabernacles on September 28th, 2015. In addition to this, there will also be a total solar eclipse shortly before a Passover blood moon, on March 20th 2015 (1st Nisan), and a partial solar eclipse on the Feast of Trumpets on September 13th, 2015. It has frequently been noted that there have only been seven occurrences of these blood moon tetrads falling on Jewish feast days since the first coming of Christ, and that the last two times have fallen within close proximity together – in 1949-1950 and 1967-1968, dates that are remarkably close to the restoration of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem by Israel following the Six Day War in 1968. While most prophecy commentators have related the significance of these blood moon tetrads to the Second Coming of Christ and the erroneous teaching of a “rapture”, it seems much more likely that if these striking coincidences symbolize anything, then they appear to point towards the promised restoration of the Church.
First is the fact that two of the blood moons occur on the Feast of Passover – which commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from a life of slavery in Egypt. The Jewish Passover symbolizes the rescue of God’s people from bondage to sin, and prefigures not only the Passion of Christ as the Lamb of God, but also to the time when the Church will be delivered from the new “bondage in Egypt” – the Great Apostasy. The Book of Deuteronomy promised that God would once again raise up a prophet like Moses, who would deliver his people from a state of captivity:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”
The appearance of Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration of Christ on the Feast of Tabernacles pointed to the role of the Two Witnesses as the promised prophet like Moses and the Elijah to come, and it is this event that Christians associate with this Jewish feast day. So if they symbolize anything, I would assume that the blood moons on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles point to an Exodus of the Church (as the New Israel) from its current state of apostasy, and also to the means of its deliverance through the ministry of the Two Witnesses. This would then be reinforced by the fact that the last two appearances of the tetrad blood moons on Jewish feast days occurred within time periods associated with the restoration of Israel. The restoration of Israel prefigures the restoration of the Church, just as the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler foreshadows the future persecution of Christians under the Antichrist. This follows the order of sequence outlined by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans – to “the Jew first”, and then to the Gentiles.
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Gentile, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Gentile. For God shows no partiality.
The fact that the perihelion of Comet ISON on November 28th will occur during the Feast of Hanukkah – which begins during the evening of November 27th – also brings to mind that this is a feast which commemorates the deliverance of Israel under the Maccabees. So here once again we have the theme of restoration.
Out of curiosity, I decided to research the significance of the date of November 28th in relation to Catholic feast days, since we know that drawing parallels between important dates is but one of the ways that God likes to communicate with us (we need only to think of the Jewish feast Tisha B’Av for an example of this). It just so happens that November 28th is the feast day of St. Catherine Labouré. The apparitions of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré at Rue de Bac, Paris, in 1830 are widely regarded among Catholics as those which marked the beginning of the great Marian age predicted by St. Louis de Montfort in his Treatise on True Devotion. Writing in the early 18th century, St. Louis de Montfort prophetically announced that the Virgin Mary would play an ever greater role in bringing people to Christ towards the end of the world by crushing the head of the Serpent, in order to prepare us for the Second Coming of her Son Jesus Christ:
Mary’s part in the latter times
The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished. Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Jesus Christ so that men, as yet insufficiently instructed and enlightened concerning the person of her Son, might not wander from the truth by becoming too strongly attached to her. This would apparently have happened if she had been known, on account of the wondrous charms with which Almighty God had endowed even her outward appearance. So true is this that St. Denis the Areopagite tells us in his writings that when he saw her he would have taken her for a goddess, because of her incomparable beauty, had not his well-grounded faith taught him otherwise. But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary must be known and openly revealed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus may be known, loved and served through her. The reasons which moved the Holy Spirit to hide his spouse during her life and to reveal but very little of her since the first preaching of the gospel exist no longer.
1) God wishes to make Mary better known in the latter times.
50. God wishes therefore to reveal Mary, his masterpiece, and make her more known in these latter times:
(1) Because she kept herself hidden in this world and in her great humility considered herself lower than dust, having obtained from God, his apostles and evangelists the favour of being made known.
(2) Because, as Mary is not only God’s masterpiece of glory in heaven, but also his masterpiece of grace on earth, he wishes to be glorified and praised because of her by those living upon earth.
(3) Since she is the dawn which precedes and discloses the Sun of Justice Jesus Christ, she must be known and acknowledged so that Jesus may be known and acknowledged.
(4) As she was the way by which Jesus first came to us, she will again be the way by which he will come to us the second time though not in the same manner.
(5) Since she is the sure means, the direct and immaculate way to Jesus and the perfect guide to him, it is through her that souls who are to shine forth in sanctity must find him. He who finds Mary finds life, that is, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. But no one can find Mary who does not look for her. No one can look for her who does not know her, for no one seeks or desires something unknown. Mary then must be better known than ever for the deeper understanding and the greater glory of the Blessed Trinity.
(6) In these latter times Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, power and grace; in mercy, to bring back and welcome lovingly the poor sinners and wanderers who are to be converted and return to the Catholic Church; in power, to combat the enemies of God who will rise up menacingly to seduce and crush by promises and threats all those who oppose them; finally, she must shine forth in grace to inspire and support the valiant soldiers and loyal servants of Jesus Christ who are fighting for his cause.
(7) Lastly, Mary must become as terrible as an army in battle array to the devil and his followers, especially in these latter times. For Satan, knowing that he has little time – even less now than ever – to destroy souls, intensifies his efforts and his onslaughts every day. He will not hesitate to stir up savage persecutions and set treacherous snares for Mary’s faithful servants and children whom he finds more difficult to overcome than others.
(St. Louis de Montfort Treatise on True Devotion paragraphs 49-50)
Given the fact that the apparitions at Rue de Bac are considered to be the beginning of this prophesied Marian age which precedes the Second Coming of Christ, it should be worth studying them in some more detail. Rev. Robert J. Billett provides an outline of the visions given to St. Catherine Labouré, the content of which she was instructed to incorporate into the Miraculous Medal:
The mission that God wanted to entrust to Catherine was made manifest to her on November 27, 1830. It was the mission of making and distributing the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now known as the Miraculous Medal. That day was the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. The Sisters were gathered in the chapel as usual for prayers at five-thirty in the afternoon. Suddenly Our Lady appeared to Catherine.
At first Mary appeared standing on a globe and dressed in white having with a long white veil which fell to her feet. The Virgin held in her hands, at the height of her shoulders, a golden ball which she seemed to be offering to God as she raised her eyes to heaven. Her fingers were covered with rings whose precious jewels sparkled brilliantly and showered down innumerable rays of light on the globe beneath her feet, almost obscuring the view of her feet. Mary lowered her eyes and looked directly at Catherine. Mary said nothing, but Catherine heard this message, “The ball which you see represents the world, especially France, and each person in particular. These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The jewels which give no rays symbolize the graces that are not given because they are not asked for.” Then the apparition changed.
Our Lady appeared with a white dress, a blue mantle, and a white veil which draped back over her shoulders. She was still standing on the globe, and had one foot on the head of a serpent which lay at her feet. The 1830 was marked on the globe. The Virgin had her arms and hands pointed downwards, and a cascade of rays was falling down from both hands onto the globe. An oval frame formed around the Blessed Virgin, and written around within it, in letters of gold, was the beautiful prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” This was the front side of the medal that was to be made.
Then the vision revolved to show the reverse side of the medal. Catherine saw a Cross with a bar at its feet with which was intertwined an “M.” Beneath the “M” were the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, both surmounted by flames of love, one having a crown of thorns, and other pierced with a sword. Encircling all of this were twelve stars around the oval frame.
(Rev. Robert J. Billett, C.M.F. St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal http://www.marys-touch.com/Saints/medal/medal.htm)
The apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St. Catherine Labouré share some striking imagery with the Third Secret of Fatima, and there is clearly an intention here to invite us to draw a point of comparison between the two. The rays of light which emanate from the hands of Our Lady to shine down graces upon the world in the visions of St. Catherine Labouré is reflected in the Third Secret of Fatima, when the Virgin Mary issues dazzling radiance from her right hand in order protect us from the flames of the Angel’s flaming sword – which threatens to consume the world in chastisement for its sins:
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that
looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth
with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’.
The front and back images shown on the Miraculous Medal are presented here side-by-side
The rays of light shown falling down upon the world from the hands of Virgin Mary on the
Miraculous Medal thus represent the graces which flow from the hands of Our Lady during the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart. We can be doubly sure that this vision concerns the Triumph of
the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the fact that St. Catherine Labouré saw her standing with one foot crushing the head of the Serpent upon a globe representing the earth. The crushing of the Serpent’s head is directly related to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The twelve stars depicted on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal inform us that this is the Woman Adorned with the Sun in the Book of Revelation, who is presented with twelve stars around her head (Rev 12:1). And chapter 12 of the Apocalypse is in turn a prophetic expansion of the Protoevangelium of Gen 3:15:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the
dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place
for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the
earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his
Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has
come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to
be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
In the vision of St. Catherine Labouré, the Virgin Mary stands victorious over the wicked Dragon as the new Eve, having trod down the Ancient Serpent under her heel. The Immaculate Heart of Mary itself appears on the reverse side in this vision, sharing the same side of the Miraculous Medal as the right hand of the Virgin, from which the Third Secret tells us issues the radiance of flowing grace to save the world from flames, recalling God’s promises in the Book of Malachi:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that
it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn
the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Without the coming of Elijah to restore the Church, to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers”, the earth would be met with a decree of utter destruction in blazing flames, and no one would be saved. Yet in one final outpouring of Divine Mercy before the Day of Judgment, God gives the Two Witnesses to the Church, when the Woman is given “the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness” (Rev 12:14). The arm of the angel with the flaming sword is stayed by the radiance which issues from Our Lady’s motherly hands, in order to allow for a period of penance and conversion.
The Immaculate Heart is depicted on the Miraculous Medal as being pierced by the sword of Our Lady of Sorrows (Luke 2:35), and is shown alongside the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The positioning of the Sacred Heart of Jesus alongside the Immaculate Heart of Mary recalls the fact that the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope Leo XIII in 1899 took place at the beginning of the 100 years of Satan’s greater power, and was framed at the end of the 20th century by Pope Bl. John Paul II’s consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This may suggest that it these consecrations that must take place before the head of the Serpent is finally crushed, and Satan is cast from heaven at the end of his period of greater power. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is described by Our Lady as the remedy to the vision of hell seen in the first part of the Secret, and it is only through this devotion that the head of the Serpent can be crushed:
The vision of St. Catherine Labouré also appears to be connected to Our Lady of Lourdes, given
the fact that the prayer inscribed upon the Miraculous Medal invokes the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” This immediately brings to mind the most famous words of Our Lady of Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception”, which were spoken to St. Bernardette Soubirous at the Grotto of Massabielle on 11th February, 1858 – just shortly after the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was infallibly defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The dogmatic teaching of the Immaculate Conception, which is binding on all Catholics, affirmed as a Divinely revealed truth that the Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. St. Bernardette, a poor, uneducated peasant girl, could not have possibly known the complicated theological implications of this recently pronounced dogma, and this statement was one of the indicators that confirmed the validity of these apparitions.
This dogmatic teaching provides us with a unique insight into the eschatological significance of the Protoevangelium. Just as sin was introduced into the world by a woman succumbing to the
temptation of the Serpent during the creation, so the world would be saved by a woman born
without sin during the new creation. A woman who would appear as the Morning Star to announce the coming of the new dawn, when the Second Coming of Christ would usher in the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. The timing of the apparitions of St. Catherine Labouré, which took place on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent, reminds us that the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary takes place just before the Second Advent of Christ, when a woman
born free from the stain of original sin finally brings the events of the fall of mankind to its final conclusion, and paradise is finally restored.
The combination of deeply symbolic imagery shown on the Miraculous Medal leads to us to the understanding that St. Catherine Labouré’s vision illustrates how the victory of the Woman Adorned with the Sun over the Serpent is won through the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, linking together the apparitions of Lourdes and Fatima through the eschatological significance of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It may thus be of some relevance that the events leading up to the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13th this year, began on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes – on 11 Feb, 2013, when Pope Benedict first announced his intention to abdicate the papacy. And the lightning that struck St. Peter’s Basilica within hours of this announcement was not the only deeply symbolic act of nature that has taken place this year in connection with Our Lady of Lourdes. The flooding which inundated Lourdes on 18th June, 2013, has been similarly looked upon by many Catholics as some sort of heavenly sign or warning – especially given the dramatic nature of this event. Video footage of the flooding at Lourdes showed the statue of the Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Massabielle threatening to be swept away by the flood waters, which were highly reminiscent of the words of the Apocalypse:
and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. (Rev 12:15-16)