There was much sorrow and pain in Paris during the first half of the 19th. Century. But grace did more abound. With echoes of Romans 5;20 and Charles Dickens, grace manifested through St. Catherine Laboure, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, and St. John Gabriel Perboyre! Quite a quartet of messengers of grace. God’s grace is not limited to those years in the 19th. Century. It always abounds. This was the message of Fr. Michael Carroll, former Provincial of the Eastern Province and now Director at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Germantown.
In this video of the Mass, his homily begins at the 24 minutes and 30 second mark
Here is the slightly edited text of his homily …
St. Catherine Laboure was born in 1806. We all know that on the night of November 27, 1830, she was visited by the Blessed Mother and given the Miraculous Medal. The Medal was first struck in 1832. Needless to say, these were days when Grace was flowing freely in Paris.
The chapel of the Daughters of Charity was not the only place in Paris where that grace was being revealed. In 1833 just 1 year after the Miraculous Medal was struck and not far from the site of Catherine’s apparition, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded by 20-year-old Frederic Ozanam whose Feast we celebrate on September 9.
Blessed Frederic was a French College student who was comfortable and successful in the academic world. Yet he felt a strong pull in his heart to care for the needs of the poor. While he enjoyed pondering the mysteries of our faith, he also knew that he had to live his faith. His response to that tug in his heart was to bring together six of his fellow academicians to form a ‘Conference of Charity’. The first charitable act of the group was immediately after the meeting. They took their own firewood to give it to someone who had none.
The goal of the group was to dedicate themselves to the poor after the example of St. Vincent de Paul. To do this they visited the person with the reputation for the greatest generosity to the poor in the Paris of their time, Sister Rosalie Rendu-Daughter of Charity. (now Blessed Rosalie Rendu) Sister coached them on how to approach the poor and the importance of respect in their service of others. She also brought them to the neighborhood where those with the greatest need lived. Ozanam and his companions became know for the bread, firewood, and friendship that they brought to the poor.
Frederic died at the age of 40 on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On September 11, we celebrate the Feast of St. John Gabriel Perboyre, a Vincentian Priest and Martyr. The picture of his martyrdom hangs right next to the Miraculous Medal Shrine, on the wall in the same area is a picture of Fredric Ozanam. John Gabriel was born in 1802-4 years before Catherine Laboure was born. John Gabriel was born into a Vincentian Family. He had Aunts who were Daughters of Charity and Uncles who were Vincentians. He had 8 siblings and 5 of them became either Vincentians or Daughters of Charity. He went to the Seminary with his brother Louie. He was ordained a priest in 1825 and his ordination took place in the Daughters of Charity Chapel. The same chapel where 5 years later the BVM would appear to St. Catherine Laboure.
Perboyre always wanted to be a missionary and if he had a choice he would choose China. Some years earlier his brother Louie had been assigned to China but died during the voyage.
After ordination, he had been appointed the Novice Master in Paris. Ten years later in 1835, he was sent to China. He was finally about to fulfill his dream of bringing the Gospel to the Chinese people and through Baptism make them sharers in eternal fife.
Biographers tell us that he took many Miraculous Medals with him to China. Remember the Medals were only struck just two years before he began his voyage to China. Already the benefits given to those who wore the Medal filled the streets of Paris. A persecution of Christians and Europeans occurred in 1840. Per Boyer was tortured terribly and was martyred on 11 September 1840.
All this unfolded
• 5 years after his arrival.
• 7 years after the Society of St. Vincent de Paul had been founded.
• 8 years after the Miraculous Medal was struck
Sorrow, pain, and violence also abounded in Paris during the first half of the 19th. Century. Grace was in abundance. These Saints are signs of the power of God’s grace.
God’s grace is not limited to those years in the 19th. Century. It always abounds. This Shrine is built on God’s grace and it is one sign of God’s presence among us today.
May we all open our hearts to the power of God’s grace and allow that gift to change us and our world.