Based on the book "A Light Shining on the Earth" for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Canonization of Saint Catherine Labouré - 1947-1997
Born on May 2, 1806, in the town of Fain-les-Moutiers, Burgundy, France, Catherine was the eight child of her family. Her mother worn out by seventeen pregnancies (with ten surviving children), and the rigors of farm life, died prematurely on October 9, 1815. Catherine grew up in a family in which prayer was a part of daily life.
While the adults were gathered around her dying mother, it is told that Catherine climbed on a chair and took the family's statue of Our Lady in her arms. Timidly, but with conviction, she asked Mary to take the place of her mother. Her tears stopped and she returned to her mother's deathbed certain what she would not have to face life alone.
All during her infancy, Catherine Labouré had a great devotion to Our Lady Mary.
After his wife's burial, Pierre Labouré agreed to his sister's suggestion that she care for his two youngest children Catherine (age 9) and Tonine (age 7). The two girls went to live with their cousins at Saint Rémy, a village which was 9 kilometers from their home. Marie-Louise, the eldest daughter, took over her mother's place in running the family and the farm.
After two years, Mr. Labouré, who missed his two daughters, arranged for their return. The children were thrilled to be home. Catherine in particular was overjoyed to be reunited with her father. She also developed a close bond with her little brother Auguste, (age 9) who has been disabled in a carriage accident. Her chores included taking care of the farm's 600 doves.
Marie-Louise taught her younger sister to work in the stable, the garden, how to clean the house, and how to cook. Catherine learned diligently all these tasks. When Marie-Louise announced that she was going to fulfill her dream of entering the Order of the Daughter of Charity, it is said that Catherine told Tonine: "The two of us will run the house."
Catherine entered into the new family responsibilities. The first to rise, she carefully attended to all her shores. She cooked, took care of the cows, collected eggs, made bread, took care of the doves, and did the wash.
On January 25, 1818, Catherine made her First Communion. With great devotion, she often attended daily mass in the town of Moutiers-Saint-Jean which was about 4 kilometers from her village. Tonine was upset, thinking that her sister was taking on more than her strength would allow. She also noticed that Catherine fasted on Fridays and Saturdays. Tonine thought that Catherine was to young to undertake these practices, and she threatened to tell their father. Catherine who possessed a strong character did not relent.
One night, Catherine had a dream. In her church's village an elderly priest was saying mass. The priest gazed at Catherine and said to her:
"My daughter, you may flee me now, but one day you will to come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you."
Several years later when Catherine visited the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine, she noticed a painting on the parlor wall. She was choked to recognize the priest in the painting as the priest her dream. She asked, "Who is this priest?" A sister told her that it was Saint Vincent de Paul.
When she was eighteen, Catherine finally received her father permission to go to Chatillon to live with a cousin who ran a little school. She wanted to learn how to read and to write. These were the prerequisites for Daughters of Charity. The other young women looked down on Catherine because of her country ways. She lost her confidence and returned to the family farm. She had only learned to read and write a few words.
God's call was pressing. She wondered how she should tell her father of her desire to become a Daughter of Charity. Catherine knew that he would oppose such an idea. He felt that the sacrifice of his daughter Marie-Louise given enough. Catherine patiently waited until she was of legal age. Even then her father refused to give his permission. He felt Catherine was too useful on the farm, and that her hard work, and happy temperament, would make her a perfect farmer's wife and a wonderful mother. Mr. Labouré even tried to find her a husband. He was wasting his time. Catherine remained faithful to God's call.
Mr. Labouré knew that since his daughter had his temperament, it would be difficult to change her mind. He therefore tried another approach. Catherine was sent to Paris to help her brother Charles run his small restaurant. Charles's wife had died, and he was in need of assistance.
Obediently, Catherine left for the City still hurting from her father's refusal. Her abilities as a cook and a housekeeper attracted numerous suitors, but Catherine remained aloof from all of them. Charles understood his sister's unhappiness. When he remarried on February 3, 1829, he agreed that she could leave. Instead of returning home, Catherine wrote to her sister Marie-Louise who advised her to go to Chatillon to stay with her older brother Hubert who has married their cousin who ran the finishing school.
Catherine, who was always uncomfortable around the city girls, spent more and more time with the local Daughters of Charity. Hubert spoke to his father on his sister's behalf Pierre Labouré finally gave in before the un-mistaken signs that this daughter had a vocation. On January 1830, Catherine began her postulancy at Chatillon.