The Miraculous Medal

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There is a beautiful devotion that has been around in the Church since 1830. It is known as the Miraculous Medal. Its history begins with St. Catherine Labouré who was a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine three separate times in the year of 1830, at the mother-house of the community at Paris. (Rue du Bac)

The first of these apparitions occurred on July 18, the second apparition on November 27, and the third a short time later. On the second apparition, Sr. Catherine stated that the Blessed Virgin appeared as if standing on a globe, and bearing a globe in her hands. Dazzling rays of light were emitted from her fingers, as if from rings set with precious stones. These, she said, were symbols of the graces which would be bestowed on all who asked for them. There were also rings from which no light rays flowed, and these symbolized the graces souls failed to ask her for. After all, she is the Mediatrix of all graces! St. Catherine adds that around the figure appeared an oval frame bearing in golden letters the words “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” On the back of the medal appeared the letter M, surmounted by a cross, with a crossbar beneath it, and beneath all, the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the former surmounted by a crown of thorns, and the latter pierced by a sword.

At the 2nd and 3rd of these visions a command was given to have a medal struck after the model revealed, and a promise of great graces was made to those who wear it when blessed. Needless to say the Church diligently investigated the apparition. Afterwards, M. Aladel, the spiritual director of Sr. Catherine, obtained the approval of Mgr. de Quelen, Archbishop of Paris, and on June 30, 1832. The first medals were struck and with their distribution the devotion spread rapidly. In February of 1832 a terrible epidemic of cholera broke out in Paris and would eventually result in 20,000 deaths! In June the Daughters of Charity began to distribute the first 2000 medals that had been made at the request of Fr. Aladel. The number of cures multiplied, as well as protection from the disease. Many conversions also began to occur. There was a surge of requests for the medal, and the people of Paris began to call the medal “miraculous.” (Before that it had been called “The Medal of the Immaculate Conception.)”

A well-known conversion took place regarding the medal. It was the conversion of a Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne of Strasburg, who had resisted the appeals of a friend to enter the Catholic Church. M. Ratisbonne consented, somewhat reluctantly, to wear the medal, and being in Rome, he entered, by chance, the church of Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte and beheld in a vision the Blessed Virgin exactly as She is represented on the medal; his conversion speedily followed. This event was also investigated and received ecclesiastical sanction and is recorded in the Office of the Miraculous Medal. Within 5 years of the apparitions, there were more than one million medals worldwide, and in 1839 more than 10,000,000 medals were distributed. At the time Sr. Catherine died in 1876, more than a billion medals had been produced and sent throughout the world. It was only after Sr. Catherine died that her community of Sisters found out it was her who had received the apparitions! No one knew it was her. She had a great humility and why she is St. Catherine Labouré.

In 1847, Pope Pius IX granted the privilege of establishing in the schools of the Sisters of Charity a confraternity under the title Immaculate Conception. This confraternity adopted the Miraculous Medal as its badge, and the members, known as the Children of Mary, wore it attached to a blue ribbon. In 1894, Pope Leo XIII, after a careful examination of all the facts by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, instituted a feast, with a special Office and Mass, of the Manifestation of the Immaculate Virgin under the title of the Miraculous Medal, to be celebrated yearly on November 27th.

It’s important to note that the words and pictures on the medal are very important. First off the words, ‘O Mary Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” This definitely applies to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, that she is immaculate from the first moment of her conception. This was solemnly defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in the bull,
Ineffabilis Deus.” This privilege is bestowed on her through the merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and from it flows the all-powerful nature of Her intercession for those who pray to Her. This is why Our Blessed Mother invites all to have recourse to her in the difficulties of life. Her feet are planted on a half-globe, and they are crushing the head of a serpent. The snake personifies Satan and the forces of evil.

The Virgin Mary is herself engaged in a spiritual battle, the battle against evil, of which our world is the battlefield. She calls us to follow God’s way, which is not the way of the world. It is this true grace resulting from one’s conversion that the Christian must ask of Mary to bring it to the whole world. Her hands are open and her fingers are adorned with rings, decorated with precious stones. Rays of light are emitted from these jewels, becoming increasingly bigger as they are beamed toward the earth. The radiance of these beams reaffirms our trust in the fidelity of Mary (symbol of rings) towards Her Creator and towards her children, in her intervention (the rays of grace being beamed to earth), and in final victory (the light itself) since She, as the first disciple, is the first saved.

On the back of the medal is an initial and a drawing which introduce us to the secret of Mary. The letter “M” is superimposed by the cross. The “M” is the initial of Mary; the cross is the Cross of Christ. The two interlaced symbols represent the everlasting bond that ties Christ to His Holy Mother. Mary is associated with the mission of the salvation of humanity through her son Jesus, and by Her compassion participates in the actual redemptive sacrifice of Christ. The heart crowned with thorns is the Heart of Christ. It reminds us of the suffering and passion of Our Lord, recounted in the Gospels. It represents His Passion offered for love of humanity. The heart pierced by a sword is the Heart of Mary, his Mother, reminding us of the prophecy of Simeon, the day of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph. It represents the love of Christ that dwells within Mary and His love for us; for our Salvation She accepts the sacrifice of her own Son. The closeness of the two hearts expresses that the life of Mary is intimately tied to that of her Son, Jesus. Twelve stars are engraved around the medal. These correspond to the twelve apostles and represent the Church. To be of the Church is to love Christ and to participate in His Passion for the salvation of the world. Each person baptized is invited to become part of the mission of Christ by uniting his heart with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The medal is a call for each of us to walk generously the path of love and sacrifice, like Our Lord and His Mother, to the point of a total gift of ourselves.

Our loving Mother has asked us to wear this Miraculous Medal that was designed by Heaven. That’s all we need to know. Let’s wear our Medal with love and dedication as it is a sign of consecration to Our Lady. Are you wearing yours?
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