The Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal owes its origin to the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Chapel of the Rue du Bac, Paris, in the year 1830. She appeared as the Immaculate Conception to Catherine Laboure’, a 22 year old novice with the Daughters of Charity and a future saint. She was canonized on July 27, 1947 by Pope Pius XII. Prior to being a Sister she was the daughter of Peter Laboure’, who was widowed young, leaving him with eleven children, of which Zoe’ was the ninth. It was a farming family with poor means.
Young Catherine had a series of visions of the Blessed Mother while in the convent at Rue du Bac, Paris. On July 18, 1830, the Blessed Virgin, seated in this convent chapel, spoke gentle words of encouragement to the girl. On November 27, the Virgin Mother returned showing Sister Catherine the design of a medal that would remind people of the love and protection that Our Lady continually offers to the People of God. The design also serves as a mini-catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Our Lady and salvation history.
This beautiful medal is a compendium of scriptural and doctrinal teachings about Mary in relationship to Christ. In a vision, Mary stood on a globe with her heel crushing the head of the serpent, Satan, recalling Genesis 3:15. Brilliant light streamed from her jeweled fingers. “Behold the symbol of graces shed upon those who ask for them,” she explained, portraying herself as the Mediatrix of All Graces. Surrounding her a banner of gold letters read, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you,” expressing the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Then the vision reversed. It revealed the letter “M” (for Mary) entwined with a cross (John 19:25) above the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns (John 19:2) and the Immaculate Heart “pierced by a sword” (Luke 2:35). This image represents Mary as a unique cooperator in Jesus’ saving act of redemption. Surrounding the entire tableau was an oval border of twelve stars, recalling the “great sign in the sky” of Revelation 12:1.
In St. Catherine’s words: “A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.’”
Soon after the apparitions at Rue du Bac, the medal came to be minted and countless millions have circulated since then bringing untold graces. The sheer number of these kindnesses coming from Our Lady through the medium of the medal soon had people speaking of it as “miraculous.” So the name was born: the Miraculous Medal.
One of the most celebrated cases of a conversion through the use of the Miraculous Medal was that of the Jewish agnostic, Alphonse Ratisbonne. Shortly after he was persuaded by a friend to wear the medal and recite the Memorare (prayer of St. Bernard to the Madonna) prayer, Our Lady appeared to him in a brilliant light at the Church of Saint Andrea delle Fratte (where St. Maximilian celebrated his first Mass) in Rome. In one brief moment, the light of truth dispelled the prejudice of error and Ratisbonne received such a great infusion of knowledge and grace that he was able to receive Baptism ten days later at the hands of Cardinal Patrizi.
Later, Ratisbonne became a priest and missionary to the Holy Land, where he is now buried in the village of Ein Karem, the traditional site of Mary’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth.
Countless miracles of grace come about through this sacramental and the prayers of those who believe in Mary’s intercession.
In January 1917 young seminarian, Maximilian Kolbe, while studying in Rome heard a meditation given on the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. For nine months he meditated on Our Lady’s intercession for this non-believer. He desired fervently to bring all souls to the Truth and understood Our Lady’s paramount role in obtaining the graces necessary for conversion and sanctification. On October 16 of the same year he gathered six other Franciscan confers before a statue of the Immaculata to consecrate their lives totally and unconditionally to Her for their sanctification and the conversion of souls. This was the foundation of the Militia Immaculata (MI) Movement which today is spread throughout the world. All members wear the Miraculous Medal as a sign of the total consecration to the Immaculata and give it out to others that She may work wonders of grace in their lives.
“Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him…and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he have recourse to her in all difficulties and temptation.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe
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What are some ways that the miraculous medal can help us to evangelize? Have you done any of them?
What is your favorite symbol on the medal (except Mary herself!)? Why?
Some people can't wear the medal around the neck as Our Lady encouraged. What are some others ways to have it with you?
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