Updated: Feb 26
The Miraculous medal in all of its simplicity is one of the most popular and recognizable devotional items associated with the Catholic church.
The popular medal has been in use since the 1800's, billions of medals have been shared across the globe, and countless miracles are associated with its use and devotion.
Although many Christians, (and protestants alike) can attest to miracles associated with wearing the medal, many do not know the story behind it.
Today I'd like to share with you a brief history of the traditional Miraculous Medal.
It all began with a young woman named Catherine Laboure'. She was born May 2, 1806 the 9th of 11 children.
Catherine courageously endured the lose of her mother at age 9, with faith and hope.
It's said that at her mothers funeral she embraced a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and committed her self at that moment to be a daughter of the Blessed Mother.
At age 24 Catherine took her vow at Rue Du Bac in Paris and officially became a religious sister. It was during this time in her life that Catherine would experience the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary that would change the course of the world, and impact billions of lives.
On July 18, 1830 , on the eve of the feast of Saint Vincent, whom she loved so much, Catherine resorted to the one whose heart she had seen overflowing with love so that her great desire to see the Blessed Virgin would finally be granted. At 11:30 in the evening, she hears herself being called by her name.
A mysterious child is there, at the foot of his bed and invites him to get up:
“The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you”
Catherine dresses and follows the child “ carrying rays of light wherever he goes. »
Arriving in the chapel, Catherine stops near the priest's chair placed in the choir under the painting of Saint Anne (current location of the statue of Saint Joseph). She then hears " like the rustling of a silk dress". Her little guide says:
"Here is the Blessed Virgin"
She hesitates to believe. But the child repeats in a louder voice:
“Here is the Blessed Virgin. Catherine rushes
to the feet of the Blessed Virgin seated in an armchair and rests her hands on the knees of the Mother of God.
“There, a moment happened, the sweetest of my life. It would be impossible for me to say what I felt. The Blessed Virgin told me how I should behave towards my confessor and several other things.” The Blessed Virgin points with her hand to the altar where the tabernacle rests and says: “Come to the foot of this altar. There, graces will be poured out on all those who ask for them with confidence and fervor.”
Catherine keeps her experience to herself, choosing only to share it with her confessor who at the time failed to believe her.
Four Months Later on the night of November 27, 1830 Sister Catherine experienced the Virgin Mary yet again.
On November 27, 1830 , the Blessed Virgin appeared again to Catherine in the chapel. This time, it is at 5:30 p.m., during the prayer of the novices, under the painting of Saint Joseph (current location of the Virgin on the globe).
At first Catherine sees like two tableaux vivants which pass, in a fade-out, and in which the Blessed Virgin is standing on the terrestrial half-globe, her feet crushing the serpent.
In the 1st picture, the Virgin carries in her hands a small golden globe surmounted by a cross which she raises to the sky. Catherine hears:
"This ball represents the whole world, France and each person in particular"
In the 2nd scene, it comes out of his open hands, whose fingers carry jeweled rings, rays of a ravishing brilliance. Catherine hears at the same moment a voice saying: "These rays are the symbol of the graces that I spread on the people who ask me for them". Then an oval forms around the apparition and Catherine sees inscribed in a semi-circle this invocation in gold letters: “ O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you ”. Then a voice is heard: “Make, have a medal struck on this model. Those who wear it with confidence will receive great graces”.
Catherine again shared her experience with her confessor Father Aladel and he eventually had a change of heart.
With the permission of the Catholic Church Father Aladel and Sister Catherine had 2000 medals struck, and distributed them throughout Paris France during the cholera epidemic of 1832.
The medals were quickly associated with countless miracles and was dubbed the miraculous medal.
Catherine died at age 70 in year 1876, by which time billions of medals had been struck and distributed throughout the world. Catherine had the blessed joy and pleasure to witness many of the miracles associated with her encounter of the Virgin Mary.
Due to her devotion to her mission and her great works, Catherine Laboure' was canonized on July 24, 1947 and dubbed Saint Catherine Laboure' by Pope Pius XII.
Today we still use the Miraculous Medal, and it's association to miracles and conversions seems to have no end.
Catholics wear the medal around their neck, place it in their homes, and cars and include it as part of their rosaries among many other forms of use.
The medal today is still struck (or printed) exactly as it was shown to Catherine Laboure'.
The Front of the Medal
The front side of the Miraculous Medal depicts Mary Immaculate, her hands open, full of light. St. Catherine Labouré saw Our Lady appear like this and heard her say, “Have a medal made according to this model. Everyone who wears it around their neck will receive great graces.” Mary stands upon the globe as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her feet crush the serpent to proclaim that Satan and all his followers are helpless before her (Gn. 3:15). The year 1830 on the Miraculous Medal is the year the Blessed Mother gave the design of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine. The reference to “Mary conceived without sin” supports the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary — referring to Mary being sinless, “full of grace,” and “blessed among women” (Lk. 1:28). The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed 24 years later in 1854, and then confirmed when Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858.
The Back of the Medal
On the reverse side, the Cross and the letter M symbolize the close relationship of Mary to the suffering, passion, and death of her Son. The cross can symbolize Christ and our redemption, with the bar under the cross a sign of the earth and the Altar, for it is on the Altar at Mass that the Sacrifice of Calvary continues to be present in the world today. The M signifies “Mary” and “Mother.” The interweaving of Mary’s initial and the cross shows Mary’s close involvement with Jesus and our world. In this, we see Mary’s part in our salvation and her role as Mother of the Church. Beneath the Cross, bar, and the M are two hearts side‐by‐side: the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced by a sword. The two hearts represent the love of Jesus and Mary for us. The twelve stars signify the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. They also recall the vision of Saint John, writer of the Book of Revelation (12:1), in which “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.”
The Miraculous Medal has been a part of my religious life for many years, and I carry it with me everywhere I go. Saint Laboure' is now a trusted friend of mine in whom I can ask for prayers and intercession, especially as I embark on a new journey of volunteering my time with the elderly.
There is so much more to learn about Saint Catherine Labouré' and the Miraculous Medal and the information I've gathered for you here today is only a simple tip of the iceberg.
As always, I implore you to do further research into the life of this Saint, the lessons she learned and shared and the miracles associated with the Miraculous Medal. At the end of this entry I will leave a few resources in which to learn more in depth knowledge, but before I do I'd like to share with you Saint Catherine Laboure's prayer which I personally found to be very beneficial to my spiritual journey:
Saint Catherine's Prayer
Whenever I go to the chapel,
I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to Him,
"Lord I am here. Tell me what you would have me to do."
If He gives me some tasks, I am content and I thank Him.
If He gives me nothing, I still thank Him since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that.
And then I tell God everything that is in my heart.
I tell Him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen.
If you listen, god will speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen.
God always speaks to you when you approach Him plainly and simply.