November 27th marks the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, the celebration of the apparitions and revelations of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré in the 19th century. In these visions, Mary granted Catherine and all of the Church a powerful sacramental that came to be known as the miraculous medal.
On the night of July 18th, 1830, Catherine lay sleeping in her room in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France. It was almost midnight when a voice awoke her saying, “Sister, sister, sister.” A childlike angel was beckoning her to the chapel. Catherine got up and went to the chapel where she found an apparition of Our Lady.
After speaking with the Blessed Virgin Mary for several hours, she told Catherine, “My child, I am going to give you a mission.” Over four months later, Catherine received her second vision from Mary. As Catherine knelt in prayer during evening meditation, Mary appeared, standing on a globe with beams of light streaming from her hands. Around this miraculous vision were the inscribed words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Mary said to Catherine, “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck. Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be, in a special manner, under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.” She explained that the beams of light on her hands represented the graces available to those open to them and the areas where there was no light were graces that were available but not asked for.
Soon after, the apparition transformed to reveal the image of the letter “M” with a cross on top of it. Surrounding the “M” were 12 stars, and below it were two flaming hearts. A crown of thorns was wrapped around one heart and a sword pierced the other.
With approval from the Catholic Church, these medals were made according to Mary’s instructions, and they were first distributed in France. After the French people began to experience miracles, graces, and blessings in their lives, word spread quickly. Soon, every French Catholic wanted a medal, and it didn’t take long for other countries to follow. By the time Catherine died in 1876, over a billion medals had been made.
The front side of the medal is the image of Our Lady with light emitting from her hands. And on the reverse side is the image with the symbols revealed by Mary. The “M” represents Mary, and the cross represents Christ and His redemption. The 12 stars symbolize the 12 Apostles and the 12 Tribes of Israel, and the two hearts are the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It is not a magic wand or a lucky charm. The Miraculous Medal is a tremendously powerful sacramental that God uses to channel His graces through Our Lady. It won’t make you win the lottery or help your football team win, but it is a symbol of our everlasting faith in the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ. By trusting in the miraculous history of this holy instrument, we open ourselves to the wonder of God’s ways.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, pray for us.