A Sacramental of Mary
Three sacramentals were instituted by the most holy Blessed Virgin Mary: the holy rosary entrusted to St. Dominic, the brown scapular entrusted to St. Simon Stock, and the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, commonly known as the Miraculous Medal, entrusted to Saint Catherine Labouré.
Saint Catherine Labouré was born Zoé Labouré on May 2, 1806 in a little village called Fain-les-Moutiers couched in the Côte-d’Or Mountains of the Burgundy region in France. Her parents, Pierre and Madeleine Louise Labouré, raised their seven sons and two daughters on their family farm. They were sincere Christians who raised their children in the Faith. Saint Catherine’s spiritual director recounts the time she first received Our Lord: “At the age of twelve, with a pure and fervent heart, she made her First Communion in the church of Moutiers-Saint-Jean. Henceforth, her only desire was to be solely His who had just given Himself to her for the first time.”
His she became. Favored by God, she began receiving visions from an early age. One vision was of a venerable man who her confessor told her was St. Vincent de Paul. In her visions, St. Vincent de Paul urged Catherine to become a Daughter of Charity. After a time of trials and tribulation, Saint Catherine became a postulant in the house of the Sisters at Chatillon in 1830. She received the holy habit and the name Catherine in January 1831.
This bride of Christ wished to see the Blessed Mother of her bridegroom. Her desire to look upon the Queen of Heaven increased after an impactful instruction on devotion to the most holy saints on July 18, 1830, the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. Later that night, she heard a child calling out her name three times. She found this ravishing young child who told her, “Come to the chapel, where the Blessed Virgin awaits you.” She followed this child, whom she believed was her guardian angel, to the chapel and Our Lady appeared before her.
On November 27, 1830, she received another vision of the Mother of God, imparting the message of the Miraculous Medal. Saint Catherine’s spiritual director, M. Aladel, C.M., described this vision:
“The Blessed Virgin appeared to a young Sister as if in an oval picture; she was standing on a globe, only half of which was visible; she was clothed in a white robe and a mantle of shining blue, having her hands covered, as it wore, with diamonds, whence emanated luminous rays falling upon the earth, but more abundantly upon one part of it. Around the picture, written in golden letters, were these words: ‘O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!’ This prayer, traced in a semicircle, began at the Blessed Virgin’s right hand, and, passing over her head, terminated at her left hand. The reverse of the picture bore the letter ‘M’ surmounted by a cross, having a bar at its base, and beneath the monogram of Mary were the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the first surrounded with a crown of thorns, the other transpierced with a sword. Then she seemed to hear these words: ‘A medal must be struck upon this model; those who wear it indulgenced, and repeat this prayer with devotion, will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God.’ At that instant the vision disappeared.”
The front of the medal, then, expresses for us the radiance of God, Who, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, sent for us His only begotten Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, so that all may be light in His light. The back reveals to us the message of love from the Passion of Our Lord and the Compassion of Our Lady.
Many graces come from the medal of our loving Mother. For instance, a staunch anti-Catholic, Alphonse Ratisbonne, was converted after being asked to wear the Miraculous Medal and say 100 Memorares.
Devotion to the Miraculous Medal is not a superstition, for the power of the medal comes from a source outside itself: the prayers of Mary and the Church and the promises of God. Medals are blessed with abiding in the prayer of the Church, which keeps it always present before the Mind of God. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!
This article was brought to you by the Theology Club’s Zossima Project: making prayer an education. For a complete works cited, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you for your readership.