The Miraculous Medal
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In Paris, in 1830, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Catherine de Labouré in the chapel of her convent, rue de Bac. In a second vision, four months later, Our Blessed Mother appeared to Catherine standing on a globe, her feet crushing a serpent beneath her. She was surrounded in the shape of an oval medal, and rays of light were streaming out of her hands. Around the shape were the words "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you". Catherine heard a voice say: "Have a medal struck after this model. All those who wear it will receive great graces; they must wear it around their neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence." The vision continued, and the "medal" turned. On the other side was the letter "M" under a cross, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This image was surrounded by twelve stars.
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The drawing of the medal shown to Catherine by the Virgin Mary
On the front of the medal is the Virgin. She is standing on a terrestrial globe surmounted by a cross. She crushes a snake under her foot. On her fingers, she wears colored rings, some of which send rays of light to the earth. Finally, a sentence surrounds the Virgin: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us, sinners". On the reverse of the medal, the center is occupied by the letter "M" of Mary, intertwined with a crossbar supporting the foot of the cross. Around the medallion are twelve stars. Below the "M", we see the Sacred Heart of Jesus surrounded by a crown of thorns and the Sacred Heart of Mary pierced with a sword that sheds blood.
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The symbols of the Miraculous Medal
The open hands of the Virgin Mary, from which rays spring, symbolize the graces poured out by the Virgin. The globe represents the world on which Mary pours her graces. The serpent trampled by the Virgin represents the evil she is fighting. The letter "M" and the intertwined cross signify the indissoluble relationship between Christ and his mother. The Sacred Heart of Jesus surrounded by a crown of thorns refers to the passion of Christ, while the Sacred Heart of Mary pierced with a sword represents her acceptance of the sacrifice of her son. Finally, the twelve stars of the "Queen of Heaven" represent the twelve disciples of Jesus and the twelve tribes of Israel.
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Our Lady's instructions for praying with the Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal has specific characteristics that make it unique in the history of Christianity. In fact, as we have already seen, it was Our Lady herself who designed it! Along with the design, it gives the content, explaining the explicit and implicit messages embedded in each side of the coin. The Virgin then gives the instructions for use of the medal and its purpose: "those who wear it with confidence" will receive "great graces". The Virgin then gives instructions for the use of the medal and its purpose: "those who wear it with confidence" will receive "great graces". Thus, according to the message of the Virgin, "all those who wear it will enjoy special protection from the Mother of God".
The miracles of the medal
The very name "Miraculous Medal" does not come from the Virgin. In 1834, two years after the medal was first distributed, it was the Parisians themselves who called it miraculous. The name remained, even becoming a proper name. One of the miracles recognized by the Church was the conversion of a Jewish banker, Alphonse Ratisbonne, in 1842. He then joined the Jesuit order.
One of the most popular tourist sites in Paris
The chapel on rue du Bac, in Paris, in the 7th arrondissement, still belonging to the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, has become a place of pilgrimage and essential Marian devotion. It is one of the top ten most visited cultural sites in Paris.* Each year, an average of two million visitors pass in front of the body of Saint Catherine Labouré, at the foot of the altar above which Mary appeared to her. Even today, many stories tell of graces obtained by the miraculous medal.