'OUR LADY OF AMERICA' APPEARS TO BE FIRST APPROVED MEDAL CONNECTED TO ALLEGED APPARITION IN U.S.
It was on May 1, 1961, that Paul F. Leibold, auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati, soon to be bishop of Evansville, Indiana, and then Cincinnati's archbishop, issued what may one day be viewed as a momentous imprimatur. His approval was signed on a sketching for a new medal derived from alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother to nun Sister Mildred Mary Ephrem Neuzil, to whom Mary came, according to Sister Neuzil, as "Our Lady of America." According to Sister Neuzil (whose apparitions began near Rome City, Indiana, and later continued in Ohio), the medal was requested in 1958 as a "shield against evil."
That request was made in messages granted an imprimatur by Bishop Leibold, although there has not yet been a declaration on the apparitions themselves.
"I was told that as long as it bore the form of a shield, the medal itself could be of any shape desired," the nun wrote. "Around the image of Our Lady, as she appeared September 26, 1956 [when she first came as Our Lady of America], these words were to be engraved: 'By thy Holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.' Those who wear the medal with great faith and fervent devotion to Our Lady will receive the grace of intense purity of heart and the particular love of the Holy Virgin and her Divine Son. Sinners will receive the grace of repentance and the spiritual strength to live as true children of Mary. As in life, so in death, this blessed medal will be as a shield to protect them against the evil spirits, and St. Michael himself will be at their side to allay their fears at the final hour."
The medal was struck by Bishop Leibold. While a picture of the Virgin is on the front, on the reverse side is a coat of arms representing the Christian family. At the center is a shield of the Precious Blood, through which sanctifying grace is granted to fallen man. Sanctification of the family through imitation of the Holy Family is represented by a cross at the top of the shield and two lilies, and on each of those is depicted a burning heart. A flaming sword (also present in the third secret of Fatima) is there as a symbol of divine love, and the shield is surrounded by the beads of a rosary. On the shield the "Divine Indwelling" is represented by the eye of God in a triangle (long a Christian symbol on cathedrals and other religious situations before non-Christians, including some occultists like the Masons, tried to adopt it as a symbol), and there is a scroll above which reads, "Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritu Sancto" and one below says, "Jesu, Maria, Joseph."
"The coat of arms Our Lady had inspired some years previously," wrote Sister Neuzil. "I did not know at the time for what purpose it was to be used, and Our Lady did not enlighten me on it until much later."
The first medals were made by Cyril Daleiden & Sons of Chicago. "Dear Mr. Daleiden," wrote Bishop Leibold on December 20, 1965, "kindly send 5,000 of the medals of Our Lady of America to Sister Mary Ephrem... But send the bill to me" [the bishop's own emphasis].
To our knowledge it is the first time a medal has been struck by a high-ranking diocesan official based on an apparition of Mary claimed in the United States.
As we said, it's always wise to hold a new devotion in prayer -- and fasting -- before any involvement with it, but this may be what America indeed does need (if it is properly blessed). And so we pray: Dear God, that You grant us discernment, that You guide us in all sacramentals, that if it is Your Will You anoint this medal in a way that purges evil and purges all evil from it. We pray Lord that the paganism of our country be converted into Christianity and that as in times of old, holiness be returned to our families and pagan territory turned Christian. We pray Lord that You bring goodness to this nation through devotion to Your authentic mother and we implore through Christ that our nation be returned to Your all-powerful and all-good and eternal embrace.
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