From the archives:
'Miraculous Medal' Marked New Era Of More Dramatic Visits By Blessed Mother
adapted from Seven Days With Mary
By Michael H. Brown
The Blessed Mother has been seen since the first century but stepped up her apparitions in 1830 when she began to appear in a more majestic and direct fashion.
She now came not just as the gentle matron but as the woman who saves her children by stepping on the head of the serpent.
Such was the essence of the famous Miraculous Medal apparitions. The apparitions had started on July 18, 1830, when Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, then a training nun, in a beautiful chapel on Rue du Bac in the heart of Paris.
Mary had summoned Catherine with an angel late at night and appeared in the convent's chapel. She came as a tangible presence, sitting on a chair at the altar, her clothes audibly rustling.
"Looking upon the Blessed Virgin, I flung myself toward her, and falling upon my knees on the altar steps, I rested my hands in her lap," recalled Catherine. "There a moment passed, the sweetest of my life. I could not say what I felt. The Blessed Virgin told me how I must conduct myself with my director, and added several things that I must not tell. As to what I should do in time of trouble, she pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation needed."
Mary explained during the July apparition that there was a special and crucial mission. The Virgin said France and the world were entering evil times but that she would be there to dispense graces.
The following November the Virgin appeared in the way she now is depicted on the Miraculous Medal. She was there with grace flowing from her hands to the entire world. The graces would be for all who asked for them, she said, rich or poor. The luminous rays emanating from her hands spread light downward into a darkening world.
On the globe was a green snake with yellow spots that clearly represented evil. "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee," said the front of the medal, while the back had representations of both the Sacred and Immaculate hearts, an "M" woven with the Cross.
To sit in this unassuming and yet splendid chapel is to feel some of the same graces as when Catherine witnessed the Virgin.
Even the chair Mary had sat in is still on the altar. Catherine described her as a woman of unearthly beauty but again it was not superficial beauty. It was the beauty of well-being and goodness. The young nun said Mary was of average height and clothed with white array in a style called "a la Vierge."
She wore a high neck and plain sleeves, with a flowing veil that reached the floor. What a ravishing sight! What a graceful beauty! Under the veil her hair was in coils and bound with a fillet ornamented with lace. She came in a style that would appeal to Paris just as she came to places like Guadalupe in a style that would be compatible with those who lived in the Mexican hinterlands.
"Her face was of such beauty that I could not describe it," said Catherine afterwards. "All at once I saw rings on her fingers, three rings to each finger, the largest one near the base of the finger, one of medium size in the middle, the smallest one at the tip. Each ring was set with gems, some more beautiful than others. The larger gems emitted great rays and the smaller gems, smaller rays, the rays bursting from all sides of the base, so that I could no longer see the feet of the Blessed Virgin. At this moment, while I was contemplating her, the Blessed Virgin lowered her eyes and looked at me. I heard a voice speaking these words: `This globe that you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular.'" She showed Catherine an image of the Sacred Heart wrapped in piercing thorns and her own heart punctured by a sword. Then she extended her hands and struck the famous medal pose and an oval-shaped frame formed around her.
Mary had also appeared to Catherine holding a small globe with a Cross on top, praying as she offered it to Jesus, and it was Catherine's distinct impression that the Virgin, in this posture, was praying for the whole world. This is an apparition that Sister Catherine later said she had been told was supposed to grow into a place of healing on the scale of Lourdes, but did not do so due to lack of ecclesiastic support (Mary then moved to the south and appeared some years later to Saint Bernadette).
When Mary pressed the globe to her chest, an incredible sight ensured: light from diamonds and other precious stones radiated from her maternal hands, showing the beauty of ineffable tenderness.
Here was Mary, still the mother, still so very gentle, but now in direct conflict with Lucifer, whose demons had been unloosed from the pit. She was there to show that she would protect her children. She was there to defeat the devil. It didn't take a loud clash. It didn't always take swords. The devil was clearly paralyzed by her humility and goodness.
If Satan has his legion of fallen angels, we must always remember that Mary comes as Queen of the Heavenly Angels, who are stronger and more numerous.
Wearing the Miraculous Medal grants a special protection against evil. By doing so we are both requesting the protection of Mary and expressing confidence in her. As a result, graces are unleashed. It's crucial to remember this in our own time. I have rarely felt the graces I did while visiting the Paris chapel. It is a reminder that when God wants to move, there is nothing -- and no one -- who can get in His way. He can cause any miracle He wants to. He can easily erase any evil. Every force in the universe must obey Him. If He chose to -- if it was in His plan -- God could extinguish all forces of evil with a flick of His finger. He can even make our enemies our friends.
We should remember this as we walk through a world of antagonism. And we should remember the Miraculous medal as we seek to change our relatives and friends. When we wish to convert someone, there are few better tools than the Miraculous Medal. In 1842, after wearing a Miraculous Medal on a bet, a wealthy Jewish atheist named Alphonse Ratisbonne [pictured above left] saw an apparition of Mary and was not only converted but became a Jesuit!
By that time the medal was everywhere. It had become the rage of Christian Europe. Catherine had quietly confided the apparitions to her spiritual director (and no one else, not even her Mother Superior or fellow nuns), and the priest had then taken the medal's design to companies that manufactured the medals by the millions. As one bishop noted, except for the Holy Cross, no other Christian symbol was so quickly and widely multiplied. Indeed, in one ten-year period 20 million medals were pressed by one Paris firm alone.
Yet Catherine wanted no glory. She told no one else that she was the seer. And she kept this secret for 46 years, laboring as a lowly laundress for the aged and infirm.
We see here the greatest exhibition of humility, of following Christ's precept that we are to aim our lives only at serving God and fellow humans, and let God take care of everything else. We are not to work for our own pride.
We are not to labor in order to impress people. We are not to accumulate material items to keep up with the Joneses. To serve God is to ask God to reveal His Holy Will for our lives -- to ask this every day of the week -- and to set about each day with eyes only on Him and His plan for the world.
When we work for God, we have peace. We have success. We have security. On the other hand, when we do something for our selves, when we labor for our own gain, such labor loses a great deal of value, no matter how noble or even "religious" our labor may appear on the surface.
If it is our ego we feed -- our ego we seek -- then we are obscuring the Face of God.
When we are ambitious, when we are competitive, when we use aggressive tactics to achieve an end -- and especially when we are jealous -- Christ, His mother, and all of heaven frown upon us.
As Catherine showed so adeptly, a life led with pure intentions, a life led with no seeking of fame, a life led of simple lowliness, elevates the spirit and in the end brings the greatest reward.
If we want peace we need only seek to do God's Will and peace will come.
Catherine Laboure was the symbol of such quiet tranquility. As Father Joseph Dirvin wrote, "It was only in 1876, a scant six months before her death, that the secret greatness of Catherine was finally revealed. Our Lady had asked for the erection of a statue depicting her in the attitude of the first phase of the apparition of November 27, as the `Virgin of the Globe,' and the statue had not been made. Fearing to appear before Mary Immaculate without every last detail of her mission accomplished, Catherine broke her long silence in order that it might be done."
The statue was indeed molded and the Miraculous Medals continued to spread around the world, numbering today in the hundreds of millions. According to Father Dirvin it is one of only three sacramentals in the history of the Church to be honored with a Mass and an Office, sharing that distinction with the Rosary and Scapular. Special prayers can be said on December 8. But every day we can meditate on Catherine's goodness.
She was the "saint of ordinary people" and once more informs us of the power and importance -- the crucial importance -- of a humble life. Throughout the centuries Mary chose the meek and lowly and humble for her greatest apparitions, the peasants and shepherds on barren hillside as she was once a peasant on the barren and stony hillsides of Nazareth.
What else does this apparition say to us? Just as Catherine's life mission was to serve the infirm and to have the medals struck, so too is there a plan for each of our lives, a plan as important as that given any other person. It may not seem like a grand plan. It may not be flashy.
It may not be a public display. But as we have just witnessed with Catherine, God's greatest power is often exhibited in hiddenness. His power resides in humility. His power is in asking God every day of our lives what He wants us to do and pleading with the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we may all accomplish our missions as Catherine finally accomplished hers just months before her death.
Every minute of every day is an opportunity we should not waste to fulfill our own missions.
And so we plead:
Dear Christ, You Who so fully completed Your mission, Who did so with such strength, and Who guided St. Catherine to do the same, send the Virgin Mary into our lives to guide as to our own missions. Send the Blessed Mother so that we may make use of every minute that we are on this earth. Send Your mother so that upon death we may be pleasing to You, dear Lord, and have the joy of knowing we accomplished what was assigned to us at birth.
Pray for us, St. Catherine, that we may have our eyes opened to the missions given us by our Creator, and that we may approach life in imitation of your quietness, servitude, and longsuffering. Please, Catherine, help us with a deeper devotion to the Virgin Mary and specifically to the Miraculous Medal. Ask that God grant yet greater graces in our lives as a result of this devotion, and let us too `see' the resplendent lights, the radiant grace, that Jesus gives through the hands of His most holy and Blessed Mother.
Oh Mary, conceived without sin, wash away our sins and pray for our humility, for our purity, and for the fulfillment of our life work for God the Father! Let us accept what is sent our way and realize God's hidden designs in all challenges and sufferings!
Let us pray (response: pray for us):
Oh Mary, conceived without sin,
Oh Mary, streaming grace,
Oh Mary, who steps on the serpent,
Oh Mary, who stands on the world,
Oh Mary, who grants small and great gifts,
Oh Mary, who helped save France,
Oh Mary, of the Miraculous medal,
PRAY FOR US
Act of Consecration to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal:
O Virgin Mother of God, Mary Immaculate, we dedicate and consecrate ourselves to thee under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. May this medal be for each one of us a sure sign of thy affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties towards thee. Ever while wearing it, may we be blessed by thy loving protection and preserved in the grace of thy Son. O most powerful Virgin, Mother of Our Savior, keep us close to thee every moment of our lives. Obtain for us, thy children, the grace of a happy death; so that, in union with thee, we may enjoy the bliss of heaven forever. Amen.
Most Holy Mother exuding Light, be our light always and especially in times of darkness! Teach us to love! Teach us to serve! Teach us to conduct ourselves in a way that touches heaven!
V: The angel spoke God's message to Mary
R: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit
(Hail Mary, full of grace...)
V: "I am the lowly servant of the Lord:
R: Let it be done to me according to your word."
V: And the Word became flesh
R: and dwelt amongst us.
V: Pray for us, holy Mother of God,
R: That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: Lord, fill our hearts with your grace: once, through the message of an angel, you revealed to us the incarnation of your Son; now, through His suffering and death, lead us to the glory of His resurrection. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, Who has glorified your mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, immaculate from the first moment of her conception, grant that all who devoutly implore her protection on earth may eternally enjoy your presence in heaven. Lord Jesus Christ, Who for the accomplishment of your greatest works have chosen the weak things of the world, that no flesh may glory in your sight, and Who for a better and more widely diffused belief in the Immaculate Conception of Your mother, have wished that the Miraculous Medal be manifested to St. Catherine Laboure, grant, we ask you, that, filled with humility, we may glorify this mystery by word and work.
Prayer of St. Alphonsus:
O Mary, I already know that thou art the most noble, the most sublime, the most pure, the most beautiful, the most benign, the most holy -- in a word, the most amiable of all creatures. Pray, pray, and cease not to pray until thou seest me safe in heaven, beyond the possibility of ever more losing my Lord and certain to love Him forever, together with thee, my dearest Mother.
Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus and our Mother, we have confidence in your powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested often through the Miraculous Medal. We your loving and trustful children ask you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this novena if they will be for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. (Here privately form your petitions.) You know, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son Who hates iniquity. Obtain for us a deep hatred of sin and a purity of heart which will attach us to God alone so that our every thought, word, and deed may tend to His greater glory. Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of Angels and of men. Amen.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and our Mother, penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal, we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this novena, if they be beneficial to our immortal souls, and the souls for whom we pray. (Here form your petition.) You know, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son who hates iniquity. Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of Angels and of men. Amen.
Through the Miraculous Medal even atheists are converted, and so we remember to pray for those who stray, those who sin, those who don't believe, having hope in their conversion instead of judging and condemning them.
(Recitation of the Rosary)
[resources: Seven Days With Mary]
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