The Miraculous Medal – a gift from Heaven which converts, heals, and protects – is the most widespread medal of all time. Under the formal title of Our Lady of Graces, the apparition of Our Lady to St Catherine Labouré occurred on 27th November 1830 in the Convent Chapel of the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, 140 Rue de Bac, Paris, France. It was later approved as worthy of belief, with widespread liturgical veneration endorsed by the Holy See: - it received formal approval in 1836 with the endorsement of Archbishop Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen (8 October 1778 – 31 December 1839). Our Lady told St Catherine Labouré that “all who wear this medal will receive great graces”, and it was because of cures granted during the Cholera Epidemic of 1832 amongst the poor of Paris that the medal received its ultimate endorsement. St Catherine Labouré was born on 2 May 1806 and died on 31 December 1876.
Living an authentic Christian life, wearing a Miraculous Medal on your person or carrying it amongst your personal possessions, and reciting the prayer associated with the Miraculous Medal – “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” – are the ways in which many miracles can occur through this devotion. Amongst the most prominent of these miracles is the conversion of Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne (1 May 1814 – 6 May 1884) on 20 January 1842 at the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome, Italy, later approved as worthy of belief, with widespread liturgical veneration endorsed by the Holy See in conjunction with devotion to Our Lady of Graces: - it received formal approval on 3 June 1842 with the endorsement of Cardinal Constantino Patrizi Naro (4 September 1798 – 17 December 1876).
In his later life, Fr Ratisbonne worked amongst the Jews of the Holy Land and retained his lifelong devotion to Our Lady of Graces, as depicted on the medal revealed through the apparitions to St Catherine Labouré in 1830, crafted by Adrien Vachette (9 January 1753 – 23 September 1839). St Maximilian Kolbe (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) celebrated his First Mass at the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte and adopted the Miraculous Medal as the emblem of the Militia Immaculatae movement which he founded in Rome on 16 October 1917. It is also promoted by the Legion of Mary, whose Vincentian spirituality owes its origins to the Servant of God Frank Duff (7 June 1889 – 7 November 1980).
Not all miracles associated with the Miraculous Medal achieve the degree of public fame which the conversion of Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne has received. One such miracle which I like concerns recognising the dangers of rock music, which I read about in A Gift from Heaven: the Miraculous Medal by Karl Schaffer in preparation for writing this article. This miracle occurred during the Season of Lent and continued throughout the Octave of Easter, much like the way in which the apparition of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal to St Catherine Labouré occurred just on the cusp of the Season of Advent: - this miracle concerning recognising the dangers of rock music involved a desperate mother appealing to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal during the Season of Lent to please rescue her 18-year-old daughter from a life of moral dissipation, poor performance at school, a reluctant life-of-prayer at best, and a rather dark form of “religious instruction” which mainly concentrated on Satanism, black masses, and occultism. During the Season of Lent, this desperate mother prayed the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal daily and received small hints as to the effectiveness of Our Lady’s intercession in this instance through her daughter’s decision to actually wear a Miraculous Medal on a chain and to receive a copy of We Only Want Your Soul by Ulrich Bäumer. This book, published in 1984, alleged of the Rock/Heavy-Metal scene that: - ‘those groups automatically open themselves up to satanic powers and run the risk that the original ‘fun’ will be combined with diabolical seriousness’. In accordance with an instruction given in this book, the young adult decided to throw away all her rock music CDs and cassettes and pledged to cease and desist from having anything to do with this Rock/Heavy-Metal scene ever again: - in any of its manifestations. She sought to really believe that God is present in the Blessed Eucharist, becoming a committed Catholic who understood that one offends God by sin. This once-desperate mother, now relieved that her daughter attends Mass even on weekdays and receives Holy Communion regularly, is also glad to know that her daughter joins in when the Rosary is being prayed: - and she herself is no longer desperate! In keeping with this conversion-story, the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal is visited by two million pilgrims every year, and devotion to Our Lady of Graces numbers millions of people throughout the entire Catholic world. If it is possible in the future, I would very much like to visit this chapel sometime and see the incorrupt body of St Catherine Labouré for myself!
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”