When years ago I was leaving for a military mission, an acquaintance, an elderly lady, gave me a small medal with the image of Mary. She said to not be afraid:»Our lady of the miraculous medal will protect you.«
Even though I didn’t know the exact meaning of the medal I carefully protected it. When times were hard or when I was homesick, when there was a hard and a dangerous task before me, I held it in my hands and repeated the words: “Oh Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
I felt, that the medal is something special. It brought to me a great feeling of peace and a sense of security and also a wish for prayers and reading the Bible. I was not given peace until I examined the meaning of the symbols on both sides of the medal. I will share the knowledge I gained.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and St. Catherine Laboure
The medal appeared in the year 1832, after the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in visions. Mary chose a young sister Catherine Laboure that was, at that time, a newcomer to the Sisters of Mercy in Paris. St. Catherine had multiple visions between the years 1830 and 1831. During the second vision, Mary ordered for the medal to be minted. She promised to share her many graces through it. She also promised that those, who will wear it with trust, will receive special delights.
St. Catherine Laboure died on the 31st of December in 1876. Her incorrupt body lies in a chapel Our Lady of the miraculous medal in Paris. She was declared as blessed in 1933 and as a saint in 1947.
Miraculous medals were quickly spreading.
Two years after the first appearance of Mary in July of 1832, the first medals found its way into the hands of people. Almost immediately a rumor started spreading on the streets of Paris, that a girl at a local hospital was miraculously cured. Miracles of healing started happening one after another and even the biggest sinners and enemies of the Catholic church received the grace of conversion.
In the next four years, more than ten million medals were minted in five factories around Paris and Lyon. Besides that, they were also being made in four factories in France and at least ten in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and even London.
The medal soon gained its name: Miraculous Medal or Medal of the Our Lady of Graces.
In 1842 the Pope Gregory XVI publicly confirmed the effects of the medal and the authenticity of the conversion of a Jew Tobias Ratisbon, which gained a lot of interest in the Catholic world, which was directly related to the miraculous medal.
The appearance of the miraculous medal
Based on the research of ecclesiastical authorities and notes of st. Catherine Laboure, the medal was made oval. The words “Oh Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!” are written starting from Mary’s right hand, above her head and end at her left hand. Mary was clothed in a robe of auroral light and her robe had a high neck and plain sleeves.
There are rays, descending downwards, pointing from Mary’s spread hands. She is also standing on the earth’s globe with one hand placed on a snake’s head.
When St. Catherine was thinking about what to put on the other side, she heard the voice: »The letter M and two hearts have a lot of meaning.«
Thus the other side pictures two hearts: Jesus’s, surrounded by a crown of thorns and Mary’s pierced with a sword. The two are both in flames, which is a symbol of love. Above the hearts is a big letter M, with a cross rising above and through it. The image is surrounded by twelve stars.
The meaning of the front side of the medal
A picture of the Virgin Mary
The central image of the front side of the medal is an image of the Virgin Mary. St. Catherine, who witnessed the holy image said: »The immaculate virgin I saw was beautiful, dressed in her finest clothes.« It is impossible to tell, how I felt and what I saw and I can’t describe the beauty of what I saw and the rays of light.
The virgin is standing on the Earth’s globe. Mary said to st. Catherine, that »the globe you see represents the whole world, especially France and then also the individuals.«
The snake pictured is the same snake, who seduced Adam and Eve into disobedience to God and thus rooted the original sin into the whole human race. Mary defeated it in a way God said – she crushed its head.
Rays, emerging from Mary’s hands
»The rays represent grace, that is being rained upon those, who ask for it,« Mary told St. Catherine during one of her visions.
The writing: O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
It’s Mary explaining to us, how to pray to her:
- O, Mary! conceived without sin…: Mary reveals to us, what she really is: immaculate conception. From the first moment of life, she accepted God’s love. Through her, God became the flesh in our world.
- …pray for us … Mary is her and she is paying attention to all of our needs. With the expression »for us« she reminds us, that we must every day, learn how to live like brothers and sisters of the same family and, that we must live in solidarity to one another; even in prayer.
- …who have recourse to thee: When times are hard and we have only one last refuge: Mary. Mary listens to her children like a mother. She is so close to us.
The meaning of the back side of the medal
Letter M and the cross
In the center is the image of the letter M with a cross. The cross reminds us of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and saved us. It is also a symbol of our faith and an anchor of our hope. There is also a bar placed at the foot of the cross. It presents the fact that Mary witnessed her Son’s sacrifice.
The cross is placed onto the letter M, which is the first letter of the name Mary. On the miraculous medal is a cross, planted into the letter M. That represents the fact, that the savior of the world was born by Mary and that Mary is the mother of the Crucified. Without her, there wouldn’t be a savior;
Jesus and Mary’s heart
In all of the world’s languages, a heart represents acceptance, tenderness, and love.
Crown of thorns and a sword remind us, that love is not an easy thing. Every real love sooner or later also brings suffering, as it is hard to forget about ourselves and leave ourselves for someone else.
12 stars represent twelve tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus. Even in Revelation 12:1 we can read about a woman with 12 stars.
Twelve stars thus represent good news to the Church. Jesus based the Church on 12 apostles/stars… Today Jesus concludes a commitment with every single one of us. He always calls people to live by the gospel. We must face this together, as the good news lives in the Church.
Miraculous medal is a catechism, available to anyone. It teaches us religion if we do carry and spread it; not as a retriever of happiness, but as a proclamation of faith, hope, and love.
Mary first showed herself on the 27th of November in 1830, so on this day, the church celebrates the fist of Our lady of the miraculous medal.
If you have any experience with the miraculous medal or explanation and facts about Our Lady of the miraculous medal, feel free to drop a comment down below. I’d love to hear about it!