Catholic Classroom: The Miraculous Medal
Question: What is the Miraculous Medal?
This week, we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine Labouré. If you’ve never heard of her, there’s a good chance you have heard of something that is very close to her heart: the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, more commonly known as the Miraculous Medal.
The Virgin Mary herself revealed the image of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré, a novice with the Daughters of Charity community in Paris, in 1830. In an apparition to the young novice, the Blessed Virgin stood on a globe, crushing the head of a serpent with her foot, with her arms outstretched and rays of light beaming from her fingers, representing the graces she obtains for us. Framing this image were the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Then, the image turned and showed the reverse side, which depicted a cross with a bar intertwined with the letter M. Below the letter M were a flaming heart crowned with thorns, representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and a flaming heart pierced with a sword, representing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This image on the reverse side was encircled by twelve stars.
After she revealed the image to St. Catherine, Mary instructed her to have the image struck on a medal and to encourage people to wear it. Medals were distributed beginning in 1832, and since then, many of the wonderful graces promised by Mary have been poured forth. In addition to the graces this apparition and medal occasioned for the faithful, it also helped lead to the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854.
It is important to realize that the Miraculous Medal is not a good luck charm and should never be worn superstitiously. By wearing a Miraculous Medal, we show our love and devotion to Mary and ask her for the graces she longs to obtain for us from God. We don’t believe that the Miraculous Medal has magical powers or that we can force God’s hand by wearing it. What we do believe is that Mary is a tender and loving mother from whom we can confidently ask for help and intercession with the Sacred Heart of her Son.