The story of a necklace many Catholics wear begins with an apparition of our Blessed Mother to a young nun.
Nearly 200 years ago, a young nun named Catherine Labouré experienced an apparition from our Blessed Mother resulting in the casting of medals that have enriched and benefited Catholics worldwide. The story of St. Catherine and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal continues our year-long series on Marian apparitions.
The medal’s well-known image is found in many Catholic churches. The artwork is frequently used as the centerpiece on rosaries, and it appears on the cover of many calendars.
While this medal is the most common such object of Mary, many Catholics are unaware of its history. Sr. Catherine Labouré (1806–1876), the person responsible for the medal’s proliferation, was born near Dijon, France, joined the Sisters of Charity in January 1830, and entered the novitiate in April of that year.
Catherine was granted many extraordinary graces during her novitiate training, one of which occurred on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul (September 27). She said she received an invitation from her guardian angel, manifested in the form of a child. She was awakened by the plea, “Sister, Sister, Sister! Come to the chapel. The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you.” Catherine said the angel child led her to the chapel, where he pointed to a seated Blessed Virgin. Catherine had doubts, but the angel assured her: “This is the Blessed Virgin.” This experience began the mission of Catherine Labouré, who would be canonized on July 27, 1947.
During evening meditation on November 27, 1830, Catherine heard a dress rustling from the side of the chapel. Her description of what she saw next would be translated to the image we see on the Miraculous Medal. Catherine described the Blessed Virgin standing on a half-shaped globe of the earth. She seemed to be offering to God a golden ball representing the world. Under her feet was a serpent whose head she appeared to be crushing, while her arms were at her side and the palms of her hands open. Bright rays of light shone from her fingers, as if they were ringed with bright shining gems. Catherine said Mary told her that the rays were symbols of the graces she shed on those who asked for them. A slightly oval frame formed around the Blessed Mother. Within the frame was a gold-lettered prayer that read:
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Saint Catherine said Mary told her to have a medal struck using this model and further quoted her saying, “Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck. Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be, in a special manner, under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.”
Pray Mary’s Miraculous Medal prayer often. May the Mother of God surround you in the rays of her glorious splendor and keep you in the love of Jesus!