The Blessed Virgin herself designed the Medal of the Immaculate Conception—popularly known as the Miraculous Medal! No
wonder, then, that it wins such extraordinary graces for those who wear it and
pray for Mary's intercession and help.
The First Apparition
The story begins on the night of July 18-19, 1830. A child (perhaps her guardian
angel) awakened Sister (now Saint) Catherine Labouré, a novice in the community
of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, and summoned her to the chapel. There
she met with the Virgin Mary and spoke with her for several hours. During the
conversation, Mary said to her, “My child, I am going to give you a mission.”
The Second Apparition
Mary gave her this mission in a vision during evening meditation on November
27, 1830. She saw Mary standing on what seemed to be half a globe and holding
a golden globe in her hands as if offering it to heaven. On the globe was the
word “France,” and our Lady explained that the globe represented the
whole world, but especially France. The times were difficult in France,
especially for the poor who were unemployed and often refugees from the many
wars of the time. France was first to experience many of those troubles which
ultimately reached other parts of the world and are even present today.
Streaming from rings on Mary's fingers as she held the globe were many rays of
light. Mary explained that the rays symbolize the graces she obtains for those
who ask for them. However, some of the gems on the rings were dark, and Mary
explained that the rays and graces were available but did not come because no
one had asked for them
The Third Apparition and the Miraculous Medal
The vision then changed to show our
Lady standing on a globe with her arms now outstretched and with the dazzling
rays of light still streaming from her fingers. Framing the figure was an inscription: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
The Meaning of the Front Side of the Miraculous Medal
Mary is standing upon a globe, crushing the head of a
serpent beneath her foot. She stands upon the globe, as the Queen of Heaven
and Earth. Her feet crush the serpent to proclaim Satan and all his followers
are helpless before her (Gn 3:15). The year of 1830 on the Miraculous Medal
is the year the Blessed Mother gave the design of the Miraculous Medal to Saint
Catherine Labouré. The reference to Mary conceived without sin supports the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception of Mary—not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus, and referring
to Mary's sinlessness, “full of grace” and “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28)—that was proclaimed 24 years later in 1854.
The vision turned and showed the design of the reverse side of the medal. Twelve stars encircled a large "M" from which arose a cross. Below are two hearts with flames arising from them. Thorns encircle one heart and a sword pierces the other.
The Meaning of the Back Side of the Miraculous Medal
The twelve stars can refer to the Apostles, who represent the entire Church
as it surrounds Mary. They also recall the vision of Saint John, writer of the
Book of Revelation (12:1), in which “a great sign appeared
in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown
of 12 stars.” The cross can symbolize Christ and our redemption, with the bar under the cross a
sign of the earth. The “M” stands for Mary, and the interleaving of her initial and the cross
shows Mary’s close involvement with Jesus and our world. In this, we see Mary’s part in our
salvation and her role as mother of the Church. The two hearts represent the love of Jesus and Mary for us.
(See also Lk 2:35).
Then Mary spoke to Catherine: “Have a medal
struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially
if they wear it around the neck.” Catherine explained the entire series of apparitions to her confessor, and
she worked through him to carry out Mary’s instructions. She did not reveal that she received the Medal
until soon before her death 46 years later.
With approval of the Church, the first Medals were made in 1832 and were distributed
in Paris. Almost immediately the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower
down on those who wore her Medal. The devotion spread like wildfire. Marvels of grace and health, peace and
prosperity, followed in its wake. Before long people were calling it the “Miraculous”
Medal. In 1836, a canonical inquiry undertaken at Paris declared the apparitions
to be genuine.
There is no superstition, nothing of magic, connected with the Miraculous
Medal. The Miraculous Medal is not a “good-luck charm”. Rather, it is a great
testimony to faith and the power of trusting prayer. Its greatest miracles are
those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith. God uses a Medal, not as a sacrament, but as an
agent, an instrument, in bringing to pass certain marvelous results. “The weak
things of this earth hath God chosen to confound the strong.”
When our Blessed Mother gave the design of the medal to Saint Catherine Labouré
she said, “Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person.” The
Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri carries out our
Lady’s request in many ways, including offering you a free Miraculous Medal.
Watch my video on how the Miraculous Medal became part of my life.
I'd like to share a story of how Our Blessed Mother's interceded for a friend of the Association.
One of my two adult sons has come back to the Church. After being away for almost twenty years, my middle son has gone to Confession and is now attending Mass. I am still praying that my oldest son will have the same confidence to return to his faith. I know how powerful our prayers are to our Blessed Mother. I give her thanks for her intercession on behalf of my son.
Share your story of Mary's intercession for you.