November 27 marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. On this day, we commemorate the apparition of Our Blessed Mother to Saint Catherine Laboure (whose feast day is tomorrow, 28 November, according to the liturgical calendar of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Paris. She is listed in the Martyrologium Romanum for December 31.) and celebrate the vision Our Lady revealed to the young saint- the Miraculous Medal. It was in Paris, in the year 1830, part of a period when the Catholic Church was under attack from its many enemies, when “times are evil in France and in the world,” as Our Lady said. While doing silent meditation, Saint Catherine had a striking vision of the Blessed Virgin, her beauty indescribable, standing on a globe. Rays of light shone forth from the precious gems on the Blessed Mother’s hands symbolizing the graces that she bestows upon us. Catherine saw an oval frame formed around her, bearing the words “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” A voice then said to Catherine, “Have a medal struck after this model. Persons who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”
For two years that followed, the Church authorities investigated the events of the apparition, deliberated on the message of Our Lady, and observed Saint Catherine as she went about her daily life as a simple nun. Finally, they approved to have the image struck upon a medal- the one and only medal that Our Blessed Mother herself presented the design. The first batch was produced in 1832. Soon after, the devotion became widespread across the world and the medal was being worn by millions. Stories of healings, conversions, and other miracles started pouring in from the faithfuls who wear and pray the devotion to the “Medal of the Immaculate Conception,” as it was originally called. Because of this, people since then began calling it the “Miraculous Medal.” At present, devotion to the Miraculous Medal and wearing it is next to the Holy Rosary in popularity among the traditional Catholic devotions and sacramentals.
On the front, the medal shows Our Mother Mary standing on the globe (Mary, assumed into heaven, is the Queen of Heaven and Earth), as her feet stand on the head of the serpent (Mary is our protection). The oval-shaped medal is circled with the signature, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” At the back of the medal, twelve stars (12 Apostles who formed the first Church) surround a large “M” from which a cross (Jesus’ Cross and Redemption) arises. And below the “M” there are two flaming hearts (the burning love of Jesus and Mary for us). The left hearts is circled with thorns, which represents Jesus (the Sacred Heart who died for our sins). The right heart, pierced by a sword (her sorrows), symbolizes Mary (the Immaculate Heart who intercedes for us).
As stated in the narrative of the apparition, Saint Catherine asked the Blessed Mother why rays of light did not shine forth from some gems of her hands. Our Lady reportedly answered that such darkness represented “the graces for which people forget to ask.” Thus, on this Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, let us not only remember to wear the medal or carry it with us, but pray with much devotion and ask with much faith for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and special graces, which have made countless of miracles possible.