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Miraculous Mission

The Story Behind the 'Miraculous Medal'

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In the early 19th century, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young French nun, St. Catherine Labouré, and entrusted her with promoting what would become one of the most popular religious objects next to the crucifix: the Medal of the Immaculate Conception.

At age 9, days after the death of her own mother, Catherine Labouré hugged a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and said, "Now you will be my mother."

On July 18, 1830, 24-year-old Sr. Catherine Labouré prayed to the founder of her religious order, St. Vincent de Paul, that she might meet the Blessed Virgin Mary face-to-face.

At midnight that evening, Sr. Catherine awoke to the sound of someone calling her name. She followed a celestial child, whom she believed was her guardian angel, into a brightly lit chapel attached to the convent. Within a few moments, the Blessed Virgin Mary descended from the altar and sat in a chair before which Sr. Catherine knelt. Sister Catherine placed her hands on the lap of the Mother of God and looked up into her eyes. Mary told her that God had a special mission for her, but that she and her country would first have to undergo many trials. "The times are very evil," the Blessed Mother said. "The whole world will be upset by miseries of every kind." She prophesied that revolutionaries would overthrow the king, that violence would reign in the streets, and that the Church would suffer persecution.

Offering a solution, Mary said, "Come to the foot of the altar. There graces will be shed upon all."

A week after this prophesy, revolutionaries overthrew King Charles X, and all that Mary predicted came to pass.

On Nov. 27, 1830, in that same chapel, the Blessed Mother appeared to Sr. Catherine wearing a long white veil. Mary stretched forth her arms below her waist with her palms pointing forward. From her fingertips emanated bright rays of light that shone down upon a globe on which she stood. Her feet were firmly planted upon the head and body of a serpent (see Gen 3:15). Golden letters formed around her, reading, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

This vision flipped over and revealed a cross, standing on a horizontal bar that intertwined with the tips of a large letter M. Beneath the M on one side was the Heart of Mary pierced with a sword; on the other, the Heart of Christ, crowned with thorns. Around these images formed a frame of 12 stars (see Rev 12:1).

The Blessed Mother said, "Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it [around their necks] will receive great graces."

By 1832, Sr. Catherine's confessor, Fr. Jean Marie Aladel, agreed to have the medal made. Not long after, thousands of the faithful reported receiving graces and miracles through devoutly wearing the medal, so much so that they started calling it "the Miraculous Medal." For the next 46 years of her life, only Fr. Aladel knew Sr. Catherine as the nun who had met the Blessed Virgin Mary and carried out this miraculous mission.

This article is part of a 13th of the Month Club series on approved apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


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