The Miraculous Medal was originally called The Medal of the Immaculate Conception. When the medal was first distributed, numbers of people, wearing it with faith and confidence, received remarkable graces and favours from God, through Mary’s intercession. Almost immediately, by popular acclaim, it was called the Miraculous Medal.
Among the many religious medals available, the Miraculous Medal is unique in that it was designed by Our Blessed Lady, herself. This is how it happened. In the year 1830, on three occasions, Our Lady appeared to Sister Catherine Labouré, a young Seminary Sister (Novice), whilst she was at prayer, in the Chapel of the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris.
During her second appearance, on 27th November, 1830, Our Lady entrusted Catherine with a mission. As the young Sister was at prayer, that evening, she beheld Our Lady standing on what appeared to be a globe of the world. Rays of beautiful light streamed from her outstretched hands. An interior voice said: these rays are the symbols of the graces I bestow upon those who ask for them.
Framing this vision was the inscription, traced in golden letters O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Then a voice was heard. Have a medal struck on this model. All who wear it will receive great graces. Graces will be bestowed abundantly on those who have confidence.
Soon the vision, which was enclosed by an oval fame, appeared to turn and the reverse of the medal was revealed. Depicted on it, Sister Catherine saw the letter M, surmounted by a cross, with a bar at its base. Beneath the M were two hearts, one encircled by a crown of thorns and the other, pierced by a sword.
Two years later, in 1832, with the approbation of the then Archbishop of Paris, the medal was struck and distributed in Paris. The propagation of the medals was prodigious. The demand exceeded the supply. Almost immediately the graces that Mary had promised began to shower down upon those who wore the medal. There were amazing cures, conversions and miracles, clearly interventions by God. Very soon, the little medal was popularly called miraculous.
Devotion to Our Lady, through the use of the Miraculous Medal, spread rapidly throughout the world and continues to this day. God still grants his graces and blessings, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, to those who wear the medal with faith and Confidence.
THE MEANING OF THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL
The Front of the Medal.
The front of the Miraculous Medal shows Mary standing on a globe, her foot crushing a serpent, while her hands radiate light. At the base of the medal is inscribed the year, 1830.
The now familiar prayer, O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, encircled her head.
This image represents Mary’s role as Queen of Heaven and Earth. The serpent crushed under her foot, is a symbol of Satan, who was defeated by Mary’s obedience to God. The rays of light emanating from her hands, symbolize the graces Mary gives to those who ask for them. The inscription, 1830, was added to commemorate the year that the Blessed Mother appeared to St Catherine Labouré.
The Reverse of the Medal.
The reverse of the Miraculous Medal, depicts the letter M, surmounted by a cross with a bar at its base. The M stands for Mary and her loving devotion both to her Son, Jesus and her children on Earth. The cross represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, for our salvation, whilst the bar symbolises the Earth.
The two hearts represent the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, crowned with thorns, as during his Passion, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword of sorrow, as foretold by holy Simeon in the Temple.
The entire image is surrounded by twelve stars, which represent the twelve Apostles and are also a reference to the verse from the Book of Revelation, Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1-2)
Because of its rich symbolism, the Miraculous Medal, made according to the instructions of Our Lady, can be described as a Marian Macrocosm. It signifies the mystery of Redemption, the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. It is a reminder of Mary’s powerful intercession with God, the mystery of the Church and the relationship between Heaven and earth, between this life and eternal life.
Like all religious medals, the Miraculous Medal is never to be considered as a talisman, like a lucky charm, that of itself, works wonders. The promise of Mary that those who wear the medal will receive great graces, requires that the Medal is to be worn with faith, together with a humble and firm commitment to the Gospel message, faithful perseverance in prayer and the living of a good Christian life.