It all began one hallowed night in Paris in the year 1830. This night commenced an important and historical event in the Catholic faith. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Of God, appeared to a young girl named Zoe Laboure. Zoe is much better known currently as Saint Catherine Labouré.
At the time, Zoe was in her postulancy at the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul. During slumber, she was awakened by her guardian angel who was in the form of a young child and Zoe was summoned to the chapel. The chapel was brightly lit despite being nighttime and Zoe kneeled to pray not understanding why she was here but nonetheless obedient. Eventually a beautiful lady adorned in ivory and blue greeted her. The lady relayed the message that Zoe, as a child of God, had been entrusted to a special mission. The mission would not be without difficulty but it was for the Glory of GOD. The Lady explained how the world was evil and how sorrows were to come upon France. She offered a solution: “come to the foot of the altar and here graces will be bestowed on all who ask for them both rich and poor.”
Can you imagine how Zoe felt? She must have been frightened but she kept this apparition to herself.
In a vision several months later, the significant task was revealed as the Blessed Virgin divulged her identity. Zoe was to have a special medal struck and circulate it amongst the people. That important and wonderful medal was the Medal of the Immaculate Conception; the name was later changed to The Miraculous Medal. Zoe experienced the blessed apparition five more times and was instructed in the creation of the medal. The front was to have the Blessed Virgin standing on a globe, her foot crushing the head of a serpent. Her arms would be stretched outward with brilliant rays coming forth. Around Mary was to be an inscription of simple prayer: “Oh Mary, Conceived Without Sin Pray For Us Who Have Recourse to You”.
The reverse side of the medal was to have a cross with a bar at the bottom and intertwined with the letter M. Beneath the M the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, one with a crown of thorns and the other pierced with a sword. The image was to be encircled with twelve stars.
Zoe discussed her visions only with her spiritual director, Father John Marie Aladel and he advised her to write the accounts of the apparitions and instructions. Two years later with the assistance of Father John and the Archbishop of Paris, the first set of medals was struck. The medals quickly became very popular and remain so to this day with the promise that those who wear the medal will receive great graces.
This commenced the start of the Marian Era.
There is much symbolism in the Miraculous Medal. The crushed serpent represents destroying evil (the serpent synonymous with satan) and the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Victorious woman found in the book of Genesis. The M signifies Mary and also Motherhood, as the mother of Jesus. The Cross is representative of Jesus’ sacrifice in death on the cross With Mary at the foot of the cross in her son’s suffering and death. The Sacred Heart Of Jesus represents the love of humanity and the Immaculate Heart of Mary represents the joys and sorrows of Mary.
Today, the Miraculous Medal is created in many beautiful designs; some with enameling, adorned with flowers or marcasite, in sterling and brass and in a variety of sizes, each medal a gorgeous and meaningful rendition of the original medal of 1830. The Miraculous Medal continues to provide graces to those who venerate the medal through the Blessed Virgin Mary in intercession with her son Jesus our Savior.
By Karen Soldwisch