Saint Catherine, like our dear, sweet Mamma Mary, was born and died a virgin. Also, like our Mamma Mary, a prediction of pain and suffering was made to her, and they both reacted with open and willing hearts. The story of St. Catherine Laboure is very unique, and many people don’t realize that she and Mary are how we wound up with the Miraculous Medal!
St. Catherine Laboure was born on May 2, 1806, and at an early age she entered the community of the Daughters of Charity, in Paris, France. Three times in 1830 the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, who then was a twenty-four year old novice. TWENTY-FOUR. That’s four years younger than I am, and she was already having real-live chats with our Mama. How awesome is that!?
According to catholic.org., “On July 18, the first apparition occurred in the community's motherhouse. St. Catherine beheld a lady seated on the right side of the sanctuary. When St. Catherine approached her, the heavenly visitor told her how to act in time of trial and pointed to the altar as the source of all consolation. Promising to entrust St. Catherine with a mission which would cause her great suffering, the lady also predicted the anticlerical revolt which occurred at Paris in 1870.” Our mother Mary also received a prediction of great suffering when she and St. Joseph presented our Lord in the temple. “…and you, yourself, a sword will pierce,” (Luke 2:35). Again from catholic.org., “On November 27, the lady showed St. Catherine the medal of the Immaculate Conception, now universally known as the "Miraculous Medal." She commissioned St. Catherine to have one made, and to spread devotion to this medal.
The Miraculous Medal is a well-known piece of Catholicism, but not many people know the whole story of how it came about or what the different parts of the medal mean. From TheDivineMercy.Org, we learn that the font side has Mary standing on a globe, crushing a serpent beneath her feet. Describing the original vision, Catherine said the Blessed Mother appeared radiant as a sunrise, “…in all her perfect beauty,”. Rays shoot out from Mary's hands, which she told Catherine, "... symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them.” The words from the vision form an oval frame around Mary: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,”. Mary is standing with her arms open, symbolizing the recourse we have to her. And because she was assumed into heaven, she’s standing on top of the globe, and she’s crushing the head of the serpent first seen in Genesis.
The various design elements all have unique meanings, as well! The large letter "M" is for Mary as Mother, Mediatrix. The cross and bar symbolize Jesus' cross of Redemption. The 12 stars symbolize the 12 Apostles, who formed the first Church. The Left Heart symbolizes The Sacred Heart, who died for our sins, and conversely the right heart symbolizes the Immaculate Heart, who intercedes for us. The Flames symbolize the burning love that Jesus and Mary have for us.
Reflection 1: Have you ever considered wearing the miraculous medal? These days there are so many Etsy boutiques and other retailers who offer BEAUTIFUL jewelry that incorporates medals for our Catholic faith. Wearing our faith can be elegantly simple and plain, or it can be ornate and fancy, depending on your style!
Reflection 2: Is there something the Lord is calling you to do or to work on? How can you give a Yes to the Lord as St. Catherine Laboure and St Mary did?
Act: Pray to Our Mother for guidance and help the next time you need to say YES! to the Lord.