Thought for the Day – 28 November – The Memorial of St Catherine Labouré DC (1806-1876)
The Miraculous Medal has been called “a summary of the Church’s teaching on Our Lady, a mini-catechism of the faith for everyone.” Indeed, the Marian vision that inspired the medal included some important symbolism!
For starters, the reference to Mary’s having been conceived without sin on the medal, shown in its original French in the photo above, was defined as a Dogma by the church in 1854, hence the reason that the Medal is actually officially known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception – (Note that this refers to Mary’s conception, not to Jesus’ birth, a common misconception!)
Note also that Mary is shown in the photo above standing on a globe crushing the head of a serpent. This is in line with scripture, from Genesis 3:15, which foretells Satan’s ultimate defeat at the hands of her Son. (Granted, this is not readily visible here or indeed on many Miraculous Medals, particularly small ones!)
On the back of the medal (the picture on the right above) we see symbols of Jesus and Mary, in the Cross (the symbol of her Son’s victory over sin and death for us at Calvary) with the Letter “M” for Mary right underneath it. Directly underneath that are two hearts, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both filled with great love for each other and for us too! We see their sadness over our sins as well in this depiction. On the left side are the thorns of our indifference and ingratitude piercing our Lord’s Sacred Heart even while it burns with love for us. On the right side we see a sword piercing Mary’s heart, which is filled with sorrow as well as love (as described here). Surrounding these poignant images we see twelve stars symbolising the twelve apostles.
On the front of the medal (left) we see our Lady’s hands outstretched with rays of light, symbolising grace, streaming from her fingers. (Again, granted, this may be hard to see on a small medal!) We are reminded here of St Louis de Montfort’s reference to her as the “treasurer and dispenser of God’s graces.”
We can see from all this that the Miraculous Medal is an important sacramental, indeed, as it can give us the graces Our Lady wishes us to have on behalf of her Divine Son. Indeed, she herself said to St Catherine when giving her the vision of the medal “Have a medal made according to this model. Everybody who wears it will receive great graces by wearing it around the neck. The graces will be abundant for persons who wear it with confidence.” Remember, however, that the most important place of honour for Mary must be in our hearts, not around our necks.
It is important to note as well that, as with all sacramentals, the Miraculous Medal is not some “lucky charm”. Keep in mind also, that in expressing devotion to Mary, we do not worship her, as many Christians in other denominations, especially some Evangelicals, believe, but rather honour her in her devotion to our Lord! As the popular saying goes “to Jesus through Mary.”
Remember also her last words in Scripture, which could almost be her motto, in which she told the attendants at the wedding feast of Cana “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5).
Prayers such as the Hail Mary and the Memorare can also help do us worlds of good in receiving and sharing the graces she wishes to give us. They are all meant to lead us to a closer relationship with Jesus!
Mary showed St Catherine an intriguing symbol in her Miraculous Medal vision. The rays of light emanating graces came from sparkling jewels on Our Lady’s fingers. St Catherine noticed, however that some of these jewels were dark and not giving forth any light. Mary explained that “those stones which remain dark symbolise the graces people have forgotten to request.” Don’t let such graces be lost on you! And don’t ever be afraid to ask for her help in obtaining Christ’s mercy!