THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL AND THE APPARITION OF OUR LADY TO ST. CATHERINE LABOURE IN PARIS
In the year 1830 in Paris takes place the first modern apparition of the Blessed Virgin. St. Pius XII said:
“the era of Mary started here .“ In this year the Virgin Mary starts an era of repeated celestial apparitions. Among them: La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima . . . . As her visit to St. Elizabeth, she always comes to bring graces and to take us to Jesus, fruit of her blessed womb. Also to remind us the way of salvation and to alert us of the consequence of choosing other paths.
Apparitions of the Virgin to St. Catherine
St. Catherine, a young religious of the order of the Daughters of Charity, was in her novitiate in the convent of Rue du Bac, 140, Paris.
Sunday, July 18th, 1930, eve of St. Vincent de Paul (founder of this order), the novice mistress had spoken about devotion to the saints, and particularly to the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her words full of faith and ardent piety, enliven the heart of Sister Laboure and she desired to see and contemplate the face of Mary. Since it was the eve of the Feast Day of St. Vincent, a piece of clothe was distributed to each sister from the saints vestments. Catherine swallowed it and went to sleep thinking that St. Vincent together with her guardian angel, will obtain for her the grace she desired of seeing the Virgin.
St. Catherine had received many previous favors from apparitions of St. Vincent to her, this nourished in her heart a confidence without limits towards her Blessed Father. Her purity and hope did not defraud her. St. John of the Cross said: “ Confidence obtains all it hopes for.“
The Angel awakens her
Everything was silence in the room where Sister Catherine slept, it was close to 11:30PM when she heard three times her name called. She woke up and parting a bit the curtains of her bed looked to the place where the voice came from and saw a child dressed in white, about 4 years old who said to her: “Get up quickly and go to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you “. Sister Catherine hesitated; she is afraid to be seen by the other novices; but the child responds to her interior preoccupation and tells her: "its 11:30 PM, all are sleeping very well. Come, I will guard you." She doesn’t hesitate a moment; dresses with diligence and puts herself at the disposition of the mysterious guide, who is standing without leaving the column of her bed. Sister Catherine already dressed, is guided by the Child, and she follows him marching a little at his left side. Where ever they passed the lights turned on. The body of the Child irradiated vivid colors and everything in his paths became illuminated.
Arriving at the Chapel door, they find it closed; but the Child touches the door with his finger and the door opens instantly. Sister Catherine said : “My surprise was more complete when, at entering into the Chapel, all the candles were lighted, reminding me of the midnight Mass“ (still she does not see the Virgin).
The Child took her to the sanctuary, near a chair destined for Father Director, where he preached to the Daughters of Charity. Here Catherine kneeled and the Child stayed standing at her right side. The wait seemed very long, because she was anxious to see the Virgin. She would look with certain uneasiness over the right platform, just incase the sisters in vigil doing acts of adoration might see her. Finally the waited hour came, the Child said: “See the Virgin here, see her here.“ Sister Catherine heard like a murmur, like the rubbing of a silk dress coming from the platform area, near the picture of St. Joseph. She saw a Lady of extreme beauty crossing majestically the sanctuary. She went to sit in the chair above the stairs of the mayor altar, next to the Gospel. Sister Catherine deep down in her heart doubted if really she was in the presence of the Queen of Heaven, but the Child said to her : “Look at the Virgin.“ It was almost impossible to describe what she experienced at that moment, what occurred inside of her, and she though she was not seeing the Virgin. Then the Child spoke to her, not like a Child but like a man with more stronger words: “Can not the Queen of Heave appear at random to a poor mortal creature in the way she pleases?" Then, looking at the Virgin, she went to her side, kneeling over the stairs of the altar, with her hands placed on the Blessed Mother’s knees. Later on St. Catherine is quoted as saying: “Here I spent the most sweetest moments of my life; it is impossible for me to describe what I felt “.
Revelations of the Blessed Virgin
Sister Catherine received many messages from the lips of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we cannot know all of them because some were given with the command of absolute secret.
The Virgin gave some counsels for particular spiritual benefit: The Virgin is Mother and Teacher
1- How to behave with her director: with profound humility and obedience
2- How to conduct oneself in sufferings: with patience, meekness, and joy
3- To always have recourse (showing her with her left hand) to the foot of the altar and open up her heart, because there she would receive all the consolations she needed: she would learn to have an undivided heart and no human consolations.
The Virgin also explained to her the significance of all the apparitions and revelations she had received of St. Vincent and of the Lord.
She continued saying: "God wants to confide in you a mission; it will cost you effort, but you will conquer it thinking you do it for glory the of God. You will know how good God is. You will have much to suffer until you say it to your director. You will have contradictions; grace will assist you; don’t be afraid. Talk with your director with confidence and simplicity; have confidence, do not fear. You will see certain things; tell him about it. You will receive inspiration in prayer. The times are very calamitous. A rain of graces will fall over France. The throne will fall. The entire world will be afflicted by calamities of all kinds ( when the Virgin said this, she was very sad). Come to the foot of this altar, where marvelous graces be given to all who ask with fervor; to all, big and small, rich and poor. I desire to pour graces over your community; I desire it ardently. It causes me great sorrow the great abuses in the observances, where the rules are not fulfilled, in which so much relaxation exist in both communities even though great souls are in them.
Tell this to who ever is in charge of you, even though she/ he is not your superior. Soon she/ he will be placed at the head of the community. She should do all possible to reestablish vigor to the rules. When this occurs another community will unit to yours. The time will come of great dangers; all will seemed lost; then I will be with you, have confidence. You will recognize my visit and the protection of God and St. Vincent over the community. It will not be the same in other communities, there will be victims (with tears in her eyes). The cleric in Paris will have many victims. The Archbishop will die. My daughter, the Cross will be despised, and the Heart of my Son will be pierced again; blood will flow through the streets ( the Virgin was unable to speak because of the sorrow, the words drowned in her throat; her face pale). The entire world will be very sad." Sr. Catherine thinks to herself: When will this occur? An interior voice assures her: forty years and ten and then peace. The Virgin after being with Sr. Catherine for 2 hours, disappears from Sister Catherine’s sight like a fading shadow.
In this apparition Our Lady:
- gives her a mission from God.
- prepares with wise counsels to speak to her director with submission and confidence.
- announces future events to strengthen the faith of those who might doubt the apparitions
- grants the gift of having a familiar relationship with Mary of mother-daughter: she sees her and comes near to Mary with familiarity and simplicity, she touches the Virgin and Mary sits down so that Sr. Catherine can come closer and place her arms and hands on the knees of the Queen of Heaven.
All the prophecies were fulfilled:
1- God’s mission was revealed with the revelation of the miraculous medal.
2- one week after this apparition the French Revolution exploded. The rebels took over the streets in Paris, sacked, assassinated, and Charles X was taken down from the throne, and replaced by “ civil/political king “, Louis Phillip I, great teacher of masonry.
3- Father Aladel (director) is named in 1846 Director of the Daughters of Charity, and establishes the observance of the rule and towards the 1860's another feminine community joins the Daughters of Charity.
4- In 1870 (40 years later ) the moment of great danger came, with the horror of the authorities, the killing of Archbishop Mons. Darboy and many other priests.
5- only the last part needs to be fulfilled.
The Miraculous Medal
On Saturday, November 27th, 1830, eve of the first Sunday of Advent, Sister Catherine was doing her meditation in the Chapel , when she heard the rubbing of a silk dress reminder her of the previous apparition. The Blessed Virgin appears dressed in white with long sleeves and a closed tunic up to the neck. Her head was covered by a white veil falling down on both sides to her feet. When she tried to describe her face, Sr. Catherine only was able to say: “it was the Virgin Mary in her maximum beauty.“
She was standing on top of a white globe, which only the superior area was seen, and she was crushing a green serpent with yellow dots. Her hands where elevated to her hearts height and she was holding another small globe of gold, crown with a cross. The Virgin Mary had a supplicant attitude, as if offering the globe. Sometimes she would look to heaven and sometimes to the earth. All of a sudden her fingers were full of rings adorned with brilliant precious stones dispensing light in all directions, surrounding her with so much light, that it was not possible to see her.
She had three rings in each finger; the thickest ring near the hand; a medium size ring in the middle, and the smallest in the extremity. From the precious stones, rays of light flowed downwards; filling all the bottom area.
While Sister Catherine was contemplating the Virgin, she (Mary) looked at her and said to her heart: “This globe you see - at the feet of Mary- represents the whole world, specially France and each soul in particular.“ The rays symbolizes the graces that I give to those who ask for them. The pearls that don’t have rays are the graces of the souls who don’t ask.“
At this point the globe of gold (the richness of graces) disappeared between the hands of the Virgin. Her arms were then openly extended while the rays of light continued to fall over the white globe of her feet. Then an oval shape was formed with the Virgin inside of it, and it appear written the following invocation: “Mary conceived without sin, pray for us, who recourse to thee.“
These words formed a semicircle starting from where Mary’s right hand was, passing over her head and ending over her left hand.
Sr. Catherine hears again the interior voice: “Have a medal made according to this model. All those who wear it will receive great graces. The graces will more abundant for those who wear it confidence.“ Then the reverse side of the medal was shown. A letter "M" appeared on the medal, and a cross over the middle of the M on a bar crossing the letter about 1/3 of its height, and underneath the M, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the first Heart surrounded by thorns, and the second Heart pierced by a lance. Twelve stars around the entire medal.
The apparitions continued until the end of December of 1830 and beginning of 1831. Then the Virgin said to Catherine: “From now on my daughter you will not see me; but you will hear my voice in prayer." One day Sr. Catherine was uneasy about not knowing what inscription to put on the reverse side of the medal, and during prayer the Virgin told her : “The M and the two Hearts are eloquent enough.“
Symbols from the Medal and the spiritual message
In the front:
- Mary is crushing the head of the serpent over the world. She is the Immaculate, has all the power in virtue of her grace to triumph over Satan.
- The color of her dress and the 12 stars over her head: she is the woman of the Apocalypse, dressed with the sun.
- Her extended hands transmitting grace: her mission of mother and mediator of grace, dispensing graces over the world and to who ever asks for
- Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (helped it to be defined in 1854 - Lourdes). Mission of intercession, trust and recourse to the Mother.
- The globe at her feet: the sin of the world.
- The globe in her hands: the world offered to Jesus through her hands.
In the back:
- The cross: the mystery of redemption-price Christ paid: obedience, sacrifice and offering.
-The M : symbol of Mary and her spiritual maternity.
- The bar: it is a letter from the Greek alphabet, yota or I, is a monogram of the name of Jesus. Representing the Mother of Jesus Crucified.
- The twelve stars: symbol of the Church that Christ founded upon the apostles and is born at Calvary from His pierced Heart.
- The Two Hearts: the co-redemption. Indissoluble unity. Future devotion to the Two Hearts and their reign.
The medal was originally named: “the Immaculate Conception“, but as the devotion spread and so many miracles happened through it, it started to be popularly called: “The Miraculous Medal “.
Alfonso Ratisbone’s Conversion
Alfonso Ratisbone was a lawyer and banker, a Jew of 27 years of age. He hated the Catholics because his brother Theodore had converted and became a priest, he had as a logo the miraculous medal and fought for the conversion of the Jews.
On January of 1842 on a tourist trip to Naples and Malta, there was a mistake made in the route and Alfonso arrived in Rome instead. Here he had the obligation of visiting a friend of the family, the Baron Theodore de Bussiere, a protestant converted to Catholicism.
The Baron received him with cordiality and offered to show him around Rome. In a meeting where Ratisbone spoke horrors about Catholics, the Baron heard him with much patience and finally said: “Well since you are so sure of self, promise me you will carry with you what I’m going to give you." “What is it?", his miraculous medal. Alfonso rejected the medal indignant and the Baron replied: “According to your ideas, to accept the medal should leave you indifferent. But on the other hand it pleases me”. Ratisbone smiled, put on the medal and said that he was not a fool. The Baron also asked Him to pray the Memorare which he did.
Later on the thee Baron requested prayers from several people, among them the Count of La Ferronays, saying to him: “I put the Miraculous Medal on him and made him pray the Memorare, I’m sure he will convert." The Count of La Ferronays died suddenly two days later. It was known that he had gone on the two previous days to the Basilica of St. Mary Mayor to pray 100 Memorares for the conversion of Ratisbone.
The Baron meets with Ratisbone around the Spanish Square in his last day in Rome and invites him for a trip around the city. But first he had to go to the Church of St. Andres to arrange the funeral for the Count. Ratisbone also goes in the Church. Then a miracle occurs, he relates in his own words: “Within a few moments of entering the Church, I felt dominated by an unexplainable confusion. I raised my eyes and thought the entire building was disappearing before my eyes. One of the chapels (the chapel of St. Michael ) was covered with light, and in the midst of this splendor appeared the Blessed Virgin Mary, radiantly and and full of majesty and sweetness. She appeared as She was in the medal. An irresistible force drew me to the Chapel. Then the Blessed Virgin gave me a signal with her hand, as if telling me to kneel, and when I did, it seemed by the aspect of her face she was telling me: 'Well . . . .' The Virgin didn’t speak to me, but I understood it all.“
The Baron finds him kneeling, crying and praying with his hands together, and kissing the medal. Shortly after he is baptized in the Gesu Church in Rome. By order of the Pope, the canonical process begins and it is declared “true miracle“.
Alfonso Ratisbone entered the Company of Jesus and was ordained a priest. He was sent to Paris to help his brother Theodore in the catechumens for the conversion of the Jews. After being a Jesuit for 10 years, with permission he leaves the order and founds in 1848 the religious community of Our Lady of Sion and the Missions of Our Lady of Sion. In only the first 10 years Ratisbone obtained the conversion of 200 Jews and 32 Protestants. Father Alfonso Ratisbone worked hard in Holy Land, and was able to purchase Pilate’s old house, converted into a convent and church for the religious. He also made it possible for the religious to found a hospital in Ain-Karim, where he died a holy death in 1884 at age 70.
Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
O Virgin Mother of God, Mary Immaculate,
We dedicate and consecrate ourselves to you under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
May this Medal be for each one of us a sure sign of your affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties toward you.
Ever while wearing it, may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son.
O Most Powerful Virgin, Mother of Our Savior,
keep us close to you every moment of our lives.
Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death;
so that in union with you,we may enjoy the bliss of Heaven forever. Amen.
The Prayer of John Paul II in the Chapel
«Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee »
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. O Mary, this was the prayer that you gave to Saint Catherine Labouré in the Chapel of the Apparitions, more than one hundred and fifty years ago! […]
This invocation, engraved on the Miraculous Medal, is now worn and repeated by the faithful throughout the world!
Blessed are you among women!
You are intimately associated with the work of our Redemption, associated with the Cross of our Savior, your heart has been pierced, next to his heart. And now, in the glory of your Son, you never cease to intercede for us, poor sinners.
You watch over the Church for you are its Mother. You watch over each of your Children. From God, you obtain for us, all graces that are symbolized by the rays of light which radiate from your open hands, and the only condition that you demand of us is that we approach with the confidence, the hardiness, and the simplicity of a child. And it is thus that you bring us before your Divine Son. Amen.