Readers of this column may recall an item published earlier this year which dealt with the “Miraculous Medal of Mary” which “saved” the life of a death row felon who willingly went to the electric chair believing he would, after death, be joining Jesus and his mother, Mary, in heaven.
Information from that previous column and this effort comes from a book “It Ain’t Gonna Happen, A Return to Truth” authored by “a friend of Medjugorje*.” This is the story in brief of St. Catherine Laboure, who in 1830 lived as a novice in the convent of the Daughters of Charity in Paris on Rue du Bac.
* — “The Village Sees The Light” is the title of a story which Reader’s Digest published February 1986. It was the first major news on a mass public scale that told of the Virgin Mary visiting the tiny town of Bosnia-Hercegovina. At that time the village was populated by 400 families. National Geographic pointed out Medjugorje is a “hot spot for for Virgin Mary sightings — devotees of diverse faiths and nationalities gather to pray. A million pilgrims a year (in 2015) hope for a message a miracle.
One of the Blessed Mother’s most famous apparitions was in Mexico. National Geographic pointed out, “According to tradition, she (Mary) revealed herself to an Indian man, Juan Diego, in 1531. Speaking in Nahuati, she produced roses in winter and imprinted her image on his cloak, miracles that led many indigenous Mexicans to convert to Catholicism.
“In the year 1830, there lived a young novice, Sr. Catherine Laboure who had just entered the Daughters of Charity. She was placed in the Mother house in Paris, located on Rue du Bac. Catherine had gone to bed on July 18, 1830 but at 11:30 p.m. was awoken by a brilliant light. She heard a child’s voice say, “Sister Laboure, come to the Chapel, the Blessed Mother wishes to speak to you.” Sister Laboure had said she thought the voice of the small child was that of her guardian angel.
“The child led her to the Chapel and, upon hearing the rustling of a silk dress, she looked up and beheld the Blessed Virgin sitting in a chair near the altar. Catherine knelt down beside Her, placing her folded hands upon our Lady’s lap. The Blessed Mother began to speak to Catherine informing her that God had chosen her for a special mission.
After this apparition, Our Lady appeared to Catherine on two more occasions. “In the apparition of Nov. 27, 1830, Our Lady appeared holding a golden ball. She said this ball represented the entire world and, in particular, France. Then the apparition changed, and Catherine was shown a medal, both front and backside, and was told by Our Lady to have the medal struck and spread.”
Though it took two years, the medal was finally produced and distributed. “Immediately people began to experience miracles they associated with the medal which led to it being called the ‘Miraculous Medal.’”
“For certain, this apparition to St. Catherine, the past apparitions in history leading up to this, and the medal itself opened up a floodgate of graces, inaugurating the coming of the Marian era. Medjugorje has ushered in this Marian era with Our Lady appearing daily for almost 30 years. This era, with Our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje, is the fulfillment of all Her apparitions throughout history.”
When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure July 18, 1830, She was seated in a chair. That chair has been preserved all these years, still present in the Chapel at Rue du Bac. The chair is located on the far right side of the Miraculous Medal Chapel.
The chair is just a few feet from where St. Catherine’s miraculously, perfectly preserved body can be seen. Even St. Catherine’s blue eyes, slightly open, can be seen.
Millions of miracles are said to have occurred as a result of St. Catherine’s medal request being finalized, struck as Our Lady had requested.
“One famous conversion took place on January 20, 1842, when a man, after being encouraged to wear this medal, saw Our Lady. He was not a Christian but a Jew. Alphonse Ratisbonne became a priest and it sparked such enthusiasm for the medal that the Vatican looked into this case, Ratisbonne’s apparition and the Miraculous Medal.”
Mary, the mother of Jesus, has appeared to millions all over the world. My copy of the December 2015 National Geographic magazine features a frontpage story and picture, “Mary, the Most Powerful Woman in the World.”
“Maryam (Mary) is the holiest woman mentioned in the Muslim Koran,” more often than in the Bible. “So the Virgin Mary is not at all strange to Muslims” says the Nat Geo article. “In fact, wherever there is a connection between Christians and Muslims, or any two groups that know and love her, there is a common value in the covenant mother.”
Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of Nat Geo in 2015, editorialized the reasons for the frontpage feature on the Mother of God. “When an exhibition opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts ... featured were 74 artworks from the 14th through the 19th centuries, lent by galleries including Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Louvre in Paris and the Vatican Museums.
“The exhibition drew the largest crowd ever for the Washington, D.C., museum. That got us wondering: What is it about Mary? She is the world’s most depicted woman, yet among the most mysterious, with more written about her in the Koran than in the Bible.
“Her powers are invoked for anything and everything: by the sick in search of a cure and a quarterback hoping for a Hail Mary pass to win the game; by mothers who feel a special kinship with her; and truckers — dashboards adorned with plastic Mary statuettes seeking safe travels.”
“You see for yourself and your concerns reflected,” says Melissa R. Katz, an art history professor at Wesleyan University and an author of a book on Marian imagery. “That’s what Mary has always done, that Jesus could not. She’s more accessible, less threatening, always on peoples’ side.”
After all this research, I realize I need all the help I can get so, yes, I wear my Miraculous Medal. Do you? Maybe now, for sure!