The Novena in honour of the Miraculous Medal was started in Boherlahan-Dualla over 60 years ago by the late Fr. Michael B. Canon O’Dwyer who was Parish Priest here from 1955 – 1966.
Many of us wear a Miraculous Medal but know little of its origin which goes back to 1830 in the time of St. Catherine Labouré when she had a vision of Our Lady asking her to have this Medal struck.
St. Catherine Labouré.
St. Catherine Labouré, the 9th of 11 children, was born in 1806 in Burgundy, France. From an early age she felt a call to the religious life. She was only 9 years when her mother died. Sometime later as she took the statue of Our Lady in her hands she asked Her to be her Mother for the future. In 1818 she received her First Holy Communion and shortly after that she had a dream in which a priest said to her, “My daughter, you may flee from me now but one day you will come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you”.
The significance of this dream was not to be known to Catherine until sometime later when she was visiting a hospital run by the Daughters of Charity Order. She noticed a picture of a priest on the wall. It was the same priest that she had seen in her dream and she learned that it was St. Vincent de Paul, founder of that Order.
She entered the Order and began her Novitiate at the Mother House in the Rue du Bac, Paris. One night she was awakened and led to the chapel of the Rue du Bac where Our Lady spoke to her about the difficult times in the world; but she also experienced the care which Our Lady has for everyone. The mission that God wanted to entrust to Catherine was revealed to her 4 months later on 27th November when Our Lady appeared and showed her the design of the Medal which she was to have struck and distributed for widespread use.
The Front of the Medal.
Mary is standing on a globe representing the world. A serpent representing Satan lies at Her feet. Rays of light are coming from Her hands which point downwards towards earth. These represent the Graces for individuals which are there for the asking. All around Our Lady is written the Prayer, “O Mary Conceived Without Sin pray for us who have recourse to Thee”. Mary’s world is a world of light. Satan’s world is a world of darkness. We see the struggle between Good and Evil.
The Back of the Medal.
The large letter M stands for Mary and Mother. The crossbeam through the letter M represents the Cross of Christ at Calvary and the Altar at Mass. At Calvary Mary became Our Heavenly Mother. The twelve stars represent the Twelve Apostles on whom our Catholic Church is founded. The two hearts are those of Jesus and Mary – Jesus with the Crown of Thorns and Mary with the Sword of sorrow and suffering. Mother and Son are united in the work of Redemption.
The original name of the Medal was that of Holy Mary’s Immaculate Conception. After 7 years the name was changed to The Miraculous Medal because of the many miraculous conversions and cures that were attributed to its use.
In 1854 Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and 4 years later Our Lady confirmed this at Lourdes in 1858 when She said to Bernadette Soubirous, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
For 47 years St. Catherine lived an ordinary, obscure and laborious life as a Daughter of Charity. No one except her confessor, a Vincentian priest, knew that it was she who had received from Our Lady the request to have the Medal struck and distributed. She died on the 31st December 1876. After 57 years of burial her body was exhumed and found to be completely incorrupt. In 1933 she was beatified and in 1947 she was canonized. She is still lying in state in the Chapel of the Rue du Bac where each day pilgrims come to pray in thanksgiving for favours received and healings attributed to the Miraculous Medal. She is the patroness of architects, miners and prisoners and is known as the Saint of Silence.
Members of the Legion of Mary place themselves under the Patronage of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in their missionary work and actions. They distribute Miraculous Medals as part of their Legionary work when they go on Home and Nursing Home visitation, and also when they take part in ‘Peregrinatio Pro Christo’ projects abroad and in ‘Maria et Patria’ projects in Ireland.