Google “Blessed Mother medal,” and the suggestions you find will most likely all be the same: the Miraculous Medal. This beautiful representation of Mary was a gift to us, given by way of a young novice in the Daughters of Charity, Catherine Laboure.
Catherine was born May 2, 1806, the ninth of eleven children in a farming family. She was a devout, romantic and intuitive child. Her mother died when she was nine years old and it is said that she picked up a statue of Mary after her mother’s funeral and said to it “now you are my mother.” After her mother’s death, Catherine and a younger sibling went to live with her Aunt Tonine in Saint-Remy.
Catherine had a dream in which she encountered St. Vincent de Paul, and took it as a sign that she should join the Daughters of Charity, the order he co-founded. She entered the novitiate in 1830 at age 24.
By some accounts, Catherine’s first visions were apparently not of Mary. As a novice, she reported seeing visions of the heart of St. Vincent de Paul in various colors, and interpreted it to mean that the work he founded was to continue to grow.
In July of 1830, Catherine awoke on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent to hear a child’s voice calling her to the chapel. When she arrived, she saw a vision of Mary, who said to her: “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”
In November, Mary again called Catherine to the chapel in the night. This time, Mary was a beautiful vision, standing on a globe, with rays of light coming from her hands. Circling around her were the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Then the image turned, and Catherine saw a circle of stars; in the middle was a letter M with a large cross, and representations of the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Mary told Catherine to take a description of this image to her confessor, saying that it should be put on medallions and that all who wore would receive great graces. Catherine went to her confessor and told him what she had seen. He kept silent about the information for two years, but after investigating her visions and believing them, he went to the Archbishop to ask permission to have the medals cast. The design was approved and the first Miraculous Medals were crafted by noted goldsmith Adrien Vachette.
At first they were known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but later began to be called the Miraculous Medal because of favors granted attributed to praying and wearing the medals.
Catherine lived a quiet life after this, devoted to caring for the sick and elderly for more than 40 years. She died at age 70, and is buried at the side altar of the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris at the Daughters of Charity Mother House, the same place where St. Louise de Marillac is buried.
In 1933, Catherine’s remains were exhumed and found to be incorrupt; he cause for sainthood was then begun. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 27, 1947.
St. Catherine Laboure’s feast day is Nov. 28.
She is the patron saint of the elderly.
For more about the Miraculous Medal, visit the website of the shrine in nearby Philadelphia: https://miraculousmedal.org/
Pray the perpetual novena here: https://miraculousmedal.org/worship-and-prayer/perpetual-novena/
The Miraculous Medal was so popular, even St. Teresa of Calcutta gave them out to people. https://missionimmaculata.com/index.php/miraculous-medal/mother-teresa-and-the-miraculous-medal
Ripley’s Believe it or Not has an article about the incorrupt remains of St. Catherine Laboure: