The Miraculous Medal
„Let us do our utmost and in order that She with Her «Knight» and Her Medal would win over the world” — called out St. Maximillian. This call is current also in our times, especially while The Blessed Virgin awaits for the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart. Let The Medal, fully deserving to be called a Miraculous one, become a net in which the souls shall be cought. „Let the Medal be a weapon, or let us say more rightly — a bullet, through which each Knight will make use of” — used to say St. Maximillian.
On November 27th in year 1830 The Blessed Virgin Mary appears to Catherine Labouré, who is a novice from the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. It is the second of the three apparitions at Rue de Bac 140 in Paris. During this apparition Immaculata instructs Catherine to mint and distribute The Miraculous Medal after the pattern revealed. The story was published by Father Kolbe in „Knight of Immaculata” in June 1922.
Apparition of the Miraculous Medal
Well known is the Medal under the name of Miraculous one. It’s descend reaches up til year 1830. The very lucky soul, to whom The Blessed Virgin Mary revealed The Medal, was Catherine Labouré, a novice to Daughters of Charity in Paris at Rue de Bac. Let us hear her story:
„On November 27th, in the evening of Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent, I have been meditating when occurred to me a swish of a velvet dress of some kind, heared from right wing of sanctuary. Then I saw The Blessed Virgin standing by the image of St. Joseph; she was middle-height, but of such a beauty, simply impossible to describe. She was standing, wearing a white robe glittering with red, the one that a virgin would dress — with narrow sleeves and buttoned to the neck. Her head was covered with a white veil reaching down to feet on both sides. Her forehead was graced with a laced band, adhering to Her hair. Face of Her was rather uncovered, under Her feet was earth globe, and in Her hands she was holding another globe (which related to whole universe). She lifted up her Eyes as if she would offer whole universe to Almighty God, therefore at this moment Her face shined with brightness.
Suddenly at Her fingers precious rings had appeared from which rays of light went out illuminating Her so much, that she became invisible. The gems were of different size and the rays themselves were more or less luminous.
I am not able to express, what I felt that time and experienced.
While I was astonished by view of The Blessed Virgin still glaring into Her Majesty, She would turn Her graceful eyes on me, addressing me internaly: The globe you see, reflects the whole world and each person in the world as well.
I cannot describe the impression I had from the sight of these wonderful rays of light. Then The Lady told me:
The rays you see now, are graces, which I place upon those who ask me for them — that way she made it clear for me, how generous She is to anybody who begs Her. That moment I lost all self-consciousness, sunk in joy… then a Lady was encircled with a ring showing a sign:
„O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”.
So I heared voice telling me: „Please make an effort to mint a Medal after this pattern; All who shall wear the Medal, will experience grate graces, especially if they hang the Medal on neck. Those who will put trust in Me, I will endow with graces”.
That instant — continous sister Labouré — I had an impression, that the image is turning around. So I saw on the other side an letter M with a cross attached to it, and below Sacred Heart of Jesus surrounded by a crown of thorns and a Heart of Mary pierced with a glaive.
Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Knight of Immaculata, June 1922
Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.
While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières. Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.
On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture. Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.
During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.
A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.
When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping. Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”
When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle.
Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.
The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.