The Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception, by Father B Rohner, OSB

Miraculous MedalOur benignant Mother, Mary, protects, helps and heals all those who place their confidence in her. In order to augment, diffuse and maintain such confidence among the children of men, she, in her generous love, has placed within their reach many ingenious and profitable means and devices. One of the most remarkable of these means is the Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception.

In the year 1830 a devout young novice, an inmate of a convent devoted to works of charity in the city of Paris, in France, was favored one day while in an ecstasy of prayer, with a sweet vision which showed to her the Blessed Virgin, in the position in which she is usually represented in the picture of the Immaculate Conception, that is, in a full life-size, standing position, with outstretched arms. Her two hands seemed to emit clusters of rays of bright light, or fire. At the same time the astonished novice heard the words, “These rays of light are a figure of the graces which Mary obtains for creatures, while the point of the globe on which she stands represents France.” In an arc of a circle about the head of the vision could be plainly read the inscription, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

In a few minutes the vision-picture was reversed to her sight, and the novice, filled with wonder, saw a large figure of the letter M, with a cross rising from the middle part of it, while under the letter were the two sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary. Then the novice heard again a voice saying, “Let a medal be struck off representing this vision; and all who shall wear such medal, after it has been blessed by the prayers of the Church, and shall repeat devoutly the short ejaculation inscribed upon it, shall be made worthy to enjoy the special protection of the Mother of God.”

The day following this vision the young novice had occasion to meet her Father Confessor, to whom she revealed what she had seen and heard. The prudent priest, fearing some illusion, summarily dismissed the Sister and her story, telling her at the same time that true and genuine respect and love for Mary consisted in a faithful imitation of her virtues.

The vision appeared again to the novice, a second and a third time, the same mysterious voice urging her to comply with the injunctions given to have the medals struck off. At last her spiritual director deemed it his duty to lay the matter before his spiritual superior, the Most Reverend Archbishop of Paris. That devout prelate declared that there could be no objection to striking off the medal in the form prescribed, more especially as it involved nothing contrary to the faith of the Catholic Church, but rather was in every way calculated to awaken and nourish the hearts of the faithful to a great devotion to the Mother of Our Lord.

No sooner were the medals struck off than they found their way into every part of France. The Sisters of Charity gave them to their patients in the hospitals, where they worked miracles in curing invalid bodies and in winning sinful souls to God. In a few short years these medals appeared in gold, silver, and copper, in immense numbers. Pious mothers knew no better object to present to their children as a Christmas gift than a Miraculous Medal. From all quarters came the most edifying accounts of the spiritual efficacy and power of this new medal. It stirred up Christian zeal in town and country. In families, and even in whole parishes, where Catholic faith and piety had become almost extinct, the most fervent practice of religious duties was re-established and remained permanently fixed. The miraculous effects which it produced in the realm of nature, as well as in the sphere of divine grace, won for it on all sides the high title of the Miraculous Medal.

Any person wearing devoutly and reverently, and with sentiments of faith, this medal when blessed by a priest, may obtain a plenary indulgence on the day of reception, or on Easter Sunday, or on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Pope Leo XIII, 12 November 1895)

One of the most remarkable miracles, and one most fraught with blessings, was the conversion of the celebrated Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, who always attributed his call to the true faith to the influence of the Miraculous Medal, joined with the prayers of the faithful.

Ratisbonne was a member of a prominent family of Strasbourg, and a young man distinguished for his excellent qualities of mind and heart. Towards the end of the year 1842 he became engaged to a young Jewish lady with whom he fondly hoped to lead a happy married life. While awaiting the coming of the time appointed for his marriage, he resolved to set out on a tour to the Eastern countries and to visit the principal cities of Italy on his way. He would not pass through Rome, for as a Jew, he cherished a deadly hatred for that Christian city. Fully resolved not to visit the capital of the Popes, he was already on his way to Palermo, when, irresistibly impelled by some secret influence, inexplicable to himself, he changed his route of travel and went towards Rome. He was resolved, however, to visit and study only the most famous ruins and monuments of pagan antiquity and, while moving among the classic regions, to foster and strengthen his dislike for everything Catholic. This unbounded antipathy for the Catholic Church was heightened and strengthened by the fact that a short time previously his elder brother, Theodore, had not only renounced the Jewish creed and embraced Christianity, but had entered a Religious Order and had been ordained a Catholic priest.

The same prejudices which he had carried in his heart when going to Rome, induced him to hurry away from the place. But he wished, before leaving, to pay a visit to a young friend of his who dwelt in the Eternal City. This young man, whose name was Gustave de Bussiéres was a most strenuous adherent to his own religion, which was Protestantism. The servant or guide, in a mistake, led Ratisbonne to Theodore de Bussieres,a brother of Gustave, who had himself renounced Protestantism and had become a devout Catholic. To Ratisbonne the ardent young convert spoke with the utmost enthusiasm about Rome, which he styled the heart of the Catholic world, and the centre of Catholic unity. Ratisbonne, suspecting a hidden desire on the part of his friend to try to Convert him, answered Curtly and proudly, “I am a Jew and intend to die a Jew.” However, Baron de Bussiéres, encouraged by an interior impulse of hope and zeal, ventured to offer to his guest a Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception. Ratisbonne was politely declining the offer, when two little daughters of Baron de Bussiéres begged him to permit them to place the medal about his neck with their own hands. Politeness and courtesy forbade a refusal to this request of the children, and the Jew consented. Besides he yielded to a pressing request of the children that he would repeat the well known prayer “Memorare,” etc. (Remember, O most compassionate Virgin Mary.) This promise he made, however, with some limitation, saying he would now and then read the words without putting any faith in them. He then took his departure, secretly vexed at what he had done. Baron de Bussieres and his family, together with some few friends, began at once to offer up fervent prayers for the conversion of the young Jew. He felt a secret conviction that Ratisbonne would not leave Rome without becoming a Catholic. On the three following days de Bussiéres accompanied his young friend in his visits to the remarkable places in Rome. The old Jewish prejudice and hatred against Catholicity were still strong in Ratisbonne’s mind. He looked with icy indifference on the monuments of Christianity. It happened just then that a respected and beloved friend of de Bussiéres died and the latter had occasion to enter the Church of Saint Andrea delle Fratte in order to make some arrangements about the funeral. On his way to the church he providentially met the man the salvation of whose soul was so dear to his heart. Together they walked towards the sacred edifice, intending to resume afterwards their ordinary sight-seeing, when de Bussiéres would have settled about the coming funeral.

But the hour of grace had come. Both entered the church. Alphonse Ratisbonne walked carelessly about the building, as those persons usually do who view a church in the light of a picture gallery. Meanwhile de Bussieres was absent in the vestry some twelve minutes talking with one of the monks of the adjoining monastery. On returning to the church, what a surprise! Ratisbonne was lying prostrate at full length, his face on the stone pavement of the church, and his whole being convulsed with deep, religious emotion. Baron de Bussieres could hardly believe his eyesight. Yet there was no deception. There lay his friend in the chapel of Saint Michael. There the prince of darkness had suffered another defeat before the great archangel. Filled with astonishment, de Bussiéres approached his friend and spoke to him. But his words met with no reply. He touched him gently, but elicited no sign of recognition from his Hebrew friend. After some time Alphonse slowly raised his head and showed a countenance all bedewed with tears. He then related what had taken place, at the same time drawing forth from his bosom the Miraculous Medal which he pressed fervently to his quivering lips. “l was,” he said, “but a short time in the church, when I suddenly felt myself overcome by an indescribable unrest and anxiety. Raising my eyes it seemed as if the whole building disappeared from my view, leaving only one small chapel all beaming with dazzling light. In the midst of this brightness the Blessed Virgin appeared, standing over the altar. She was as bright as the sun, with a majesty tempered with gentleness beaming from her whole figure. She looked just as she appears on this medal. I felt an irresistible power drawing me towards her. Then she made a sign with her hand that I should kneel down. Though she did not speak, I seemed to understand her wishes.”

What did Ratisbonne understand? His subsequent life revealed all. He was baptized in due time; afterwards became a priest, and travelled to the Holy Land in order to instruct the blinded Jews.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898