A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Fr. Andersen: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais
Nov 27, 2012 Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
In the middle of the night on July 18th, 1830, a young postulant in the Sisters of Charity in Paris was awakened by a small boy who told her that our Lady was waiting for her in the chapel. She arose and followed the boy, worried about waking the other sisters and the Mother Superior, but no one stirred.
The Chapel was completely lit by candlelight when they arrived. The boy led her to the tabernacle and knelt there. Then the young postulant heard the rustling of silk, as of a lady walking in a fine gown and a beautiful young Llady, radiant in heavenly light, appeared. The Lady sat on a chair in front of the side altar and young Sr. Catherine Laboure knelt with her hands held in the Lady’s hands on her lap. The Lady told her that she was the Immaculate Conception and that the young sister must be vigilant because France would experience another period of bloody violence against the Church. She said that the convent would be spared and that Catherine must remain faithful and vigilant.
The Lady later showed Catherine an image of herself with radiant streams of light coming from her fingers. This light represented the abundant grace of God which no one asked for. Our Lady told Catherine to strike a medal with this image of Our Lady standing on the ancient serpent, crushing his head, with streams of light coming from her fingers. All those who wore this medal and asked for the grace would receive it. Our Lady faded away leaving Catherine alone in the chapel with the little boy who escorted her back to her room. Then he disappeared.
Within a week, Paris saw riots in the streets. The bloodshed of the revolution returned. Churches were sacked and profaned, priests and nuns were murdered without mercy. But this convent on the Rue de Bac was spared and the medal was made and distributed. It was called the medal of the Immaculate Conception. Very soon, this medal came to be called the Miraculous Medal because reports began to flood into the convent about physical cures, conversions and miracles from those who wore the medal.
The most famous conversion is that of Alphonse Ratisbonne, an Austrian Jew, an agnostic and businessman. In 1842, Alphonse was preparing to marry and decided to travel to Malta before the wedding. He never made it to Malta and instead wound up in Rome. He had vowed that he would never go to Rome due to his intense hatred of the Catholic Church.
His brother George had converted to Catholicism and became a priest. This only intensified Alphonse’s hatred for the Church. While in Rome he met a newly converted Catholic, Baron Bussieres. Ratisbonne and Bussieres got into a great argument over the Catholic Church and Bussiere somehow convinced “the Jew to wear the new medal to Mary from Paris, as a dare. He was even able to convince Alphonse to write down the words to the MEMORARE, and repeat the prayer. Ratisbonne accepted the challenge with outright mockery. He allowed the Baron’s daughter to put the medal around his neck” (Lord, Bob and Penny. The Many Faces of Mary, p. 58).
“Our Lady then put a dying man, Comte de la Ferronays, in the path of Bussiere. They met at a dinner party in Rome. Baron Bussiere discussed Ratisbonne with the Comte, who promised to pray the Memorare for him at the Church of St. Mary Major. The Comte de la Ferronays went to the Church, and prayed twenty Memorares for the conversion of the angry Jew. After having prayed, he returned home, and died the same day” (Lord, 58-59).
Ratisbonne wanted to leave. He went to Baron Bussiere’s home to thank him for his courtesy, which was his custom, and to return the medal to him. Bussiere, not wanting to lose Alphonse, asked him to accompany him to the Church of St. Andrea’s, where Bussiere was to make funeral arrangements for Comte de la Ferronays. The fact that the Comte had prayed for Ratisbonne made him feel obligated to join his friend (Lord, 59).
While Baron Bussiere made arrangements in the sacristy, Ratisbonne wandered about inside the church. He had a feeling he should leave. As he turned towards the front door, a huge black dog blocked his way. The animal was vicious, baring his fangs. Ratisbonne was frozen in his tracks. He couldn’t move. Suddenly the dog disappeared. Directly in his path, at a side chapel, a brilliant light glowed. Ratisbonne looked up to see Mary standing there, above the altar, in the pose of the Miraculous Medal, which he still wore around his neck. He looked up at her. Her face was peaceful, but her eyes bore deep into his soul. He could not stand the brilliance of the light. He had to look away from her enchanting face, her captivating eyes. He looked at her hands, which, according to his own words, “expressed all the secrets of the Divine Pity”. She never said a word, but he “understood all” (Lord, 59).
The vision lasted but a few minutes; the effects a lifetime. When his friend emerged from the sacristy, he found Ratisbonne on his knees, sobbing. He insisted on being baptized immediately. The story spread all over Rome. In a matter of months, Alphonse Ratisbonne was baptized, received First Holy Communion, and was Confirmed. He went on to become a priest, taking the name Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne. He joined his brother (George) in Jerusalem to form the Daughters of Zion, whose ministry was to evangelize among the Jews” (Lord, 59).
75 years later, a young Franciscan seminarian named Br. Maximilian Kolbe heard this story about Alphonse Ratisbonne and it inspired him to promote the wearing of the Miraculous Medal for the conversion of souls and as a sign of total consecration to Mary. He formed the “Militia Immaculata” “to win all souls for Christ under the patronage of Mary Immaculate” (Kalvelage, Marian Shrines of Italy. 6). In 1917, Fr. Kolbe celebrated his first Mass after ordination at "The Altar of the Apparition" at St. Andrea Delle Frate in Rome where Alphonse Ratisbonne had seen Our Lady and converted.