Last summer much was made of the many medals won by Team GB at the London Olympics. You could hardly turn on the television or open a newspaper without seeing a grinning athlete posing with their ribboned lump of gold or silver or bronze.
These medals celebrated Olympian prowess. They were the reward for months, often years, of hard and dedicated work; of commitment and discipline.
Of course, medals can symbolise other things too. Those who serve or have served in the armed forces proudly wear medals displaying their bravery in battle.
OBEs and MBEs, awarded for exemplary service to the country or local community, take the form of a medal also.
On 18 July 1830, a young girl called Catherine Laboure´, a novice member of the Daughters of Charity, received a vision of Our Lady in a little, insignificant chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris.
In this vision she experienced the intense love and protection which Mary has for all the people of the world.
Later that year, Catherine experienced another vision, in which she watched as Mary lifted up a globe in an act of offering. The globe, Catherine was told, represented the whole world; not just generally: it symbolised every person individually. In the vision Catherine was being shown how Mary wishes to offer everyone to God through her intercession.
Finally, in November of the same year, Catherine had another vision and this time she was given instructions for a task. She was asked to design a medal which would remind its wearer that Our Lady cared for them and was constantly praying to God for them.
The Miraculous Medal, as it came to be known, is not then a medal celebrating our own achievement or prowess or participation. It is, rather, a symbol of faith: that the wearer takes seriously the last words of Jesus from the cross, who said to the disciple: ‘Behold your mother’, and to his mother, ‘Behold your son.’ It is to be worn as a sign of acceptance of the love and care that Mother Mary has for each one of us.
If you’d like to find out about more Catherine and her medal, why not join parishioners from March who will be praying the rosary with the Miraculous Medal novena prayers each Monday, Thursday and Saturday from 10.30am during October.