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A Lenten Rosary

A Lenten Rosary

“There could not possibly be a finer devotion nor one of greater merit than that of the holy Rosary, which is like a second memorial and representation of the Life and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

– Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

The point of Lent is to come to know and serve the Lord better. To do this, we must become ever more forgetful of self, seeking Him rather than ourselves in all things.

The Mother of the Lord is the perfect example of doing this – She is the quiet Woman of the Gospels, who says little, offers everything, and constantly points toward Her Son – ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (Jn.2:5).

She has constantly told us of Her love for the Rosary, asking us over and over to pray this beautiful prayer every day – the Saints of the Church have said the same, and that message has been echoed by all the Popes. Saint John Paul II reminded us very clearly that the Rosary is both profound and yet simple, well within the reach of all – we do not need knowledge, a deep theology, great intelligence, just simple faith, love in our hearts and the will to pray.

Lent is the perfect time to begin praying a daily Rosary, if we do not already do so.

The obvious Mysteries to pray in Lent are the Sorrowful ones, but knowing the Lord means knowing His entire life, and so all four sets of Mysteries are very well-suited to the Lenten season.

Begin the Rosary by asking the Blessed Virgin to help you to come to know Her Son better; ask Her to pray with you and for you, and to obtain for you whatever graces the Lord has prepared for you, and to lead you to Him. Ask Her to help you with a particular need or situation, and be confident that She will both hear and answer your prayer. She will do so, for She is very kind and She desires now what She desired of the servants at Cana all those years ago – that we all respond to Her Son’s commands and submit ourselves to His holy will.

The Blessed Virgin is the spotless mirror reflecting the light and the love of God. She is the channel of every heavenly grace. And She is the most easy and the most sure way of reaching the Lord, Her Son. Through Her, He came to us; and through Her, we come to Him.

 

The Shield of Mary

The Shield of Mary

‘This is the symbol of the graces which will be poured out upon the persons who ask them of Me.. Have a Medal struck on this model; the persons who wear it will receive great graces; graces will be in abundance for those who have confidence.’

– Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré

I have worn a Miraculous Medal for as long as I can remember. Her image is always there around my neck – and on those very rare occasions when it is not there, I am acutely aware of it’s absence. It is my ‘Shield of Mary’ – a sign of Her presence, Her protection and Her motherly intercession.

Giving the Medal to Saint Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830, the Blessed Virgin asked that we wear it, promising graces to those who would do so with confidence in Her.

It recieved the name ‘Miraculous’ because of the wonders which occurred within a few short years, because of which millions of Medals were being worn by the faithful – and by those of no faith.

The little Chapel in the convent in Paris where Saint Catherine saw the Mother of God is still there and it is constantly filled with people from all over the world, giving thanks to the Blessed Virgin for so many kindnesses and favours, wrought through the devout use of Her Medal. I have been to that Chapel many times and I can attest that it is a truly holy place.

Each morning, I kiss the Medal and ask the prayers of the Mother of God, Mary Immaculate. She is the Mediatrix of All Grace, the channel through which God chooses to dispense graces to souls, for She is the Mother of Divine Grace. The Lord entrusts grace to Her, to dispense as She pleases.

So many of the Saints have promulgated this Medal – notably, Saint Maximillian Kolbe. Saint Bernadette Soubirous was wearing a Miraculous Medal during the appearances of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes – indeed, she commented that when the Lady finally gave Her name, Her pose resembled that depicted on the Miraculous Medal.

My personal experience is that the Mother of God does what She promises to do – She obtains and dispenses great graces through the holy use of this little Medal which honours Her Immaculate Conception.

I can only suggest that if you do not presently wear a Miraculous Medal, you might consider doing so, and see for yourself.

 

 

The Secret Of The Rosary

The Secret Of The Rosary

“Say the Rosary often with faith, humility, confidence and perseverance.”
– St Louis Marie de Montfort

“A prayer so easy and yet so rich..”
– Pope St John Paul II

Although it may be the most popular of all Catholic devotions and even the one most associated with being Catholic, the Rosary causes perplexity for some. It is ‘vain repetition’, say some outwith the Catholic faith; it is ‘old-fashioned and only for old women’, say some within the Catholic faith. I wrote about this last concern previously in a post called Men And The Rosary. And for some, particularly those who wish to persevere, it can be difficult to determine how best to actually pray the Rosary.

And yet, despite these concerns, the Church constantly and unwaveringly recommends that we pray the Rosary, and the greatest Saints and Popes of the Church were all devoted to it’s prayerful recitation. At Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin carried a Rosary and prayed it with St Bernadette; and at Fatima, She did similarly and reminded the three children to “pray the Rosary every day”. After a few decades where the Rosary was being prayed less often, today, there is a resurgence – thank God – in the praying of the Rosary. I wrote about this, too, in a post called The Rosary Revival.

And so that leaves us with a question – if the Church, the Popes, the great Saints and even the Blessed Virgin so often ask us to pray this prayer, how do we pray the Rosary well and with perseverance?

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort wrote what is perhaps the best book on the subject, written some 300 years ago, which he entitled ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. In it, he gives various different methods for praying the Rosary well. He notes this is well within the grasp of all, even children. At the beginning of his book, St Louis writes –

“I beg of you to beware of thinking of the Rosary as something of little importance.. far from being insignificant, the Rosary is a priceless treasure which is inspired by God.. He has attached to it grace in this life and in the next. The Saints have said it faithfully and the Popes have endorsed it.”

I heartily recommend this wonderful little book for anyone who wishes to take up his or her beads and pray them well, and with perseverance. You can find this book, and all of St Louis’ writings at Montfort Publications, where you can learn much more about this most devoted son of the Blessed Virgin, a great Marian Saint who deeply influenced the spiritual life and subsequent holiness of St John Paul II.

I would also like to offer one or two suggestions of my own, if I may.

First of all, use a single set of beads; choose a set and stick with them. It matters not a bit what they are made of, what they look like or what they are worth. But try to avoid expensive Rosaries – apart from the danger of pride, expensive beads tend not to be used, for fear of losing or breaking them; and the Rosary beads are certainly meant to be used, and to be used constantly. So choose a durable set.

Now that you have a set of beads, have them blessed by a Catholic Priest if this has not been done already – it is the physical beads which carry the Indulgences, and they are a Sacramental of the Church, so it is salutary to have them with us always. Get into the habit of carrying them throughout life, before you tenaciously clasp them in death.

After this comes a very important point. When you pray the Rosary, ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the grace to pray well; and ask His Spouse, the Queen of the Rosary, to assist you and to obtain for you the light and the grace of Her Son to help you to ponder on and understand something of the Mysteries of His life, which She will lay out before you. She will obtain this grace for you, because She wants you to pray Her Rosary with perseverance and to do so well. Be patient and persistent in asking for this grace; She will obtain it for you, but in Her time, not ours. That which we work hardest for, we treasure most.

Next, always offer your Rosary for a particular intention – for someone in need (whether temporal or spiritual), for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, to ask for a particular grace, or to seek help in some matter. Remember, too, to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and for the Church.

The devout praying of the Rosary obtains both merit and grace; my suggestion is to explicitly give all of this to the Blessed Virgin to use as She pleases. Have confidence in Her; She will put it to the best use. Don’t worry that in doing this, you can no longer pray for your own particular intentions; on the contrary – the more generous you are toward Her, so She will be with you.

“As a Gospel prayer, centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. It’s most characteristic element, in fact, the litany-like succession of Hail Mary’s, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ” – Blessed Pope Paul VI, ‘Marialis Cultus’

And do not worry that in praying the Rosary, you are ignoring the Lord; remember, the entire life of the Blessed Virgin on earth, and Her function now in Heaven, is to bring Her Divine Son to us and to lead us ever closer to Him. She keeps nothing back for Herself. As He came to us, so we go to Him – that is, through and with Mary, His Mother. You can read more about this in a post I wrote called Learning Christ From Mary.

When you pray the Rosary to begin with, don’t expect it will be a life-shattering experience for you; it will be life-changing, certainly, but not necessarily life-shattering, unless the Lord deigns to grant you a very special grace – and He may well do so. That said, the Blessed Virgin, in Her fifteen promises regarding the Rosary, does promise a signal grace to those who persevere; my own experience would tend to confirm this is the case and so look out for such a grace and give thanks for it, with humility, if it is granted.

At the start, you may find it difficult to meditate deeply on the Mysteries – don’t concern yourself with that nor with how poorly you imagine you are doing; simply do the very best you can and continue to persevere with confidence. The praying of the Rosary is a journey we make over time and as we do so, it becomes more fruitful at the level of the senses. Then it begins to deepen gradually, touching and transforming the soul at the deepest levels, so that the sensory aspect matters much less to us.

Make a point of trying to concentrate on the subject matter of the Mysteries, and not on the vocal prayers. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, we know the vocal prayers intimately well and there is a danger that in simply praying the words, our minds will begin to wander and no meditation will take place – we will never get beyond the words, and that is not the point of the Rosary. It is all about the meditation.

Secondly, the Rosary is comprised primarily of the ‘Hail Mary’ and this exquisite prayer is a beautiful love song; it is the love song of the Almighty Father to the most beautiful and most perfect of all His creatures – the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of His Son. Like all songs, there are lyrics set against a beautiful melody. In the Rosary, the ‘lyrics’ are the words of the prayers – the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be and the short Fatima Prayer prayed at the conclusion of each decade. We memorise the lyrics of songs through repetition; but it is the melody that sinks into our souls, remains there, and rises up again into our consciousness from time to time. And so it is with the Rosary – here, the ‘melody’ is the meditation on each of the Mysteries, and it is this which is most fruitful to us at the spiritual level. In the Rosary, to put it simply, the prayers are the body – but the meditation is the soul.

If you find it helpful, use visual images of the Mysteries you are praying, at least to begin with; these give us something to focus on and can act as a very good starting point – having engaged our will in praying in the first place, we now need to engage our imagination. There are also many small Rosary books and booklets available, which provide short meditations for each Mystery, and these can be excellent.

Above all, I would heartily recommend reading – and becoming deeply familiar with – the Gospel passages relevant to each of the Mysteries. The Rosary is a Gospel prayer and so it is important that we become familiar with the source material. Perhaps at the start of each Mystery, read the passage, then let it sink into your soul; this will provide a deep well of meditation, even if you pray the Rosary daily over many years. You will never reach the bottom of this well – there is always something new to be found there. As you move forward, you may prefer to concentrate on a single line or phrase from the Scriptures, rather than the entire passage. Imagine yourself in that scene, carefully looking at each of the primary figures; which virtues or lessons does each Mystery suggest to you? How do you live out those virtues in your daily life? What is this Mystery saying in the depths of your soul? What is the Lord teaching you, or asking of you? How does it pertain to the life you are leading?

Almost all of the Mysteries focus on a particular event in the lives of the Lord and His Mother – the Annunciation, the Crowning with Thorns, the Resurrection, and so forth. An exception to this is the Third Luminous Mystery, ‘the Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Repentance’. This Mystery covers the Lord’s public ministry between the Wedding at Cana and the Agony in the Garden. For this Mystery, then, focus on something specific – perhaps the Lord teaching His followers the ‘Our Father’, or His giving of the Beatitudes. These two events concern themselves with praying well and with living well, and so they are both perfect in these Mysteries where the Lord reveals Himself, and they are easy to meditate upon in prayer.

To do all I have suggested here will require willpower and discipline; many begin well, but end quickly. It will be tempting to miss your Rosary ‘just today’ because you are very busy, or the day is nearing it’s end, or for some other reason. Such a day will soon be followed by another until the beads are put back in the drawer. Because of this temptation, it will be profitable if you can get into The Habit Of Prayer. This will help to sustain you in your prayer life by making it a special and crucial part of every day.

Finally, while you will often pray the Rosary alone, it gains even greater power when prayed as a community; pray it with parishioners before or after Mass, or pray it with your family and friends. And consider joining the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary – this gives great spiritual benefits to you as well as offering similar benefits to the other Confraternity members. Not least among these is the assurance that you will be remembered in Masses and Rosaries long after you are dead.

I hope some of this may be of benefit to you; but if you do nothing else, take up your beads and pray the Rosary, preferably every day.

May She who is the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, abundantly bless all those who take up their beads and pray to the Lord with Her.

 


 

 

FIFTEEN PROMISES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
TO CHRISTIANS WHO FAITHFULLY PRAY THE ROSARY

 

  1. To all those who shall pray My Rosary devoutly, I promise My special protection and great graces.
  2. Those who shall persevere in the recitation of My Rosary will receive some special grace.
  3. The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.
  4. The Rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!
  5. Those who entrust themselves to Me through the Rosary will not perish.
  6. Whoever recites My Rosary devoutly reflecting on the Mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.
  7. Those truly devoted to My Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to reciting My Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.
  9. I will deliver promptly from Purgatory souls devoted to My Rosary.
  10. True children of My Rosary will enjoy great glory in Heaven.
  11. What you shall ask through My Rosary you shall obtain.
  12. To those who propagate My Rosary I promise aid in all their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from My Son that all the members of the Rosary Confraternity shall have as their intercessors, in life and in death, the entire celestial court.
  14. Those who recite My Rosary faithfully are My beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to My Rosary is a special sign of predestination.

 


The Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal

“Come to the foot of this Altar; there, graces will be poured out on all those who ask for them with confidence and fervour. They will be poured out on the great and the humble”

– Our Lady to St Catherine

The Miraculous Medal and the story of Saint Catherine Labouré

laboure(2)There are some things which are always associated with being a Catholic. Perhaps the most well-known is the Rosary; another is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, which for a long time has been called the ‘Miraculous Medal’. Do you know the story of this Medal, or why it got it’s name?

Zöe Labouré was born in May 1806, in the Burgundy region of France, in a hamlet called Fain-les-Moutiers. A pious and hard-working child, she was deeply loved by her family.

When she was 18, Zöe had a strange dream in which she saw herself praying at the Altar of her parish Church. There, an old Priest was celebrating Mass. At the end of Mass, the Priest turned and beckoned to Zöe but not recognising him, she fled. As the dream progressed, she now found herself at the bedside of a sick person and there, too, was the same old Priest. Now, he spoke to her –

“My daughter, it is good to take care of the sick. You run away from me now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God has designs on you. Do not forget it”.

StVincentDePaulZöe had told her father she wished to enter the religious life but he was set against the idea; he had lready given one daughter, Marie Louise, to religion. Zöe’s father sent her to stay with her elder brother, Charles, who owned a restaurant – she would work for him. She spent a year there before going to Châtillon-sur-Seine, where her sister in law ran a school. Also in the town, there was a convent of the Sisters of Charity. Still feeling the call to enter religious life, Zöe went to speak with the superior of the convent. Ushered into the parlour, her eyes fell on a portrait hanging on the wall – it was the old Priest from her dream. Asking who this Priest was, she was told it was Saint Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Sisters of Charity.

Zöe felt she had arrived at the place where she was meant to be and in 1830, she began her postulancy in the convent. Three months later, on 21st April 1830, she entered the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity, on the Rue du Bac in the heart of a bustling Paris. In religion, she took the name Catherine.

Four days after her arrival at the convent, the relics of Saint Vincent had been transferred from the Cathedral of Notre Dâme to the Church on the Rue des Sèvres, just round the corner from the Sister’s convent. Shortly after this, Catherine was shown a series of three visions of the heart of Saint Vincent, appearing a different colour each time – she understood that these visions to foretell the political problems about to befall France, beginning three months later with the overthrowing of King Charles X.

She told her Spiritual Director, Father Aladel, about this and then – being a very practical young woman – continued with her everyday life. Father Aladel paid little attention to what Catherine had told him – perhaps it was simply the overactive imagination of an enthusiastic young nun.

But the favours did not end here – more remarkable occurrences were to follow soon afterwards.

virgin_ofthe_chairOn the evening of 18 July 1830, Catherine was awakened by a young child whom she believed to be her Guardian Angel. He told her to come to the Chapel, where the Blessed Virgin was awaiting her. Catherine would later write this account of what happened next –

“I hurriedly dressed and went to the side of this child. I followed him wherever he went. The lights were lit everywhere. When I entered the Chapel, the door swung open; the child had barely touched it with his fingertips. The candelabras burned brightly, as for Midnight Mass. However, I did not see the Blessed Virgin. The child led me to the sanctuary and there, I knelt down.

Near midnight, the child said to me ‘Look, here is the Blessed Virgin’. I heard a  noise like the rustling of a silk dress. A very beautiful Lady sat in the Father Director’s chair. The the child repeated in a  strong voice, ‘Here is the Blessed Virgin’.

Then, I sprang toward Her, falling on my knees at Her feet, at the steps of the Altar, and putting my hands on Her knees. I remained there I don’t know how long; time passed, the sweetest moments of my life. The Holy Virgin told me how I should act toward my Director and confided several things to me”.

In a further account written later, in 1876, Catherine gave more information on what the Blessed Virgin told her –

“The good God, my child, wishes to entrust you with a mission. It will be the cause of much suffering to you but you will overcome this, knowing that you do it for the glory of God. You will be contradicted, but you will have the grace to bear it; do not fear. You will see certain things; given an account of them. You will be inspired in your prayer. The times are evil; misfortunes will fall upon France. The throne will be overthrown, the entire world will be overcome by evils of all kinds, but come to the foot of this Altar; there, graces will be poured out on all those who ask for them with confidence and fervour. They will be poured out on the great and the humble”.

And then, the Blessed Virgin was gone, “like a light which fades away”, as Catherine described it.

Catherine again spoke to Father Aladel, but although he recognised Catherine’s fervour and prayerfulness, he could not believe the truth of what she was saying. She had to be mistaken, surely. And yet she was so practical, so honest …

virgin_ofthe_globeOn 27th November 1830, Catherine was again in the Chapel, listening to the evening meditation in the company of all the Sisters. Catherine was about to learn what her mission would be.

Here is how she described it –

“It was the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. It was half past five in the evening. In the silence, just after the point of meditation had been read, I seemed to hear some noise on the side of the tribune; looking toward that side, I saw the Blessed Virgin.

She was standing, dressed in a white silk robe, the colour of the dawn. Her feet were resting on a ‘ball’, of which I could see only half.

In Her hands, raised to the level of Her breast, She held a globe in a very relaxed way, Her eyes raised heavenwards. Her face was totally beautiful – I could not describe it.

And then, all of a sudden, I noticed rings on Her fingers, rings with precious stones, some larger and some smaller, which gave out rays of light, some more beautiful than others. At that moment, as I contemplated Her, the Blessed Virgin lowered Her eyes to look at me and an interior voice said –

‘This globe which you see represents the entire world, particularly France, and each person in particular’.

Here, I don’t know how to explain what I found and what I saw, the beauty and the glitter from the rays of light were so magnificent! The voice said to me again –

‘This is the symbol of the graces which will be poured out upon the persons who ask them of Me’.

At this moment, whether I was or whether I was not, I did not know. There formed around the Blessed Virgin a sort of oval and on it there were these words, written in golden letters –

‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee’.

Then a voice was heard –

‘Have a Medal struck on this model; the persons who wear it will receive great graces; graces will be in abundance for those who have confidence. Those stones which remained in the shadows represent the graces which people forget to ask of Me’.

Suddenly, the picture seemed to turn. I saw the reverse of the Medal; the letter M surmounted by a Cross and below it, two Hearts, one encircled with a crown of thorns, the other pierced with a sword. I seemed to hear a voice which said to me –

The M and the two Hearts say enough’.

Mary, Jesus.. the sufferings of both joined together for our redemption.” 

Surrounding all of this was a ‘crown’ of twelve stars. The stars represented the twelve Apostles, upon whom the Church is founded, as well as referring to the passage in the Book of Revelation which refers to the Virgin –

“And behold, a great sign appeared in Heaven; a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath Her feet, and upon Her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation, Chapter 12).

medal_visionThis same vision was repeated on five further occasions, with the Virgin appearing above the main Altar to ask why Her requests had not been complied with. Father Aladel still could not believe what Catherine was telling him. Not knowing what to do, he eventually approached the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Quelen, who – although not convinced of the supernatural character of the apparition – agreed to have the Medal made, since it did not contravene faith or morals.

The first Medals were struck in May 1832 and were distributed throughout Paris and then France; within a very short time, numerous miracles and wonders were being attributed to its use.

The most famous miracle of the time was the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish merchant with a virulent hatred for Catholicism. In a vision in Rome, he saw the Virgin as She had appeared on the Medal and he was instantly converted to Catholicism; also at that instant, he was infused with a perfect and complete knowledge of all the truths of the Catholic Faith. He later became a Jesuit priest and spent his life working for the conversion of Jews. This vision occurred in the Roman Church of Sant’ Andrea della Fratte, where an Altar reminds visitors of this marvellous event.

Because of many similar events, the Medal came to be known as ‘The Miraculous Medal’.

Within a few years, more than one million medals were in circulation throughout the world.

A long Church investigation finally agreed that the Medal was supernatural in origin and that Catherine’s visions were indeed genuine. However, throughout all this Catherine spoke about these events only to Father Aladel – no-one else knew that she was the sister who had seen Our Lady. She even declined to attend the Church investigation as this would have compromised her anonymity – instead she would answer questions only through Father Aladel.

She maintained her silence until she was aware that she had only a short time left to live, and then told only her Mother Superior. On several occasions she told her fellow sisters that she would not live to see the year 1877; on 31 December 1876 she died peacefully. After her death, she was finally named openly as the Sister of the visions of the Miraculous Medal and she became the most talked about woman in all of France. She was buried in the Hospice for the elderly in Enghien, a Parisian suburb, where she had worked for more than forty years in obscurity and humility, keeping her secret from the eyes of the world.

catherine_laboureYears later, as part of the Canonisation process, her body was exhumed and then re-interred in the Chapel of the Apparitions, in the Rue du Bac. Her body was found to be completely incorrupt, as it remains to this day.

This Chapel is situated in the very heart of Paris, and is open to all. Catherine’s body lies in a crystal reliquary beneath the statue of the Virgin of the Globe, the very spot on which Catherine saw the Vision of the Medal. Her bright blue eyes look up to the statue above her.

Visitors to the Chapel can see Saint Catherine’s incorrupt body to this day, as well as the heart of Saint Vincent de Paul in a silver reliquary to the right of the Altar, and the relics of Saint Louise de Marillac (co-foundress of the Order) to the left of the Altar.

In the sanctuary is the chair upon which the Blessed Virgin sat during the first apparition.

Covering the walls of the Chapel are marble plaques, which people have donated to record favours received through their fervent prayers to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. There is very little empty space on these walls.

Scholars and historians believe that the Miraculous Medal Apparitions paved the way for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and that the Lourdes Apparitions (in 1858) gave the Blessed Virgin’s own seal of approval to this dogma. Throughout the visions at Lourdes, Saint Bernadette Soubirous wore a Miraculous Medal. Later, Bernadette noted that at the moment when the Lady of Lourdes gave Her name, saying “I am the Immaculate Conception”, She opened Her hands in a way very similar to the way She appears on the Medal.

Even now, in this modern and sophisticated world, many people wear this little Medal with confidence in She whose image it bears, and receive streams of grace through Her hands. The Legion of Mary have, for many years, distributed millions of these Medals, each on a  little blue cord.

rue_du_bac

And the little Chapel on the Rue du Bac in Paris is constantly filled with pilgrims from every corner of the world, kneeling at the foot of that Altar and asking the Queen of Heaven for graces, then kneeling at the shrine of Saint Catherine and asking her heavenly intercession.

The courtyard leading to the Chapel has large relief sculptures depicting the story of the Visions, some of which are reproduced here.

To wear the Medal is to accept the power of Jesus, the Son of Mary, and to accept Her Mediation before Him and Her role as the Mediatrix of all His graces. To wear the medal is to accept the power of His Cross, and of the Mother who stood beneath it, who is our Mother and Queen, Conceived Without Sin.

And the miracles of grace continue.

 

The Brown Scapular

The Brown Scapular

“Receive this habit of your Order; this shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege that whosoever dies clothed in this habit shall never suffer eternal fire.. Wear it devoutly and perseveringly. It is My garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of Me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.”

– Our Lady to St Simon Stock

A Scapular is a means by which Catholic lay people are able to show affection for or affiliation to a Religious order – people who because of their state in life are unable to actually join an order can at least participate in its merits and privileges. There are a number of scapulars, of varying colours – each has its own story and spirituality. The most famous of them all – and the most important – is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

St Simon Stock, to whom Our Lady gave the Brown Scapular in 1251

The Brown Scapular consists of two pieces of cloth joined by cords or strings and worn over the shoulders. According to ancient traditions, the Scapular was given to Saint Simon Stock in the year 1251 by the Blessed Virgin, Who appeared to him at the Carmelite Priory in Aylesford, Kent, England.

Of course the Scapular itself existed before then as part of the religious habit of the Carmelites – but in this vision the Queen of Heaven and Earth is said to have attached a very special promise to the devout use of the Scapular. She said –

“Receive this habit of your Order; this shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege that whosoever dies clothed in this habit shall never suffer eternal fire.. Wear it devoutly and perseveringly. It is My garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of Me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.”

This is certainly a marvellous promise, but it should not be the primary reason for wearing the Scapular. The Scapular devotion symbolises a desire to improve ones spiritual life, to seek the constant help and intercession of the Mediatrix of all Grace in finding Jesus, Her Son, and the lifelong quest for perfection. The Scapular is a way of life.

In 1951, during the seventh centenary celebrations of Saint Simons’ vision, Pope Pius XII said –

“The scapular is essentially a habit. The person who receives it, by virtue of accepting it, is associated to a greater or lesser degree with the Order of Carmel” and he recommended it as being “adapted to the minds of all by its very simplicity and so has become so universally widespread among the faithful and has produced so many and such salutary fruits …”

Wearing the Scapular (after proper investiture by a priest) assures and signifies affiliation to the Carmelite Order; this places responsibilities upon the wearer. The true worth of the Scapular lies in the way of life which it signifies and calls us to – it is far too easy simply to wear it in order to obtain the benefits of the famous promise of Our Lady.

The Scapular is a sign of our commitment to God through the Blessed Virgin – it is a symbol of Consecration. As Pope Pius XII said –

“May the Scapular be for all Carmelites a sign of their consecration to the most sacred Heart of the Immaculate Virgin”.

Saint Louis de Montfort recognised that there was no surer way to Jesus than through His Mother, Mary – his True Devotion was the result of this lifelong belief. He summarised this with the words –

“The most perfect consecration to Jesus is nothing else but a perfect and entire consecration of ourselves to the Blessed Virgin”.

Jesus chose to come to us via Mary – could there be a better way for us to return to Him?

The Scapular devotion requires the constant attempt at self-improvement as a result of the living of ones consecration to Jesus through Mary. It requires that we try and try again, no matter how often we might fall.

After a life of trying, we may then be a little more worthy of the benefits of the Scapular promise, receiving from the hands of Mary the graces we need in order to die well. A number of theologians have explained the Promise as meaning that Our Blessed Lady will – at the hour of our death – obtain for us the grace to persevere in the state of grace, or else the grace of final repentance.

“Among the practices (commended by the Second Vatican Council) we would mention by name the Marian Rosary and the devout use of the Scapular of Carmel” – Blessed Pope Paul VI

Of course, the promise does not mean that we may not need to spend time in the purifying fires of Purgatory. An adjunct to the Scapular Promise is known as the Sabbatine Privilege; this is based on a Papal bull said to have been issued by Pope John XXII on 3rd March 1322. There no longer exists a copy of this Bull, but it is understood to mean that those souls who die in the Carmelite family will be freed from Purgatory by the Blessed Virgin on the first Saturday after their death – providing they have been faithful to the requirements of the Scapular devotion, have observed chastity according to their state and have daily recited the Little Office (or if they do not know how to do this, have at least observed Church fast days). Officially, the Church teaches that these souls will be liberated from Purgatory soon after death by the intercession of Our Lady, rather than specifying an exact day.

Two conditions are required to be fulfilled in order to benefit from the Scapular Promise. Firstly, valid enrollment with the Brown Scapular by a Roman Catholic Priest. Secondly, the faithful wearing of the Scapular throughout life as a sign of our desire to be faithful to Jesus through Mary His Mother. It is not necessary to have each replacement Scapular blessed. The Scapular may be replaced with the Scapular medal, but successive Popes have indicated that the Scapular itself is preferable wherever possible.

The Scapular is not a talisman or lucky charm – it would be a great insult to live a life of willful sinfulness and still expect to obtain the benefits of the Promise. Rather, the Scapular is a Sacramental – a material object used as a sign and signifying effects of a spiritual nature, through the intercession of the Church. It signifies our intention and desire to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, helped by Mary His Mother.

The Scapular devotion has been greatly approved by the Church –

“No Confraternity has ever received a greater number of approbation’s from the Sovereign Pontiffs than the Scapular Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel” (Cardinal Vaughan).

For instance, in 1967 Pope Paul VI wrote –

“Among the practices (commended by the Second Vatican Council) we would mention by name the Marian Rosary and the devout use of the Scapular of Carmel”.

Our Lady has also reminded us of Her affection for the Scapular. The final apparition at Lourdes took place on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16th. This final apparition had been totally unexpected, following an interval of three months since the previous apparition, and afterwards Saint Bernadette said her Lady had “never looked as beautiful” as on that day.

And on the day of the final apparition at Fatima in 1917, the day of the Miracle of the Sun, She appeared dressed as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Lucia (the longest surviving visionary from Fatima, who died in 2005) said Our Lady held in Her hands “two pieces of brown cloth” – she did not know the word ‘scapular’ at the time. Lucia (who eventually became a Carmelite nun, Sister Mary Lucia of the Immaculate Heart) spoke frequently of the Brown Scapular and the importance of its use in our lives. She recommended that it be worn as a sign of our consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Brown Scapular is another gift which has been given to us by the Most Blessed Virgin. Throughout the centuries She Herself has reminded us of it and has attached to this simple act of devotion a most marvellous promise – can we afford to ignore Her?

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

 

The Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal

“Come to the foot of this Altar – there graces will be shed on all who ask for them with confidence and fervour, the great and the humble”

The Miraculous Medal
and the story of Saint Catherine Laboure
There are some things which are always associated with being a Catholic. Perhaps the most well-known is the Rosary; another is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, which for a long time has been called the Miraculous Medal. Do you know the story of this Medal, or why it got its name?

StCatherineLaboureIn 1830, a young French woman named Catherine (Zoe) Laboure entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of St.Vincent de Paul, in their Motherhouse in the Rue du Bac,in the very heart of a bustling Paris. Before entering the Order, she had seen Saint Vincent in a dream, although she had not known who he was; he had told her that although she was running away from him just now, one day she would follow him – when she entered the religious life, she saw his portrait on the wall and recognised the kind, smiling face. Soon after her arrival at the convent, she was shown a vision of the heart of Saint Vincent. She told her Spiritual Director (Father Aladel) about this and then – being a very practical young woman – continued with her everyday life. Father Aladel paid little attention to what Catherine told him – perhaps it was simply the overactive imagination of an enthusiastic young nun.

But the favours did not end here – more remarkable occurrences were to follow soon afterwards.

On the evening of 18 July 1830, Catherine was awakened by a young child (she believed he was her Guardian Angel) – he told her to come to the Chapel, where the Blessed Virgin was awaiting her. He then led her to the Chapel, to the foot of the Altar; shortly afterwards she heard a sound “like the rustle of silk” and a very beautiful Woman walked towards her from the direction of the Altar and sat in the Spiritual Directors’ chair. The child told Catherine this was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. For two hours, Catherine knelt at Mary’s feet, with her hands resting on Mary’s lap, and confided to Her all the secrets of her soul, listening carefully to the advice she was given. The Blessed Virgin told Catherine God had a mission for her, which would be revealed later, and She spoke also of the dreadful fate awaiting France and the monarchy. The Blessed Virgin also promised at this time that She would be a channel of grace for all who sought Her help; pointing toward the sanctuary She said –

“Come to the foot of this Altar – there graces will be shed on all who ask for them with confidence and fervour, the great and the humble”.

Catherine again spoke to Father Aladel, who although he recognised Catherine’s fervour and prayerfulness, could not believe the truth of what she was saying. She had to be mistaken. And yet she was so practical, so honest …

On 27th November 1830, at around 5pm, Catherine was again in the Chapel, listening to the evening meditation in the company of all the Sisters. Again the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, this time to the right of the Tabernacle.

UnknownCatherine saw the Queen of Heaven and Earth standing upon a globe, around which was coiled a serpent. The Virgins’ hands were holding a golden ball, which She seemed to be raising to Heaven in an act of offering. She was dressed in a white gown and veil – Catherine described the shade as “being of the colour of the dawn” – white, with numerous hints of very subtle colour.

The attitude of the Virgin then changed – the ball disappeared and Mary’s arms were opened wide, like a Mother welcoming Her children; upon Her fingers were jewelled rings, and from these rays of light were streaming. These rays represented the graces She would bestow upon souls from Her Sons treasury of grace, of which She is the Mediatrix. Around this vision there appeared an oval frame – inscribed in letters of gold within this frame were the words –

“O Mary Conceived Without Sin, Pray For Us Who Have Recourse To Thee”

The vision then reversed – Catherine saw a large letter M surmounted by a Cross; beneath this were the Hearts of Jesus and of Mary His Mother – the one crowned with thorns, the other pierced by the sword of sorrows. Surrounding all of this was a ‘crown’ of twelve stars. This seemed to indicate the relationship between Mary and the Cross of Christ, between His Heart and Hers. The stars represented the twelve Apostles, upon whom the Church is founded, as well as referring to the passage in the Book of Revelation which refers to the Virgin – “And behold, a great sign appeared in Heaven; a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath Her feet, and upon Her head a crown of twelve stars” (Chapter 12).

Catherine heard a voice telling her to have a medal made after this model, and promising that all who wore such a medal (after it had been blessed by a priest) would receive great graces. This vision was repeated on five further occasions, with the Virgin appearing above the main altar to ask why Her requests had not been complied with – Father Aladel still could not believe what Catherine was telling him. Not knowing what to do, he eventually approached the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Quelen, who (although not convinced of the supernatural character of the apparition) agreed to have the medal made, since it did not contravene faith or morals.

The medal was distributed throughout Paris and then France; within a very short time, numerous miracles and wonders were being attributed to its use. The most famous was the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish merchant with a virulent hatred for Catholicism. In a vision in Rome, he saw the Virgin as She had appeared on the Medal and was instantly converted to Catholicism; also at that instant, he was infused with a perfect and complete knowledge of all the truths of the Catholic Faith. He later became a Jesuit priest and spent his life working for the conversion of Jews. This vision occurred in the Roman Church of Sant’ Andrea della Fratte, where an altar reminds visitors of this marvellous event.

Because of many similar events, the medal came to be known as The Miraculous Medal. Within a few years, more than one million medals were in circulation throughout the world.

A long Church investigation finally agreed that the Medal was supernatural in origin and that Catherine’s visions were indeed genuine. However, throughout all this Catherine spoke about these events only to Father Aladel – no-one else knew that she was the sister who had seen Our Lady. She even declined to attend the Church investigation as this would have compromised her anonymity – instead she would answer questions only through Father Aladel. She maintained her silence until she was aware that she had only a short time left to live, and then told only her Mother Superior. On several occasions she told her fellow sisters that she would not live to see the year 1877 … On 31 December 1876 she died peacefully. After her death she became the most talked about woman in all of France. She was buried in the Hospice for the elderly in Enghien, a Parisian suburb, where she had worked for more than forty years in obscurity and humility, keeping her secret from the eyes of the world.

Years later, as part of the Canonisation process, her body was exhumed and then re-interred in the Chapel of the Apparitions, in the Rue du Bac. Her body was found to be completely incorrupt, as it remains to this day. This Chapel is situated in the very heart of Paris, and is open to all. Catherine’s body lies in a crystal reliquary beneath the statue of the Virgin of the Globe, where Catherine saw the Vision of the Medal. Her bright blue eyes look up to the statue above her. Covering the walls of the chapel are marble plaques, which people have donated to record favours received through their fervent prayers to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. There is very little empty space on these walls.

Scholars and historians believe that the Miraculous Medal Apparitions paved the way for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and that the Lourdes Apparitions (in 1858) gave the Blessed Virgins’ own seal of approval to this dogma.

Visitors to the Chapel can see Saint Catherine’s’ incorrupt body to this day, as well as the heart of Saint Vincent de Paul (in a silver reliquary to the right of the altar) and the relics of Saint Louise de Marillac (co-foundress of the Order) to the left of the altar. In the sanctuary is the chair upon which the Blessed Virgin sat during the first apparition.

Even now, in this modern and sophisticated world, many people wear this little Medal with confidence in Her whose image it bears, and receive streams of grace through Her hands. To wear the Medal is to accept the power of Jesus, the Son of Mary, and to accept Her Mediation before Him and Her role as the Mediatrix of all His graces.

To wear the medal is to accept the power of His Cross, and of the Mother who stood beneath it, who is our Mother and Queen, Conceived Without Sin. And the Miracles continue …