Pope Francis blessed a statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal at the end of his Wednesday general audience.
The statue will soon begin to travel around Italy as part of an evangelization initiative by the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission. The pope met with a delegation of Vincentians, led by their superior general, Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, on Nov. 11.
The Vincentians said in a statement that this year-long Marian pilgrimage of the image of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal would help to proclaim the merciful love of God at a time “marked by strong tensions on every continent.”
The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830. The Virgin Mary appeared to her as the Immaculate Conception, standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands and crushing a serpent underfoot.
“A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck,’” she recalled.
One side of the Miraculous Medal features a cross with the letter “M” underneath it, surrounded by 12 stars, and the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The other side has an image of Mary as she appeared to Labouré, surrounded by the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”
The statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is based on Labouré’s vision of the Immaculate Conception.
Starting Dec. 1, the Vincentians will bring the statue on pilgrimage to parishes throughout Italy -- starting in the Lazio region, which includes Rome, and ending on the island of Sardinia on Nov. 22, 2021.
The Vincentians were originally founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 to preach missions to the poor. Today Vincentians regularly say Mass and hear confessions at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in the heart of Paris.
St. Catherine Labouré was a novice with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul when she received three apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, a vision of Christ present in the Eucharist, and a mystical encounter in which St. Vincent de Paul showed her his heart.
This year marks the 190th anniversary of the Marian apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris.
During their Marian pilgrimage, the Vincentian missionaries will distribute educational materials about St. Catherine Labouré and Miraculous Medals.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz in 1941, was a firm believer that the graces that can accompany the Miraculous Medal.
He said: “Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him … and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he have recourse to her in all difficulties and temptations.”
“This is truly our heavenly weapon,” the saint said, describing the medal as “a bullet with which a faithful soldier hits the enemy, i.e. evil, and thus rescues souls.”