I live with an autoimmune condition that went undiagnosed for several years. Shortly after I gave birth to our oldest daughter, I fell so ill that I could not muster enough energy to crawl out of bed in the morning. Still, I forced myself to do so and take care of Felicity, our daughter. It didn’t take long before I realized I needed to seek medical care, but my experience left me feeling defeated and ashamed.
First, my primary doctor referred me to a rheumatologist because of my joint pain. He dismissed me, saying, “We’ll do a blood panel, but it won’t come back with anything out of the ordinary, I’m sure.” My blood panel did, in fact, flag for a specific autoimmune category and came close to another endocrinology disease.
Next, I saw an endocrinologist. He listened halfheartedly to my symptoms, then interrupted me, saying, “You just had a baby. Of course, you’re exhausted. And I think you need to see a psychologist instead of me.”
Because of my unusual findings in the comprehensive blood panel, I ended up at the Cleveland Clinic during the summer. Ben accompanied me. Before we left, I’d been struggling with secondary infertility, which compounded my interior grief. It was evident that something was amiss, but I had no answers.
During our stay in Cleveland, we decided to do some sightseeing (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum) and check out the local eats (Fat Head’s Brewery). When we arrived back at our motel room, it had been tidied by the housekeeper, everything in pristine order. Except, something struck both Ben and me as odd: a Miraculous Medal on the dresser.
We stopped in the doorway and exchanged glances. Ben thought it was mine, I, his. A lone medal that appeared to be deliberately placed in the center of an otherwise barren dresser was clearly out of place. It had not been there previously. We’d never seen it before.
When our time ended, I pocketed the medal and wondered if Our Lady was trying to reach me in some way. A week later, I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter, Sarah.
Our Lady Declared That ‘Graces Will Abound’
Once St. Catherine Laboure received the vision of Our Lady and the image of the Miraculous Medal, the Blessed Mother told her, “All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.” Its efficacy in conversion and healing began immediately, the first known recorded incident being Alphonse Ratisbonne, a Jewish-born atheist. Upon a dare, he wore the medal and recited a short prayer to Our Lady but was dramatically afflicted with spiritual torment as he beheld an apparition of her.
“Regarding the Miraculous Medal, Father Rene Laurentin, one of the greatest Mariologists of our times, said, ‘The front manifests the light, God’s irradiation on the one whom He has chosen as a prototype of the salvation proposed to all human beings in Jesus Christ, so that all will be light in His light. The back manifests the austere and hidden face of the message: love and the Cross, the resources of salvation, illustrated by the Passion of Our Lord and the Compassion of Our Lady that all are invited to share.’”–Fr. William Saunders
Reminders of Our Lady
I’ve worn the medal as a vintage necklace Ben gave me for Valentine’s Day ten years ago. It is part of my daily wardrobe. But I don’t carry expectations about the medal “saving” me or “preserving” me from sin. I know that sacramentals are tangible means by which I can access grace through free will, not by receiving it from the object itself.
To me, every sacramental brings my mind and heart back to God. This is true of all holy images, including the icons and statues and crucifixes that adorn our home. All I must do when I am engaging that ever-present battle within is elevate my eyes to the Sacred Heart image and whisper, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
That’s the purpose of the Miraculous Medal, and all holy objects. They serve not as mere amulets with supernatural power, but as reminders for us to turn to Our Lady for her intercession and ask for God’s grace when we are struggling or suffering.
A simple utterance akin to the prayer, “Jesus, I trust in You” that can be attributed to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is this: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” There are times in our lives when it’s impossible for complex and eloquent prayers to emerge from our hearts. Many of the saints believed that praying a simple prayer, such as the ones above, with the utmost sincerity was more efficacious than the flowery words to which we might aspire.
The Blessed Mother wishes to grant us many favors through her intercession, and we can begin by honoring her in various devotions, such as the Holy Rosary or by wearing a Miraculous Medal and praying to her daily as our spiritual mother who waits to bring us consolation and refreshment.