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Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Short & Long Versions

This apparition story is presented in two ways: 

  • Summarized version

  • Full story that reveals what occurred in 1830 in Paris at the Daughters of Charity convent. This is lengthy and may be easier to read on a computer screen.


On July 18th, 1830, a Marian apparition event in Paris, France was reportedly experienced by Sister Catherine Labouré, a novice in the Daughters of Charity order. According to her account:


On that summer night, Sister Catherine was awakened in her convent dormitory by a young child she identified as her guardian angel. The angel beckoned her urgently to the chapel. There she knelt by the altar when suddenly she heard the rustling sound of a silk dress before seeing a radiant woman sitting in the priest's chair. 

Sister Catherine immediately recognized her as the Virgin Mary based on a painting of Queen of Heaven in the chapel. The lady glowed gentle light and Catherine gazed in awe at her delicate features. After some moments, the Virgin spoke, commissioning the humble Sister to have a special medal struck spreading devotion to the Immaculate Conception and to portray an image of Mary standing with arms outstretched shining grace upon the globe below her feet.

This vision inaugurated a series of apparitions where the Virgin Mary appeared multiple times over succeeding months to Sister Catherine in the convent chapel on Rue du Bac in Paris. It launched the global devotion of the Miraculous Medal with millions distributed since glimpsing heaven's glory manifest through our Lady of Grace.

The sincerity and humility displayed by Sister Catherine as she relayed miraculous details from her encounters left experts convinced that inexplicable events with lasting significance had occurred. The legacy and impact left by these heavenly visits ultimately led to Catherine Labouré’s canonization as a saint in 1947.



January 1830

Catherine Labouré, age 23, followed in her older sister's footsteps and joined the Daughters of Charity order. As a novice, the largely unschooled country girl, would spend the next few months being educated on the Catholic faith, her religious order as well as learn how to read and write. 

1st Apparition

Sunday-Monday, July 18-19

On the eve of Saint Vincent's feast day, Mother Marthe, the directress of the convent, delivered a teaching to the novices on devotion to the saints and the Virgin Mary. This instruction ignited a fervent desire within Sister Catherine to behold the Virgin, prompting her to retire for the night with the hopeful anticipation of encountering her "good mother." Catherine had harbored this longing for a considerable period.

At 11:30 p.m., Catherine awoke to her name being called. To her amazement, she beheld a small boy, approximately five years old, clothed in white and glowing as if lit from within. Later, she believed this child to be her guardian angel.


The child instructed Catherine to proceed to the chapel. "The Blessed Virgin awaits you!" The novice was filled with mixture of excitement about actually seeing the Mother of God and concern about waking her fellow sisters in the dormitory. 


"Do not be troubled," the boy said. "Come I am waiting." Catherine followed him, and to her astonishment, lamps illuminated their path. The chapel door opened effortlessly at the child's touch, and surprisingly all the candles within were lit.

Guided by the child, Catherine entered the sanctuary, and was directed to kneel adjacent to the pastor's chair. Catherine observed the child standing nearby. A prolonged period of anticipation followed, during which Catherine scanned the surroundings, even looking toward the tribune to check for the sister responsible for the night lights.

In her memoirs years later, Catherine describes what happened next. "I heard the rustling of a silken robe coming from the side of the sanctuary. The 'Lady' bowed before the tabernacle, and then she seated herself in M. Richenet's chair. I rushed forward and knelt before the Blessed Virgin with my hands on her knees. That was the sweetest moment of my life. It would be impossible for me to say what I felt. The Most Holy Virgin told me how I should behave with my confessor and many other things.”


For the next two hours, the Virgin provided guidance on how Catherine should conduct herself with her directors and imparted numerous insights regarding her future trials, particularly as it related to Our Lady's request.

Drawing attention to the altar, where the tabernacle resided, the Blessed Virgin instructed, "Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be spread over all who ask for them with confidence and fervor." During this extraordinary encounter, the Blessed Virgin also revealed a challenging undertaking and requested the establishment of a Confraternity of the Children of Mary.

"My child, God wished to entrust a mission to you. It will be the cause of great suffering to you, but you will surmount it with the thought that it will work to God's glory. You will know later what this mission is to be. You will be contradicted, but do not fear, grace will be given to help you. In your prayers, inspiration will be given to you." 


The Virgin continued, but weeped as she described the terrible days to come. "The times are very bad. Evils will come upon France. The throne will be overthrown. The whole world will be overturned by evils of every kind. But come to the foot of this altar; there graces will be showered... on all persons who ask for them, great and small."

Our Lady was so distraught, she could not speak any further. Then, "she disappeared like a shadow, as she had come," Catherine remembered.

The child walked her back to her dormitory. But Catherine was in such shock over the evening's events, she could not sleep. 

2nd Apparition

Saturday, November 27

During the second apparition, the Virgin Mary directed Catherine to create the Miraculous Medal. Mary said: “All who wear it will receive great graces: they shall wear it around their neck. Great graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.” The Virgin Mary said the medal would serve as a symbol of love, a promise of Her protection, and a wellspring of grace for those who placed their trust in it. She revealed to Catherine the specific design of the medal in two tableaus.

The apparition took place again in the convent's chapel. It was 5:30 p.m. when all the novices were together in prayer. As Catherine immersed herself in meditation, when she heard the same rustle of silk as at the first apparition.


Then she saw Our Lady to the right of the altar. Catherine described the Virgin: “She was average height, and so beautiful that I cannot describe her. She was standing, her dress was sunrise-white silk and 'virgin style,' that is, high-necked and with smooth sleeves. A white veil went down from her head to her feet. Her hair was divided and she wore some kind of bonnet with a 3 centimeters wide crochet on it, gently laid on her hair. Her face was quite visible; her feet were upon a globe, or better, a half-globe, or at least I saw half of it.”

The vision unfolded as if it were two living paintings, seamlessly merging one into another. In the first tableau, the Blessed Virgin stood atop a half-globe, her feet triumphantly crushing a green serpent. Holding a small golden globe surmounted by a cross at her mid-section, she elevated it toward heaven. In this moment, Catherine heard a celestial voice proclaiming, "This globe represents the entire world, including France, and every person."

The second image revealed itself as radiant beams of light emanated from the open hands of the Blessed Virgin pointing downward, each finger adorned with jewels of various sizes and colors. Simultaneously, a voice resonated with the words, "These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour out on those who ask them of me." 

Catherine wondered why some of the jewels had lost their color. An inner voice gave answered. The darkened jewels were graces that were available, but were unclaimed. 


Enveloping the apparition, an oval frame materialized, displaying the words, "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you," rendered in resplendent gold letters in a semi-circle. A heavenly voice followed, declaring, "Have a medal made according to this model. For those who wear it with confidence, there will be abundant graces."

With a gentle turn, the vision presented the reverse side of the medal to Catherine. It featured the letter M crowned with a petite cross and two hearts — one adorned with a regal crown of thorns and the other pierced with a sorrowful sword. This ethereal encounter marked the genesis of the Miraculous Medal. 

3rd Apparition

December (date unknown)

In December, while engaged in meditation, Catherine once again heard the familiar rustling sound, this time emanating from behind the altar. To her amazement, the same image of the miraculous medal materialized, positioned slightly behind the tabernacle. The celestial message resonated, "These rays are the symbol of the graces that the Blessed Virgin obtains for those who ask them of her... You will not see me anymore."


With these words, the series of apparitions concluded. Catherine informed her confessor of the apparition and this latest request to have the medal produced.  


Undeterred by the cessation of the heavenly visions, Catherine faithfully conveyed the requests of the Blessed Virgin to Father Aladel, her confessor. Unfortunately, he met her revelations with skepticism and prohibited her from dwelling on the matter. This unexpected rejection struck Catherine deeply, constituting a significant emotional blow.

On January 30, 1831, Catherine successfully completed her Seminary studies and received the habit of the Daughters of Charity. The following day marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life as she embarked on a journey to the Hospice of Enghien. Situated at 12 rue de Picpus on the eastern side of Paris, in a destitute neighborhood. Amidst her dedicated service, an insistent inner voice continued to impress upon her the imperative need for the creation of the Miraculous Medal. Undeterred, Catherine once again shared her conviction with her confessor, Father Aladel. It took two years before Father Aladel formally made the request to Monsignor de Quelen, the Archbishop of Paris, and obtained agreement to produce an initial lot of 1,500 medals. 

In February 1832, Paris was struck by a devastating cholera epidemic, claiming over 20,000 lives. During this dire period, the Daughters of Charity initiated the distribution of the first medals. The impact was nothing short of extraordinary — stories of cures, protection from the disease, and conversions proliferated, earning the medal the appellation "miraculous" among the people of Paris.

By the autumn of 1834, a staggering 500,000 Miraculous Medals had been produced. The following year, in 1835, the count surpassed one million, extending its influence globally. By 1839, an astounding 10 million medals had been distributed worldwide. When Sister Catherine Laboure passed away in 1876, the legacy of the Miraculous Medal continued to flourish, with over a billion medals in circulation.


The front of the Miraculous Medal conveys a profound message encapsulated in three interconnected aspects. The inscription reads, "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you," explicitly unveiling Mary's identity as immaculate from the moment of her conception. The potency behind her intercession arises from this unique privilege, earned through the merits of her Son Jesus Christ's Passion. Mary, thus, invites everyone to turn to her in life's challenges.

The imagery of Mary standing on a half-sphere, crushing the head of a serpent, symbolizes a spiritual battle against evil in our world. Mary calls us to embrace God's perspective, distinct from the world's ways, urging us to seek true conversion and extend it to the world. Her open hands adorned with rings emitting rays of light signify the grace of conversion Christians seek from Mary. The radiance of these beams underscores trust in Mary's faithfulness, her intervention's efficacy, and the ultimate victory, mirroring the beauty of the apparition witnessed by Catherine.

On the reverse, the letter "M" surmounted by a cross intertwines Mary's initial with the Cross of Christ, illustrating their inseparable connection. Mary, linked to human salvation through Jesus, participates in the redeeming sacrifice. Two hearts at the bottom depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus, crowned with thorns, symbolizing His passionate love, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword, representing her acceptance of her Son's sacrifice for our salvation. The proximity of these hearts signifies Mary's intimate connection with Jesus.

Twelve stars encircling the medal's edge represent the apostles and the Church, inviting each baptized person to join Christ's mission. The medal, through its symbolism, prompts individuals to unite their hearts with Jesus and Mary, emphasizing the intimate relationship between Mary's life and Christ's.

In its entirety, the Miraculous Medal serves as a call to conscience, urging individuals to follow the path of love, mirroring Christ and Mary's total self-gift. It encourages believers to actively participate in Christ's mission, embodying the transformative power of love and selflessness.


Catherine adhered to her confessor's instructions, from the earliest days, to maintain the secrecy of her identity as the recipient to whom Our Lady had revealed the Miraculous Medal. She passed away 46 years later on December 31, 1876.


Pope Pius XI beatified her in 1933, and Pope Pius XII canonized her in 1947. The Feast of St. Catherine Labouré is commemorated on November 28. 


November 27 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

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