THE MEDAL MARY DESIGNED
The Miraculous Medal
Father John Robinson C.M.
Medal Mary Designed
Mary not only designed a medal in Heaven, but also in 1830, she
prepared a Saint on earth to be the medium through which she would give
her Medal to the world. St. Catherine, (Zoe Laboure) was born on May 2,
1806, at Bain-les-Moutiers in France. Her parents were good simple
country folk blessed with seven sons and three daughters. When
Catherine was only eight years old, her mother died. Taking the two
youngest children to a statue of the Blessed Virgin, Catherine said to
them: "kneel down, I have something very sad to tell you; we have no
mother on earth now, but here is another Mother". And, turning towards
the statue, she said:" Mary, you will have to be our Mother now". Later
on Catherine related: "I felt that the Blessed Virgin wished to be my
Dream, or a Vision?
One night in a dream, it seemed to her that she was in the Parish
Church, when a venerable old Priest appeared to say Mass. She was
greatly impressed by the devout way in which he offered the Holy
Sacrifice. After Mass, he beckoned Catherine to come to him. Instead,
she fled from the church. On the way home, (still in the same dream),
she visited a sick person. And here also appeared the same venerable
Priest. Again she vainly sought escape. He spoke to her: "My daughter,
it is a good thing to care for the sick: you fly from me now, but a day
will come when you will be happy to come to me. God has designs on you,
do not forget it". At last she escaped and fled home. Then she awoke.
Catherine told this dream to the parish priest of Chatillon, who said
to her: "I believe, my child, that this old Priest is St. Vincent, who
calls you to be a Daughter of Charity".
She already had a sister in the Community of the Daughters of Charity,
consequently her thoughts turned towards them. Her sister-in-law
accompanied her to an interview with the Sister Servant of the
Daughters at Chatillon. There, hanging in the parlour was a portrait of
a venerable old Priest. On seeing it, Catherine exclaimed: "That is the
the Priest I saw in my dream. Who is he? ". And on being told it was a
portrait of St. Vincent de Paul, all doubts as to her vocation
vanished. After surmounting many difficulties, in the beginning
of 1830 she became a postulant at Chatillon.
At that time in the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, in Rue de
Bac, Paris, was the zealous priest Father Aladel C.M., as Spiritual
Director to the Seminarist Sisters. Under his devoted attention and
prudent guidance, the Spirit of St. Vincent and of St. Louise de
Marillac the Co-Founders of the Institute of the Daughters of Charity,
took control of the heart and soul of Sister Catherine. Immense was her
love for St. Vincent. And immense was the paternal regard of St.
Vincent for Catherine. "I had", she says: "the consolation of seeing
his heart above the shrine when his Relics were exposed. It appeared to
me three successive days". St. Vincent revealed to her, by filling her
own heart with sadness, the calamities that were soon to overwhelm
At Holy Mass, Catherine had continually an undisguised vision of Our
Lord in the Eucharist, according to the spirit of each Feast. As a
result of one of these Apparitions of Jesus, Catherine said: "It was
then that the gloomiest and saddest thoughts oppressed me, for I
understood from this that the King would be stripped of his royal garb,
and the greatest disasters would ensue".
Devotion to Mary
Among her writings are found the following reflections: "I will take
Mary for my model at the commencing of all my actions. In everything I
will consider if Mary were engaged thus, how and wherefore would she do
this, with what intention? O how beautiful and consoling is the name of
Mary! Mary, O Mary! Grant me your love, without which I perish . . . O
Immaculate Heart of Mary! O Mary, happy are those who serve you and put
their confidence in you. O Mary, Mary, Mary, pray for us poor sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death". Catherine prayed to her Guardian
Angel to obtain for her the grace of seeing the Blessed Virgin.
OF OUR LADY
Apparition of July 18, 1830.
On, the night of July 18, 1830, at about 11.30, Sister Catherine was
awakened by a voice calling her name three times. There she saw
standing at her bedside a child of heavenly beauty with rays of light
issuing from him. "Sister Laboure, Sister Laboure, Sister Laboure", he
said, "Come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin awaits you". "But",
thought Catherine, "I shall be discovered. The others will hear me".
The Child, (most certainly her Guardian Angel), in answer to her
thought, said: "Do not fear. It is half-past eleven. all are asleep, I
will accompany you". Sister Catherine dressed quickly and followed the
Child who walked at her left. The lights came on at his approach, and
locked doors opened at his touch. The Altar was bathed in light, as if
for midnight Mass. Catherine waited at the altar rails, until about
midnight, when the Child exclaimed: "Behold the Blessed Virgin, behold
her!" Catherine heard a slight sound coming from the right side of the
altar, like the rustling of a silk dress.
At that moment a Lady of dazzling beauty appeared in the Sanctuary, and
seated herself in the chair the Spiritual Director used when talking,
to the Seminary Sisters. The Lady was dressed in a white robe of a
golden tinge and a blue veil. Doubts must have entered Catherine's
mind; surely this is a great condescension; "Whence is this to me". she
must have thought, "that the Mother of the Lord should come to me"?
The angel, assuming the voice of a strong man, said: "May not the Queen
of Heaven appear to a poor mortal under whatever form she pleases". All
her doubts vanished. She then entered the Sanctuary, and cast herself
on her knees at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, and placed her hands on
Our Lady's lap. The Catholic faith in her heart told Catherine that
this heavenly Visitor was her Mother Catherine was at home with Mary.
"There passed the sweetest moments of my life," Sister Catherine
related. "It is impossible for me to express all that I experienced.
She instructed how I was to act in moments of trial, and pointing with
her left hand to the altar, she told me to come and prostrate myself at
the foot of the altar, adding that I should receive there all the
consolations that I needed".
The Blessed Virgin continued to instruct her favoured child: "My child,
I am going to confide to you a mission; you will suffer many trials,
but you will surmount them, knowing that you endure them for the glory
of God. You will be contradicted, but you will be given grace. Do not
fear. Tell him who is charged with your direction all that passes
within you, with simplicity and confidence. You will see certain
things; you will receive inspirations. Render an account of them. Have
confidence, do not fear.
"My child, the times are very evil. Misfortunes are about to fall upon
France. The Throne will be overturned; the entire world will be
afflicted by misery of every kind". Catherine relates that when Mary
said this, she was very sad. Our Lady continued: "But come to the foot
of this altar, here graces will be bestowed upon all who ask with
confidence and fervour. They will be given to the rich and to the poor.
At a certain time the danger will be great indeed, it will seem as if
all were lost, but do not fear, I shall be with you; you will
acknowledge my visit, the protection of God and of St. Vincent upon the
two communities; have confidence, do not be discouraged, you are in my
"There will be victims in other Communities (the Blessed Virgin shed
tears when she said this); among the clergy of Paris there will be many
victims. The Archbishop will die. My child., the Cross will be
despised, blood will flow in the streets (again Our Lady's emotion was
so great that she could not speak for a time). My child," she
continued, "the whole world will be in tribulation". The query arose in
Catherine's mind: When shall this happen? An interior voice told her
distinctly that it would be in about 40 years time.
To show the authenticity of these revelations, Mary uttered this
Prophecy; and Catherine was still alive to see it fulfilled to the
letter. "About 40 years time" Our Lady had said in July 1830. On May
24, 1871, with the rise of the Commune in Paris, the Archbishop of
Paris, Monseigneur Georges Darboy, two secular priests, two Jesuits,
and a magistrate stood against a wall and were shot down at close
quarters. The Archbishop raised his hand to bless, but one of the
executioners cried out: "Here, take my blessing" as he gave the signal
On the following day, May 25, five Dominican Priests, together with
eight lay members of the Dominican College of Argueil, were commanded
to walk into the street. The good Superior, Father Captier O.P., led
the rest with encouraging words, "Let us go, my friends, for the sake
of God". Again on the following day, May 26, fifty prisoners were taken
from the prison of La Roquette by the revolutionists. Among them were 3
Jesuits, 4 members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus
and Mary, 3 secular priests and one seminarian. This was an organized
execution in which the victims were handed over to an infuriated mob.
The massacre, in an enclosure, lasted but an hour, after which most of
the bodies were beyond recognition. This took place at Belleville, the
last stronghold of the communists, who were completely routed by the
regular troops soon after the above slaughter.
Mary had promised that "St. Vincent will watch over you, and the
protection of God is always here in a particular manner. I myself will
be with you, I will always keep my eye upon you, and I will enrich you
with many graces". There were no victims among the Daughters of
Charity, nor among the Vincentians during the uprising of the Commune
Back to the first Apparition of Our Lady in July 1830, Catherine
continues, "I could not tell how long I remained with the Blessed
Virgin; all I can say is that after talking with me a long time, she
disappeared like a shadow that vanished". Looking away from the empty
chair, Catherine saw the Child still standing where she had left him
when the Blessed Virgin appeared. "She has gone" he said, and
stationing himself at her left hand he conducted her back to the
dormitory. "Returned to bed". said Catherine. "I heard the clock strike
two. There was no more sleep for me that night". Mary had told Sister
Catherine that she had a special mission for Catherine. What this
mission was, the Saint found out in November of that same year 1830.
CATHERINE'S MAIN MISSION IN LIFE ABOUT TO BEGIN.
Here is the Saint's own account of it. "On November 27, 1830, which was
a Saturday and the Eve of the first Sunday in Advent, whilst making my
meditation in profound silence, at half-past five in the evening, I
seemed to hear on the right hand side of the Sanctuary something like
the rustling of a silk dress, and, glancing in that direction, I
perceived the Blessed Virgin standing near St. Joseph's picture; her
height was medium, and her countenance so beautiful that it would be
impossible for me to describe it.
"She was standing, clothed in a robe the colour of auroral light, the
style that is usually called 'a la vierge', that is, high neck and
plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which descended
on each side to her feet. Her hair was smooth on the forehead, and
above was a coif ornamented with a little lace and fitting close to the
head. Her face was only partially covered, and her feet rested upon a
globe, or rather a hemisphere (at least, I saw but half a globe). Her
hands were raised about as high as her waist, and she held in a
graceful attitude another globe, (a figure of the universe). Her eyes
were lifted up to heaven, and her countenance was radiant as she
offered the globe to Our Lord.
"Suddenly her fingers were filled with rings and most beautiful
precious stones; the rays gleaming forth and reflected on all sides,
enveloped her in such dazzling light that I could see neither her feet
nor her robe. The stones were of different sizes, and the rays
emanating from them were more or less brilliant in proportion to the
size. I could not express what I felt, nor what I learned, in these few
moments. Whilst occupied contemplating this vision, the Blessed Virgin
cast her eyes upon me, and a voice said in the depths of my heart: 'The
globe that you see represents the entire world, and particularly
France, and each person in particular'.
"I would not know how to express the beauty and brilliance of these
rays. And the Blessed Virgin added: 'Behold the symbol of the graces I
shed upon those who ask me for them,' and thus making me understand how
generous she is to all who implore her intercession . . . how many
graces she grants to those who ask . . . and what a joy it is for her
to bestow them.
"At this moment I was not myself, I was in raptures. There now formed
around the Blessed Virgin a frame, slightly oval, upon which appeared,
in golden letters, these words: 'O Mary, conceived without sin, pray
for us who have recourse to Thee!' Then I heard a voice which said:
'Have a medal struck like this, persons who wear it indulgenced, will
receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck;
graces will be bestowed in abundance upon those who have confidence'.
"Suddenly the picture seemed to turn".
Our Lady then gave her a vision of the reverse side of the medal. Saint
Catherine saw, still within the oval frame, the letter 'M' in the
centre of the frame. There was a bar on top of the 'M', and a cross
resting upon the bar. Beneath the 'M', were two Hearts, the first
encircled with a crown of thorns, and the other pierced with a sword.
This Apparition took place at the right hand side of the High Altar in
the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, on
the 27th of November 1830, Our Lady was elevated at a height of about
three metres from the floor, and standing near the picture of St.
Joseph. In December of that same year, 1830, these visions were
repeated with this difference: Instead of standing near the picture of
St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin appeared standing above the High Altar.
Father Aladel related that this Apparition was, as it were, framed from
each hand, within the Invocation: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray
for us who have recourse to thee", which seems to indicate that the
Blessed Virgin had her hands extended down by her sides. The Invocation
was again traced in letters of gold. And again the reverse side was
shown to her as identical with the previous Apparition. And again Mary
said: "Have a medal struck on this model . . ." St. Catherine finishes
her account of the Apparitions in these words: "To tell you what I
understood at the moment the Blessed Virgin offered the globe to Our
Lord, would be impossible, or what my feelings were whilst gazing on
her! A voice in the depths of my heart said to me: 'These rays are
symbolic of the graces the Blessed Virgin obtains for those who ask for
them'." St. Catherine gave instructions that these last words were to
be inscribed on the base of the statue of Our Lady.
Father Aladel tells of the spontaneous exclamations of joy that came
from Catherine at the thought of the homage that Mary would receive:
"Oh! How delightful to hear it said: 'Mary is Queen of the Universe,
and of France!' The children will proclaim it, she is Queen of each
soul!" These Apparitions were repeated at least once more.
In obedience to the Blessed Virgin, Sister Catherine related all to
Father Aladel, who showed great prudence in not accepting readily the
account of visions from a young novice in her first year of the
Religious Life. He awaited more certain signs, and showed himself
almost harsh. He would advise her to return to her prayers, and be
content to walk the sure and well worn path trodden by all her sisters
in Religion. How could he be sure that this Sister is not a victim of
delusion, even a plaything of the devil!
Poor Catherine! She finds herself straightened between two: The Blessed
Virgin on the one hand, is displeased with the delay in having the
medal struck. "My good Mother", she said in prayer, "you know well that
Father Aladel will not believe me". "Do not be anxious", Mary replied,
"a day will come when he will do what I desire, he is my servant and he
would fear to displease me". It is evident that this delay was rather
for her sanctification in God's crucible. It was the trial of her
faith, "more precious than gold and silver," as St. Peter said. Mary
knew well that she could trust her devoted servant, Father Aladel,
whose filial heart was at the disposal of his heavenly Mother.
When Sister Catherine told the priest that Our Lady was displeased with
the delay, Mary inspired him with a realization of the heavenly
character of Catherine's visions. "If Mary is displeased", he reasoned,
"it is not with the Sister, for she could do no more; it is with me!"
From then on, Father Aladel entered wholeheartedly into the work of the
Medal. He asked Catherine if she had seen anything written on the
reverse side of the Medal "Ask the Blessed Virgin", he said, "what is
to be written there". Catherine obeyed, and was told in prayer that
"the 'M' and the two Hearts say enough". Nothing was to be written on
There are certain details on the Medal, as we have it today, that are
not found in the written account from the hand of Sister Catherine. We
have these details by verbal tradition. She supplied by word of mouth
all the details which Mary designed for her Medal. So, if we find
details on the Medal which are not in the written description, the only
conclusion to be drawn, is that the written account is not complete,
but was completed by Catherine's verbal description to Father Aladel.
Now we have the complete revelation of Mary regarding her Medal.
1. The first detail that strikes one, is the position of the hands. In
the written account it seems that Mary's hands were at the height of
her breast, when she said: "Have a Medal made like this". But the
traditional position of Our Lady's hands is lowered and extended by her
sides; with the Prayer: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who
have recourse to thee", beginning at the right hand, going within the
oval frame over her head, and ending at the left hand. This detail
Father Aladel learned from Catherine; otherwise she would not have
approved the Medal made by him except it agreed in every respect with
the pattern shown her by Mary.
2. The Stars which are now found on the reverse side of the Medal are
not found in the written account. Mary must have revealed this detail
also to Catherine, for neither the Priest nor the Sister would have
dared to improve on that which the Queen of Heaven had perfected.
3. Regarding the serpent not found in the written account: the Saint,
on her death bed, was asked by her Superior whether the serpent should
be included? She replied without hesitation: "Yes, there was a serpent
of a greenish colour with yellow spots".
4. The rays coming from Mary's hands are significant: some of the
diamonds in the rings on Mary's fingers did not give forth any rays of
light. As she was wondering at this, an interior voice said:
"These jewels which do not emit rays symbolize the graces for which
people forget to ask".
5. Another smaller detail, not written, is that Catherine saw a small
cross surmounting the globe Mary was holding in her hands at the height
of her breast.
Mary's dress was the colour of the sky at dawn, that is, a deep white
with auroral tint. Her veil was pure white. In the statues of Our Lady
of the Miraculous Medal, her mantle is blue. This is not mentioned in
the written account, because Our Lady was revealing a Medal not a
statue. However, Mary did inspire the Saint to have a Statue made of
Mary holding the globe at the height of her breast, the Statue which
has since become the Statue of Mary, Queen of the Missions. Father
Aladel said that: "White and blue combined constitute the Blessed
Virgin's Livery, as emblems of celestial purity, and give the mantle an
azure tint". Catherine remarked: "white signifies innocence, and blue
is the livery of Mary".
Our Blessed Lady's beauty, according to Catherine, was beyond
description. "She was beautiful in the perfection of her beauty". Mary
appeared to be about 40 years of age. At one time, she revealed gravity
mingled with sorrow in her countenance. But this soon vanished and her
face "became irradiated with love". "Nothing can equal the beauty, the
grace, the expression of tenderness depicted in the attitude of the
Virgin, whose graciously down-cast glances, and hands filled with
blessings, proclaim her the Mother, inviting her child to cast itself
into her arms, or earnestly entreating the prodigal son to confide in
her merciful mediation".
This Medal must be perfect, for it was designed by Mary, herself. It is
entirely heavenly. It is the only Medal designed in Heaven. It was
brought down to earth by the Queen herself, and modelled for us by her.
And the Prayer inscribed on it was never heard on earth before Mary
revealed it to us. This is Mary's Medal, the perfect Medal. It contains
a panoramic view from Genesis to Apocalypse of all Revelation. This is
not only the "Miraculous Medal", not only the Medal of the Immaculate
Conception, it is the Medal of Christianity.
MEDAL IS MADE
Finally convinced of the heavenly character of the Apparitions Father
Aladel approached the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Quelen, who
gave his approval to have the Medal made. "There is nothing in this
contrary to the approved practice of the Church", declared the
Archbishop. "The Medal will spread devotion to Mary; it will strengthen
belief in her Immaculate Conception. Go ahead with it".
The first medals appeared in June 1832. Happy indeed was Sister
Catherine when she took in her hand the first Medal! But ever of a
practical mind, she exclaimed: "Now it must be propagated". The
propagation of the medals was prodigious! The demand soon exceeded the
supply, especially when graces were given in abundance to those who
wore it with confidence. In the early stages of the Medal six
miraculous conversions were recorded. It circulated in a truly
wonderful manner, in all places and among all classes.
Pope Pius IX gave verbal approbation to the Medal; but what meant more
was his example in the use he made of it. His successor, Pope Leo XIII,
instituted a Feast in commemoration of "the Manifestation of the
Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal" to be
celebrated on the 27th of November. His successor, Pope St. Pius X,
approved the erection of a "Pious Association of the Miraculous Medal
in honour of the Immaculate Conception".
After Catherine had finished the mission Mary gave her, she continued
her life of trials and sufferings, prayers and penances, to outward
appearances indistinguishable from that led by her sisters in the
Community; but inwardly, her "conversation was in Heaven". Mary had
said to her, "My Child, you will not see me any more, but you will hear
my voice during your prayers". The other Sisters knew that one of their
number has been selected by Our Lady for the Apparitions, but no one
knew that Catherine was the favoured one. She kept her secret well.
For 46 years Sister Catherine worked in the "Old People's Home" at
Enghien. Her spirit was often ruffled, but she did not forget Mary's
advice: "Mary instructed me how I was to act in moments of trial, and,
pointing with her left hand to the Altar, she told me to come and
prostrate myself at the foot of the Altar and pour out my heart, adding
that I would receive all the consolation I needed."
In 1876, Catherine, a victim of asthma, and feeling the weight of many
hard years, said that she would not see the year 1877. Knowing well
when she would die, it is not without a touch of humour that she
uttered this prophecy. 1876 wore on to December, and Catherine was
still alive, but confined to bed. The last day of 1876 dawned with
Catherine still alive, though very weak. She saw the sun go down, but,
at about 7 p m., she closed her eyes on this world, in order to see God
"face to face". When asked if she was afraid to die, she replied:
"Afraid? How can you think I should be afraid'? I am going to find Our
Lord, Our Lady, and St. Vincent". These are the three who found
Catherine on earth, and who "set her in a place of Pasture, and brought
her up on the waters of Reflection," (Ps. 22.). For there she grew up
spiritually and became one of the "Cedars of Lebanon".
She had completed 70 years and eight months in this world. Her body
remains incorrupt. Her body is resting in the Chapel of the Apparitions.
MEDAL'S MOST FAMED MIRACLE
Alphonse Ratisbonne was born into a distinguished Jewish family of
Strasbourg. In the beginning of 1842 he found himself., through change
of plans, in Rome, For one so bitterly anti-Catholic Rome was the last
place on earth. His hatred of everything Catholic was almost violent,
and he would fly into a rage when reminded of his brother, Theodore
Ratisbonne, who had renounced Judaism to embrace Catholicism; and not
content with that blow, but even became a Priest! So his first thought
on entering Rome was to deal speedily with the business on, hand and
move out as soon as possible.
(The Conversion of Alphonse
Ratisbonne; Jan. 20,1842)
His natural goodness however, would not allow him to leave until he had
seen an old school-mate, who was living in Rome, named M. Gustard de
Bussiere, a zealous Protestant. This same friend had once tried in vain
to convert Alphonse Ratisbonne to Protestantism! Divine Providence.
"which reaches from end to end mightily. and orders all things sweetly"
is clearly evident. For, Alphonse Ratisbonne called to see M. Gustard
de Bussiere, who was absent at the time, so, instead, he met Gustard's
brother, M. Theodore de Bussiere. a Baron, who was also himself a
convert to the Catholic Faith.
A religious discussion arose in which Ratisbonne did not hide his deep
anti-Catholic bias, and, his firm determination to remain a Jew. Baron
de Bussiere's answer was to offer him a Miraculous Medal: "Promise
me'', he said. "to wear this little image; I beg you not to refuse"
Ratisbonne was indignant De Bussiere came forward with the. argument "I
cannot understand the reason for refusal, for. according to your view
of things the wearing of this object must be to you a matter of total
indifference, whilst to me it would be a real consolation, if you
would condescend to my request". "Ah! well, I will comply", replied
Ratisbonne, "if you attach so much importance to it. I should not be
sorry, moreover, to have the opportunity of convincing you that Jews
are not so headstrong as they are represented. Besides, it will give me
an interesting chapter to add to my notes and impressions of travel."
Two of De Bussiere's children put a cord on the Medal, and their father
placed it around the Jew's neck; and immediately made another request.
He presented Ratisbonne with a copy of St. Bernard's "Memorare", and
asked him to say it. The Jew promised both.
Meanwhile, M. Theodore de Bussiere and his family stormed heaven for
the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. The latter was hastening to
leave Rome faster than ever now. "Do not think of going", de Bussiere
said to him, "I want you to grant me just eight more days. Our
conversation of yesterday occupies my mind more than ever. Let me
entreat you to prolong your stay . . .". Ratisbonne refused to remain
any longer, and continued to ridicule the Catholic Church, much to the
great sorrow of de Bussiere. A friend of de Bussiere died during those
days, named M. de Ferronays, whom the Baron had told of his attempt to
convert Alphonse Ratisbonne. The dying man replied: "If you have
succeeded in making him say the 'Memorare' he is yours". M. de Bussiere
went to the Church of St. Andrew delle Fratte, to make the funeral
arrangements for his late friend. On the way to the church, (and here
is another mark of Divine Providence), he met Ratisbonne out on his
usual walk for exercise. He joined de Bussiere and together they
entered the church. After a short time on his knees before the Blessed
Sacrament, the Baron went into the Priests' Residence to make the
funeral arrangements, leaving Ratisbonne in the church alone.
Ratisbonne, unlike the Hebrew Saul of Tarsus, who was "breathing out
slaughter and threatenings" at the time grace had struck him, was
glancing about coolly, with an air of indifference, if not of disdain.
But, like Saul of Tarsus, grace struck him down in a marvellous way.
Away for about ten minutes, the Baron returned, and looked for his
friend, and found another Jew vanquished by Heaven. A sight he could
hardly believe: Ratisbonne, on his knees in the Chapel of St Michael M.
de Bussiere approached, spoke to him, but he did not reply. Again, and
again he tried to attract Ratisbonne's attention, who at last, turned
on him a face bathed in tears. He could not speak for a while. "When
they shall be converted to the Lord," said St. Paul, "the veil shall be
taken away" (II Cor. 3).
At last Ratisbonne spoke: "Lead me" said this other newly converted
Jew, "Lead me where you will ... After what I have seen, I obey". He
took the Medal which was hanging around his neck, covered it with
kisses and tears, amid deep sobs and sighs. "How good is God! What a
plenitude of gifts! What joy unknown! Ah! How happy I am, and how much
to be pitied are they who do not believe". He continued, "I am not
crazy, I know well what is in my mind". He asked to be brought to a
Priest. He asked for baptism. He will not tell de Bussiere what he had
seen or heard. He must wait till he finds a Priest, and then tell all
on his knees.
Father Villefort, S.J., is the Ananias chosen for this newly converted
Saul, who is to tell him what he must do. Kneeling before the Priest,
he again kissed the Medal, and exclaimed with joy: "I have seen her, I
have seen her!" Then overcoming his emotion, he spoke calmly: "I had
been in the church but an instant, when suddenly I was seized with an
inexplicable fear. I raised my eyes, the whole edifice had disappeared
from my view, and all the light was concentrated on one chapel alone,
and in the midst of this effulgence there appeared standing upon the
Altar, the Blessed Virgin Mary, grand, brilliant, full of majesty and
sweetness, such as she is represented on the Medal; an irresistible
force impelled me to her. The Virgin made me a sign to kneel, and she
seemed to say: 'it is well'. She did not speak to me, but I understood
Alphonse Ratisbonne wished the Vision to be kept secret. However,
Father Villefort thought differently, and advised accordingly. Ten days
separated his Conversion from his Baptism, during which time, apart
from the interviews with the Priest, he was to be found in the churches
of Rome. His realization of the Truth penetrated him with holy fear.
Awe overwhelmed him as he knelt before the Tabernacle, and he would
seek refuge in a Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; "Here I have
no fears", he said, "for I feel myself under tile protection of
boundless mercy". Like Peter, James and John on Mount Thabor, he would
exclaim: "Ah! How delightful it is to he here! What great reason
Catholics have to love their churches, and frequent them ! How sweet to
spend a life-time in these holy places! They are truly not of earth but
During those ten days, an army officer, General Chlabonski, visited the
home of Baron de Bussiere to see Ratisbonne. "So you have seen the
image of the Blessed Virgin", said the General. "The image", Ratisbonne
replied. "Ah, it was not the image, but herself I saw; yes, Monsieur,
her real self, just as 1 see you now".
Whilst speaking of the Rays of Grace coming from Mary's hands as
seen by St Catherine, he said: "I could not express what I saw of mercy
and liberality in Mary's hands. It was not only an effulgence of light,
it was not rays I distinguished; words are inadequate to depict the
ineffable gifts filling our Mother's hands, and descending
from them, the bounty, mercy, tenderness, the celestial
sweetness and riches, flowing in torrents and inundating the soul she
Alphonse Ratisbonne has left in writing his own impressions of those
days. "O, My God, I, who but an hour before was blaspheming! I, who
felt such violent hatred against the Catholic Religion! Everyone of my
acquaintances knew full well,. that to all human appearance,. it was
impossible for me ever, to think of changing my religion. My family was
Jewish, my betrothed, my uncle, were Jewish. In embracing Christianity,
I knew that I break away from all earthly hopes and interests . . . And
yet I do it willingly; I renounce the passing happiness of a future
which was promised me; I do so without hesitation, I act from
conviction . . . for I am not crazy, and have never been; they well
know it. Who then could refuse to believe me, and believe the Truth?
"The most powerful interests enchained me to my religion, and
consequently all should be convinced that a man who sacrifices
everything to a profound conviction must sacrifice to a celestial
Light, which has revealed itself by incontrovertible evidence. What I
have affirmed is true. I know it, I feel it; and what could be my
object in thus betraying the Truth, and turning aside from religion by
a sacrilegious lie? My words must carry conviction".
Just as St. Paul could never forgive himself for having persecuted the
Church, so does this "other Paul" bewail his past bitterness. "Alas!
When my excellent brother embraced Catholicism, and afterwards embraced
the Ecclesiastical state, I, of all his relatives, was his most
unrelenting persecutor ... I could not forgive his desertion of our
religion; we were at variance, at least; I detested him, though he had
none but the kindest thoughts for me . . . However, at the time of my
betrothal, I wrote him a few cold lines to which he replied by a letter
full of charity and tenderness. One of my nephews died. My good
brother, having learned that he was seriously ill, asked as a personal
favour that the child be baptized before death, adding, with great
delicacy, that to us it would be a matter of indifference, whilst to
himself it would be a veritable happiness, and he hoped we would not
refuse. I was infuriated at such a request!"
Just as St. Paul, on embracing Christianity embraced the Cross, finding
in it the essence of Christianity, and source of all Wisdom and Power,
so did Alphonse Ratisbonne desire the Cross of Christ. "I hope, Oh!
yes, I hope my God will send me severe trials which may redound to his
honour and glory . . ." He relates that the night before his
conversion, there was constantly before his eyes a large cross without
Christ. It made him tired, even though he tried to banish it as being
of no account. "I made", said he, "incredible efforts to banish this
image, but in vain. It was only later, when having, by chance, seen the
reverse of the Miraculous Medal, I recognized the exact sign which had
On January 31, 1842, after having made a Retreat, Alphonse was baptized
by Father Villefort, in the 'Gesu', the Jesuit church in Rome, on the
eleventh day after Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared to him.
The Ceremony took place at 9 a.m., with Baron de Bussiere standing as
God-parent. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, received his Profession of
Faith. When asked, what name do you wish?" he replied, "Mary". The
famous French Preacher, the Abbe Dupanloup, delivered the Occasional
The Holy Mass was then offered, and the sacred Ceremony was brought to
a conclusion with a solemn Te Deum.
An audience with the Holy Father, Pope Gregory XVI, was arranged for
him, in the company of the Father General of the Jesuits, and Baron de
Bussiere, and he knelt at the feet of the Successor of St. Peter. "He
was exceedingly kind", said the newly converted Alphonse Mary
Ratisbonne, "as to take us into his private room where he showed us
near his bed, a magnificent picture of my dear Medal, a picture for
which he has the greatest devotion. I had procured quite a number of
Miraculous Medals. His Holiness blessed them for me, and these are the
weapons I shall use in conquering souls for Jesus and Mary".
The Pope gave him a Crucifix bearing the figure of Christ Crucified,
because he now bore Christ in his soul; but before his conversion, he
had imprinted on his mind an image of a Cross without the Christ.
His devotion led him to make a Retreat before Baptism; and now his
gratitude led him to make another Retreat in thanksgiving after Baptism.
The conversion of Alphonse Mar Mary Ratisbonne caused such a stir in
Rome that the Pope ordered a Canonical Examination to be made of the
Apparition. A favourable conclusion was arrived after nine witnesses
were examined, and all circumstances duly considered. On the 3rd of
June, 1842, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome declared: "The instantaneous and
perfect Conversion of Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne, from Judaism to
Catholicism, was a true and incontrovertible Miracle, wrought by the
Most Blessed and Powerful God, through the Intercession of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. For the greater glory of God, and the increase of Devotion
to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Eminence deigned to permit the account
of this signal Miracle to be printed and published".
Later on Alphonse became a Priest, and afforded himself many times the
great joy of celebrating Holy Mass in the Mother House of the Daughters
of Charity, Rue du Bac, Paris, where Our Lady appeared to St.
Catherine. He associated himself with his brother Theodore, also a
Priest, in the Order of Our Lady of Sion, for the conversion of the
Jews. He died in the Holy Land in 1884, after having "spent himself,
and been spent" for his "kinsmen according to the flesh, who are
Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption of children, and the glory,
and the testament, and the giving of the law, and the services of God
and the Promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom who is Christ,
according to the flesh, who is over all things God blessed for ever.
Amen" (Rom 9;4-5).
Lest this heavenly favour be forgotten by men, and by the same token to
stir up our confidence in the divine aid, and in Mary, Mediatrix of all
Graces, the pilgrim to Rome, kneeling in the church of St. Andrew delle
Fratte, in the Chapel of St. Michael, will see this inscription,
written in Italian and in French:
"On the twentieth of January, 1842,
Alphonse Ratisbonne, of Strasbourg,
Came here, an obstinate Jew.
The Virgin appeared to him,
as you see here.
Falling down a Jew,
He rose up a Christian.
Store up this precious Remembrance
of the mercy of God
And the Power of the Virgin".
At Ain Karim, near Jerusalem is the Tomb of Father Alphonse Mary
Ratisbonne. On a slab surmounting it, one can read, in French: "O Mary,
be mindful of your Child, who is the sweet glorious victory of your