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The Miraculous Medal: Ireland's Hope and Ours

Posted by Theology of Home on
The Miraculous Medal: Ireland's Hope and Ours

A holy medal tumbling from a ballot box as the voting papers are emptied out feels like a cry from the past. The quiet roar of a forgotten people. 

By Carrie Gress

A story out of Ireland two months ago got little attention here across the pond, but it offers a rare ray of hope in the culture war. 

As The Guardian explained, back in March, on the International Day of Women, the Irish voted on a proposed referendum that would have changed language in the constitution, redefining the family, no longer founded on marriage, but based on "durable relationships." It also proposed changing language about motherhood, removing reference to a “mother’s duties in the home" to more general language about care from family members.

Voters shot the referendum down by a wide margin, which was remarkable since many previous votes had gone the way of woke.

What was unexpectedly found as the the votes were counted were miraculous medals among the ballots. Ballot boxes around the country had been stuffed with the medals, including Donegal and Limerick. Donegal's local paper quipped that the "'Yes' campaigners didn’t have a prayer."

The miraculous medal, also known as Our Lady of Graces, was commissioned by St. Catherine Labouré following apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her convent in Paris, France, in 1830. It was a time of great national and international upheaval culturally and politically as the new atheist ideologies of socialism and later communism were gaining steam. The Blessed Mother, whom Catherine could hear approach as her white silk gown rustled, tasked the quiet nun to have the medal made and spread far and wide to combat all the world's turmoil.

Over the centuries, countless miracles have been associated with the medal, including that of the young and dashing atheist Alphonse Tobie Ratisbonne, who had been given a medal by a friend and carried it in his pocket in 1842. His friend, a baron, had teased him that if the medal was just superstition, then it could do no harm to the vehemently anti-Catholic Ratisbonne. Upon entering a church in Rome to find his friend the baron, Ratisbonne had a wordless apparition of Our Lady. At its end, he knew the depths of truth about the faith and went on to become not just a Catholic, but also a priest who served in the Holy Land. 

But back to Ireland. Over at Spiked, Irish writer Brendan O'Neill, a self-professed atheist, was surprisingly delighted by the news. Speaking of his own upbringing and the use of sacramentals, he wrote:

I’m not a miracles kind of guy. I don’t believe in God, far less his mum. And yet there was something reassuring in this revelation that Old Ireland ain’t dead yet. That for all the Irish elites’ turbo-smug embrace of woke – of the post-Catholic, post-national, post-everything politics of permanent flux – there still exist people like my late grandmother. Anyone who grew up among the older generations of rural Ireland will be familiar with miraculous medals. You’d have one pressed into your palm before a long journey. Every new car was fitted with a medallion of St Christopher before being taken on to the roads. Holy water was forever being rubbed on our foreheads, in case we came across serpents of our own.

O'Neill continues:

A holy medal tumbling from a ballot box as the voting papers are emptied out feels like a cry from the past. The quiet roar of a forgotten people. It’s as if the older Ireland that Irish people are now instructed to feel ashamed of – with its strange traditions and superstitions – is whispering into the political ether: "We’re still here."

In this month of May, what would happen if rather than putting miraculous medals in mailboxes, we put them in our children's backpacks, at their schools, in our neighborhoods, outside our homes, in our cars, at our playing fields, at our places of work? What would happen if we we spread the graces of Our Lady around our own country, with each of us covering our own town or city? 

At the very least, we know that spreading the medals Our Lady asked St. Catherine to have made for this precise purpose would not make things worse. Not only would it signal that "we're still here" but more importantly, it would be a reminder that Our Lady is also still here. And she remains as anxious as ever to help her children.

To purchase miraculous medals, try your local Catholic store, or get them in bulk from great resources like Saint Paul Street Evangelization.

(Image: Xhienne, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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