In October 1917, St. Maximilian Kolbe founded the Militia Immaculata (MI) with six other Franciscans. These young men consecrated their lives totally and unconditionally to Mary for the sake of their own sanctification and the conversion of souls. All members of the MI now wear the miraculous medal as a sign of their total consecration to Mary and distribute it so that Mary may work wonders of grace in the lives of others.
Of the Miraculous Medal, Kolbe wrote:
"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 temptation. Because conversion and sanctification are divine graces, the Miraculous Medal will be the best means for reaching our purpose. For that reason it constitutes a first rate weapon of the Knights; it is the bullet with which a faithful soldier cuts down the enemy, that is, evil, and thus rescues souls. Let us contribute all our strength in bringing about what was already foreseen by St. Catherine Laboure, to whom the Immaculata graciously revealed the Miraculous Medal, that the Immaculata be queen of the whole world and of each soul in particular as soon as possible."
The Miraculous Medal is very special because it was actually designed by Our Lady herself! She promised special graces to anyone who wore it!
On November 27th 1830, St. Catherine Laboure revived a vision from Our Lady; she saw Mary standing on a half-globe with a serpent crushed beneath her feet and her hands jeweled with rings, holding a small golden globe with a cross on it. Bright light shown from some of the jewels on her fingers. Suddenly, the small, golden globe disappeared from Mary’s hands, and she opened her arms outward. The light from the jewels extended out from her hands, and a semi-circle frame appeared around and over her with an inscription in gold: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
The vision seemed to rotate, and on the reverse side, Catherine saw the letter “M” with a cross on it and surrounded by twelve stars. The cross stood on a horizontal bar. Under the “M” were two hearts engulfed in flames, one encircled in thorns and the other pierced by a sword.
Mary then told Catherine, “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”
Mary explained the meaning of the medal to Catherine as follows: Mary is Queen of heaven and earth. She crushes Satan, who is helpless before her, under her foot (see Gen 3:15). Her arms are open, and the many rays of light are graces that she obtains for those who request them. The dark jewels, the ones that are not full of light, represent the graces that are available but that people don’t receive because they don’t ask for them.
The inscription, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,” refers to Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which means that from the first moment of her conception she was free from all stain of original sin.
On the back of the medal, the twelve stars represent the twelve Apostles, who represent the whole Church, which surrounds Mary. The “M” is for Mary, and the cross is the Cross of Christ, the symbol of our redemption. The horizontal bar represents the earth. The placement of the cross and the bar on and in the letter “M” shows Mary’s participation in the Cross of Christ and her involvement in our world. The two hearts are those of Jesus and Mary, burning with love for us all.
Virgin Mother of God, Mary Immaculate, we unite ourselves to you under your title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
May this medal be for each one of us
a sure sign of your motherly affection for us and a constant reminder of our filial duties towards you.
While wearing it, may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son.
Most powerful Virgin, Mother of our Savior, keep us close to you every moment of our lives so that like you we may live and act according to the teaching and example of your Son.
Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death so that in union with you we may enjoy the happiness of heaven forever.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommend to you.