For the past several years, a rumor has circulated on the Internet about “false” versions of the Miraculous Medal being in circulation. As sellers of the Miraculous Medal, St. Paul Street Evangelization has received phone calls from concerned patrons and our members. In order to address these inquiries, we would like to offer the following information about this matter.
St. Paul Street Evangelization does not sell False Miraculous Medals
What Constitutes an Authentic Miraculous Medal?
In 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Labouré (France). The Virgin Mary communicated to St. Catherine a vision of a double-sided oval. On one side of this oval was an image of Our Lady holding up a globe looking up towards heaven. On the backside was a large letter M that supported a cross atop of it. There were also two hearts: the Sacred Heart of Jesus, surrounded by a crown of thorns, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a sword pierced through it. Our Lady commanded St. Catherine to have the image struck as a medal. Great graces were promised to those who wear this medal especially if it received an indulgence by the Church.
St. Catherine communicated this information to her spiritual director, Fr. Aladel. The Archbishop of Paris, Mgr. de Quélen, approved the request and the first medals were struck by Adrien Vachette and distributed in 1832. Due to an inability to reproduce the exact pose of Our Lady as seen in the vision, the Virgin was instead depicted with her arms out by her side, facing down with rays coming out, in a pose known as “The Immaculate Virgin.” For design purposes, Vachette also added 12 stars around the backside of the medal. Vachette continued to experiment with the number of stars and their placement after the initial 1832 striking of the medal.
These designs, however, were slightly different from the original image as described earlier. By 1880, the popular “Immaculate Virgin” image with twelve stars came to be the accepted or standard design for the Miraculous Medal. It seems that Heaven did not have difficulty with the changes. Fr. Aladel wrote in his notes about the promised graces that people received as a result of wearing this medal, primarily in cures and conversions. A great many of these have taken place since.
Given this history surrounding the Miraculous Medal, we think that one should be very careful about claims of “false” Miraculous Medals. It seems that the precise design may be less important than the general concepts behind the medal. Furthermore, as a sacramental, the real source of its power is the intercession of the Church and of Our Lady for those who wear it in devotion to her (See CCC 1667-1670 and Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 206).
How did the Story of “False” Miraculous Medals Get Started?
The rumor of a “false” miraculous medal appears to have roots in a dispute, beginning in 2002, between two reputable Catholic apostolates distributing the medal. In July 2009, a Frenchwoman claimed that God the Father told her that Freemasons had struck false miraculous medals that matched one of the medals in the dispute. People on the Internet picked up this claim and apparently changed/added various details as they saw fit. The various stories that subsequently arose influenced countless numbers of people. See the document linked here for more of this history and the facts in accordance with the best information available to us at this time.