More than any Christian faiths, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers revere Mother Mary, praying to her with rosaries and honoring her Immaculate Conception, which refers to her conception free from sin. The intention of this blog is to present several examples of miracles that Catholics have attributed to Mother Mary: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
When Catherine Laboure was nine years old, her mother died and Catherine retired to her room where she kissed a statue of Mother Mary. She said, “Now dear Lady, you are to be my mother.” A few years later, she had a dream in which a priest said to her “My daughter, you may flee me now, but one day you will come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you.” A while later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-Sur-Seine, she noticed a picture of a priest on the wall, which matched her memory of the priest in her dream. She found out that the priest was “Our holy founder, Saint Vincent de Paul.” Catherine knew that she was in the right place.
In January of 1830, Catherine began as a Sister at the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-Sur-Seine. On July 18th, 1830, a mysterious child woke Sister Catherine Laboure and led the young, 24-year-old Sister to a convent in which she saw Mother Mary sitting in a chair. She spoke with her for two hours, during which time Mother Mary promised her that she would give her a mission. Four months later, on November 27th, Sister Catherine had a vision of Mother Mary who appeared “in all her perfect beauty” as radiant as a sunrise. Mother Mary told her to “have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around their necks.” In 1832, the first medals were made and distributed around Paris.
On the front side of the medal, Mother Mary stands on a globe, crushing a serpent with her feet. Rays shoot out from her hands, which symbolize the graces Mother Mary bestows upon those who ask for them. On the reverse side, a cross and bar representing Jesus surmounts a large, bold letter M. Flames symbolize Mother Mary’s and Jesus’ burning love for humanity. Catholics consider the Medal to be “a testimony to faith and the power of trusting prayer. Its greatest miracles are those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith” (Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, The Divine Mercy, 2017).
Sister Catherine was later canonized a saint and her “incorrupt” body is preserved in a glass coffin at the side altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac in Paris, France. The fact her body hasn’t decomposed is miraculous.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
On December 9, 1531, a woman appeared to Saint Juan Diego in the form of an Aztec princess while he was on his way to Mass. In his native tongue of Nahuatl, she directed him to go to the Archbishop and ask him to build a shrine on Tepeyac Hill. It became clear that she was Mother Mary.
She also said “I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes” (McClarey, 2011).
When Juan Diego told Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga the story, the Archbishop said that he would not believe him without a sign. He returned to Tepeyac where Mother Mary told him to return to the Archbishop with roses, which she directed him to pick, though they were growing out of season in Mexico at the time. He returned to the Archbishop with the roses wrapped in his cloak (Tilma). When he presented the roses to the Archbishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on his peasant cloak (Tilma). News of the miracle spread rapidly throughout Mexico.
Almost six hundred years later, the cloak is still preserved and its miraculous qualities include the following (Sewell, 2014).
The Tilma was made of very poor quality, rough, mainly cactus fibers. Yet the surface bearing the image is silky to the touch. Using infrared photography, experts determined there were no brush strokes, as if the image appeared all at once.
Dr. Phillip Callahan, a biophysicist at the University of Florida stated: “Such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands. It often occurs in nature, however, in the coloring of bird feathers and butterfly scales, and on the elytra of brightly colored beetles … By slowly backing away from the painting, to a distance where the pigment and surface sculpturing blend together, the overwhelming beauty of the olive-colored Madonna emerges as if by magic.”
Furthermore, experts have determined the image had no animal or mineral elements. Synthetic coloring did not exist in 1531.
Attempts have been made to replicate the Tilma, yet the images on the duplicates fade over time, while the image on the original never fades. Miguel Cabrera, an artist in the mid-18th century, produced three of the best known copies for the Archbishop, the Pope, and for himself.
He said, “I believe that the most talented and careful painter, if he sets himself to copy this Sacred Image on a canvas of this poor quality, without using sizing, and attempting to imitate the four media employed, would at last after great and wearisome travail, admit that he had not succeeded. And this can be clearly verified in the numerous copies that have been made with the benefit of varnish, on the most carefully prepared canvases, and using only one medium, oil, which offers the greatest facility.”
In 2009, Dr. Adolfo Orozco, a researcher and physicist at the National University of Mexico, noted that “the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.” Yet it has never faded.
When Dr. Phillip Callahan was working with the Tilma in 1979, he was stunned to find that the temperature of the Tilma held constant at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the same as a living person.
A Mexican gynecologist called Dr. Carlos Fernandez de Castillo examined the Tilma, he noticed a flower with four petals over what was Mary’s womb. The flower, known to the Aztecs as the Nahui Ollin, is a symbol of the sun and plentitude. Dr. Castillo determined that the dimensions of Our Lady’s body in the image were consistent with that of an expectant mother with a very close due date. Recall the original date of December 9th.
Peruvian ophthalmologist Dr. Jose Alte Tonsmann examined the eyes on the image at 2,500 times magnification. The images of thirteen people were in both eyes at different proportions, just as a human eye would reflect images of people. It appeared to be a snapshot of the moment Juan Diego unfurled his Tilma before the Archbishop.
Furthermore, the image appears to be indestructible. In 1785, a worker who was cleaning the encasement of the image accidentally spilled a solution of 50% nitric acid solvent on a large portion of the image. The image and the Tilma should have been eaten away, yet they were unscathed. In 1921, an anti-clerical activist planted a bomb with 29 sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses near to the Tilma. When the bomb exploded, the blast was so intense that windows 150 feet away blew out and a hefty brass crucifix twisted and bent back. Yet the Tilma remained unscathed.
Our Lady of Lourdes
In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes, France, Mother Mary appeared eighteen times to a fourteen-year old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous. She referred to herself as the Immaculate Conception and she said “pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.” The Catholic Church investigated the claims for years before building a shrine at Lourdes, where thousands of cures have since occurred. Of over 7,000 miracle claims, the Catholic Church has formally approved 70 of them as meeting its very rigorous standards. See the most recent here: Anonymous Staff at Catholic News Agency (2018). The 70th miracle: Lourdes healing officially declared supernatural. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/37743/the-70th-miracle-lourdes-healing-officially-declared-supernatural
Our Lady of Fatima
In 1917, during a time in which the world was being ravaged by World War I, Mother Mary appeared three times to three shepherd children (ages 7, 9, and 10) near the town of Fatima, Portugal. She promised them that heaven would grant peace to all in the world if her requests for prayer, reparation, and sacrifice were heard and obeyed.
She stated that war is a punishment for sin and portended that Russia would be an “instrument of chastisement” for spreading the “errors” of atheism and materialism. She portended Russia’s role in World War II as well. Mother Mary instructed the children to pray the Rosary daily and to wear the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel.
I have had my own experiences, which led me to write this blog to honor Mother Mary. As I was writing the blog, I thought to take a photo of a rosary that my late grandmother left me. To my surprise, I noticed the following inscriptions on the rosary, which indicated it originated in Lourdes, France: “Ceur Immacule De Marie Protegez Nous” and “Souvenir de ND de Lourdes” and “Je Suis Immacule Conception” and “Allez Boire a la Fontaine et vous y Laver.”
Thank you for your time.
References for Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception (2017). http://www.thedivinemercy.org/library/article.php?NID=2942
References for Our Lady of Guadalupe
McClarey, D.R. (2011). Our Lady of Guadalupe: Miracles, Facts, and Fancy. Accessed at https://the-american-catholic.com/2011/12/12/our-lady-of-gaudalupe-fact-and-fancy/
Sewell, M. (2014). 4 Literally Awesome Facts about Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mountain Catholic. http://mtncatholic.com/2014/12/11/4-literally-awesome-facts-about-our-lady-of-guadalupe/
References for Our Lady of Lourdes
References for Our Lady of Fatima