Fr. Frank Sacks, CM, shares weekly reflections on the spirituality, history, and breathtaking art of the Miraculous Medal Shrine. Click Here to Email Fr. Sacks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
The Statue of Our Lady of Grace



The Statue of Our Lady of Grace in the Miraculous Medal Shrine
July 18, 2017


Greetings, Friends of our Blessed Lady,

Last week we spoke about the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine. Today we address very central religious image, the centerpiece of the altar; it is a truly dramatic image of Our Lady of Grace that surmounts the Virgo Potens altar. This statue calls to mind the third of the apparition of Mary to St. Catherine Labouré.

In our previous reflection we focused on the second apparition of Mary to St. Catherine: Our Lady of the Globe, also known as the Virgo Potens. That vision appeared to Catherine above the sanctuary in the chapel at Rue de Bac. As Catherine continued to pray before the image it gradually shifted to the third apparition.

St. Catherine saw the globe in Mary’s hands disappearing as she dropped both her hands in the pose of Our Lady of Grace. Rays of light emanated from several rings on her fingers. Other rings did not emit rays of light; Catherine came to understand that the rings without rays represented graces that Mary wishes to bestow on us, her children, but we are not asking for her help.

Eventually we will discuss the relationship of this pose of Mary to the medal that she commissioned be struck in her honor. For the present, we meditate on this gorgeous Shrine statue of Our Lady of Grace. We see Mary standing in the pose that reflects the beginning of the third apparition of Mary to St. Catherine. Thus, the Virgo Potens altar incorporates in stone images of all three Marian apparitions: two of the front mosaics depict the Madonna of the Chair and the Madonna of the Globe (the Virgo Potens). The statue of Our Lady of Grace surmounting the altar depicts the beginning of the third apparition.

It has been said that the McBride Brothers of Philadelphia, the builders of the Shrine, donated the dramatic statue of Mary in honor of their mother. The imported Italian Carrara marble from which this statue has been chiseled is of first quality marble, so rare and so expensive that seldom is it used for statuary.

A pamphlet celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal describes the statue as follows:

For tender beauty and maternal loveliness this statue is an unsurpassed masterpiece. Mary’s outstretched arms seem to be hungering for sinners – to console them, and for the sorrowing – to comfort them. Her downcast eyes of mercy seem to invite only confidence and love. She seems to dwell there in tranquil peace, just for the sake of her children, to solve their problems, to bind up their broken hearts, to send them on their way with new hope and new courage.

Small wonder that Mary’s children flock to her in our Shrine, not only every Monday on her Novena days, but also at other times of pilgrimage and prayer in our public chapel. Our Novena Prayer includes the Memorare. Originally composed by an unknown 15th century hymnist, this popular Marian prayer was a favorite of St. Francis de Sales, a contemporary of St. Vincent de Paul. It expresses our confidence this week in Mary’s intercession. Let us pray:

Remember, O most compassionate Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your assistance,
or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
we fly unto you,
O Virgin of Virgins, our Mother;
to you we come;
before you we kneel,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not our petitions,
but in your clemency hear and answer them.

Our reflection next week will focus on the beautiful tabernacle that rests on the Virgo Potens altar.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The Virgo Potens Altar



The Virgo Potens Altar in the Miraculous Medal Shrine
July 11, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Last week I introduced you to our new series entitled, “The Miraculous Medal Shrine Reflections.” As promised, we will be looking at specific religious images in our gorgeous Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, and eventually we will reflect on other images in the larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Today we take a close look at the altar in our Marian Shrine. It is made of Pavanazzo marble and named in honor of the “Virgo Potens,” one of the titles for Mary from the Litany of Loreto. More importantly, the title, translated as “Virgin Most Powerful,” reflects one of the Marian apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré.

Recall that Mary appeared to St. Catherine three times. The second appearance took place on November 27, 1830. Catherine, along with companion novices, was at evening prayer in their chapel at the Rue de Bac in Paris. Mary appeared above the sanctuary to the right. She was holding a globe in her hands. For that reason, this vision has come to be remembered as Our Lady of the Globe.

At that time, France was enduring great sufferings, as was the whole world of 1830. Catherine understood that the globe in Mary’s hands represented France in particular and the whole world in general. Mary promised to intercede for anyone who asked for her help. She stood on a much larger globe with her foot crushing the head of a serpent. The image portrays Mary as intercessor for the suffering of the world; she is the one victorious over Satan.

The first apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine also appears on the altar front, to the left of the dedicatory title mosaic. It recalls our Lady of the Chair. On the evening of July 18, 1830, Catherine spent some two hours in conversation with Mary. She knelt beside Mary seated in a chair. Her hands rested on Mary’s lap. Among other things, our Lady promised Catherine she would give her a mission. Eventually, we will reflect further on this mission to have a medal struck.

Replicas of this medal also appear in subtle silver mosaics on the Virgo Potens altarpiece to the left and right of a very striking statue of Our Lady of Grace. Our next reflection will comment further on this beautiful statue. For the present, we call upon Mary, Virgin most powerful, to intercede for us who have recourse to her.

Our prayer this week is taken from An Act of Consecration to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal which we offer as part of our Monday Novenas. We call upon Mary, the Virgo Potens, our most powerful Mother:

O most powerful Virgin, Mother of our Savior,
Keep us close to you every moment of our lives.
Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death;
so that, in union with you, we may enjoy the bliss of heaven forever.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage, and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

Monday, July 4, 2017
Introduction to a New Series



Introduction to a New Series
July 4, 2017

Welcome, everyone! My name is Fr. Frank Sacks, CM. I presently serve as one of the Associate Directors at the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal. Allow me to introduce you to our new series; it’s entitled Miraculous Medal Shrine Reflections (or the shorter version: Shrine Reflections). In the weeks ahead, we’ll share the beauty of our Miraculous Medal Shrine, as well as additional images in our larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated in 1875; originally it was built as a chapel for our Vincentian seminary established some years earlier on the same campus as the Chapel. The Bishop at the time asked our Vincentian Community to provide access for the public. Catholics who worshiped here eventually built their own basilica-sized Church nearby. To this day, our building here has retained the title “Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.”

Typical of all our Vincentian churches, there is a side chapel in the eastern transept, and it honors the Holy Agony. This side Chapel focuses here on Mary’s role in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Moving to the right, one sees the large sanctuary dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. The large paintings of the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception, and the Birth of Christ emphasize Mary’s place in God’s plan of Salvation.

Moving further right past the altar dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul, one sees the more recent Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. This gorgeous Shrine replaced the original Shrine of St. Vincent that was located in the western transept. The Miraculous Medal Chapel was dedicated in 1927, 12 years after the establishment of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.

It is this holy Shrine of Our Blessed Lady that remains the central focus for our devotion to our Lady. Every Monday, we celebrate eight Novena services at the Shrine, including Novena Prayers to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal with Mass, Benediction, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Throughout this Miraculous Medal Shrine and the larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, there are inspiring frescoes, mosaics, paintings, stained glass windows, marble statues and altars and many other religious artifacts. Most of these in some way give honor to Our Blessed Lady. In the weeks ahead I will be reflecting with you on these images.

Each week, we will examine one of the images. Each will lead to some spiritual reflection concluding with an appropriate prayer of the week. Devotees of the Shrine will be encouraged to email me their own thoughts and prayers. Please keep our Shrine Reflections in your prayers. Thank you for your interest and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.