8 December 2015

The Miraculous medal and the Anglican Patrimony

I wrote this in 2010; I reprint it, since an admirable comment on my Brief Lesson For Germans post refers to the Alphonse Ratisbonne in my third paragraph ... and makes a thought-provoking point.

 On Saturday 27 November 1830, a young French nun, (S) Catherine Laboure, beheld her second and third visions of the Mother of God in the Sanctuary of her Convent Chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris. Our Lady appeared to her, radiant, standing on a globe, and with her arms stretched out in a compassionate gesture. From her fingers rays of light fell upon the globe at her feet. An oval frame then formed around her with gold lettering that read: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Our Lady promised great graces to those who wore this design with confidence; she showed the Saint the design which now appears on the back of the Miraculous Medal: a large M surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts beneath it, one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword, all encircled by twelve stars. .

In 1836, Abbe Desgenettes, who had taken over the Church of Our Lady of Victories (a church degraded and desecrated during the Revolution and with a minute congregation), dedicated his parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and founded a Confraternity of Prayer, which had the Miraculous Medal as its badge. In the days before Newman's conversion, intense prayer was offered for him in this Church by the members of that very same Fraternity. Back in Blighty, it was on the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1845 ( a very patrimonial day: it was also the birthday of blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey) that Blessed John Henry Newman first began to wear the Miraculous Medal.

Now back two or three years, to January 20, 1842. On this day, a wealthy Jewish banker called Alphonse Ratisbonne had, in the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, a vision of our Lady just as she appeared on the Miraculous Medal. Shunt forward ... please ... to 1847: Newman and St John (who, after their reception, had visited the shrine in Notre Dame des Victoires in thanksgiving for the prayers offered for him there) found themselves now awaiting admission to the presbyterate of the Latin Church, lodged in the Collegio di Propaganda in Rome. Newman makes clear in a number of letters that their windows looked down on the Church of S Andrea delle Fratte; it clearly made some considerable impression upon him. On June 9 1847, his long-time intimate woman friend, Maria Giberne, painted a picture of Newman and St John in a room at Propaganda, with our Lady, as she appears on the Miraculous Medal , between the two of them.

In the Old Missal, in the Appendix pro aliquibus locis, November 27, is the feast of Our Lady Immaculate of the the Miraculous Medal. Let us hope that this commemoration will make its way into the Calendar of the Patrimony!

 I reprint this with some of the original comments as a tribute to the very high quality of the comments which the learned have added to my poor initiatives. It's the main reason I write a blog ... to cast abroad speculations and to see what comes back.

7 comments:

Joshua said...

I note the curious Secret of the Mass of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (strictly speaking, of Blessed Mary the Virgin Immaculate of the Sacred Medal):

Beata virgine Maria intercedente, cujus precibus exoratus Jesus Christus Filius tuus fecit initium signorum: da nobis, Domine Deus, sacramentum corporis et sanguinis ejusdem Filii tui pura mente conficere; ut æterni convivii mereamur esse participes. Per eumdem...

This is noteworthy for several reasons.

Firstly, it refers to the Gospel of the feast (St John 2, 1-11), in a manner rather unusual for Roman prayers, but quite common in Neo-Gallican compositions (as in the 1738 Paris Missal), altho' by the time of the apparitions in the Rue du Bac, their subsequent approbation, and the preparation of this proper, the Neo-Gallican missals were on their last legs, being phased out and replaced by the Roman Rite as Guéranger urged so ferociously. (I don't have to hand the date when the Paris Missal was given up; I do recall that the last of the Neo-Gallican Missals and Breviaries were only abandoned in the late nineteenth century, in Orleans as I recall.)

Secondly, it contains a petition that the Lord God may "grant us.. with pure mind to confect the sacrament of the body an blood of the same thy Son" - the use of the verb conficere, to confect (as it was done into English), to describe the priest effecting the transsubstantiation at Mass, is I suspect a very late way of saying what would have been said, in the first millennium, somewhat in terms of the illapse of the Holy Ghost upon the elements. In other words, where we might expect a more epicletic prayer*, one for celebrating the Holy Mysteries worthily (pura mente) is found - does this not turn the focus from the objective to the subjective?

*Then again, only one Secret in the Roman Missal (that for the King; there is a cousin to it, for an ordinary Sunday, in the Sarum) calls directly for the oblations to be made the Body and Blood; most instead offer up the Sacrifice in some manner.

Thirdly, it does have what moderns would approve as a fine eschatological focus, looking beyond the sacraments of this world to the eternal realities of which they offer us a foretaste: "when sacraments shall cease" as the hymn has it, the Secret ends with the phrase "may we deserve to be partakers of the eternal feast".

Don't mistake these comments for criticisms! This Secret could well be adopted, mayhap, by a devout priestly client of Our Lady, as his addition to the Ego volo celebrare missam, the Formula of Intention before Mass.

It is an interesting Secret.

Joshua said...

I find that Leo XIII approved the Mass and Office of this feast in 1894, so I don't know how much surviving Neo-Gallican liturgical influence was still around...

Woody said...

Notre Dame des Victoires was really quite the spiritual powerhouse of Paris for much of the XIX Century. Abbe Desgenettes had consecrated the moribund parish to Our Lady only after She had appeared to him on 3 December (St Francis Xavier) twice asking for it. The story goes that he announced the upcoming afternoon consecration to a congregation of about 12 or so, at Sunday Mass, and was astounded to be confronted with a full church in the afternoon for the event. Even so, things went along rather coldly until, in desperation, he began to recite the Litany of Loreto; when he reached "Refuge of Sinners...pray for us" the hitherto unresponsive congregation responded with an outpouring of emotion that was evidently very remarkable. Thus the confraternity is that of Our Lady, Conceived without Sin, Refuge of Sinners. I am happy to report that I am a member.

Not only were Bl. J.H. Newman and the Ratisbon brothers clients, but also, of course, Saint Therese of Lisieux (to whom a chapel is dedicated there now), and one of St. Therese's spiritual brothers, one might say, Saint Theophane Venard, martyr of Viet Nam; I believe it is true that like him, all of the missionaries from the Foreign Missions Seminary in Paris at the time joined the confraternity. Finally, Abbe Desgenettes played a key role in guiding Ven. Francis Lieberman in the foundation of his spiritual institute, which eventually became the rejuvenating force for the Holy Ghost Fathers of such great fame and many holy members (for the soul of at least one of which I pray daily).

Woody said...

As usual, my ever-aging memory got the name of Archconfraternity somewhat wrong (it is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners). Instead of my second hand remarks, though, go to the source at:
http://www.notredamedesvictoires.com/home_anglais.htm

not upgraded said...

Genesis 12:3 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I certainly have no right to demand that God bless those who bless his children, and curse those who curse his children, and to ask God to bless all who are blessed as the descendants of my Lord's forefathers. For what it is worth, I would prefer that those who curse just straighten up, and repent, and that those who bless continue to be happy. Every verse of the Bible is a gift, I guess.

Paul Goings said...

You will be pleased to learn that the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is kept at the Anglican (Episcopalian) church of S. Clement in Philadelphia (with a commemoration of the day within the Octave of S. Clement). Patrimony...

Diane said...

Rene Laurentin wrote a beautiful monograph on the miraculous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. Moving and rich in detail. I need to re-read it one of these days. Alphonse Ratisbonne, pray for us.