In our Ordinariate Church of our Lady Assumpta and S Gregory in Warwick street, there is a statue of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. See below for an account of S John Henry's devotion to the MM. I do not believe in coincidences. I think that this devotion ought to be more vividly understood as part of the Ordinariate's patrimonial, God-given, devotional inheritance.
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 S John Henry 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 our great Saint first began to wear the Miraculous Medal.
Yes! The greatest intellect of the nineteenth century! Like the sort of simple peasant whom a snooty English protestant might despise, he wore a miraculous medal! Is there a sobering message here for our supercilious North European cultural pride? With his customary sweet irony, blessed Benedict XVI once observed that the devotion to our Lady's Immaculate Heart can be "surprising" "for people from the Anglo-Saxon and German cultural world"!
Should we each be a little more thorough in rooting out of our own minds the sordid dregs of Enlightenment superstitions?
I stand by my mixed metaphor!!
Now, please, we go 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: S John Henry 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 his friend St John in a room at Propaganda, with our Lady, as she appears on the Miraculous Medal, between the two of them.
In the 1962 Missal, in the Appendix pro aliquibus locis, November 27 is the feast of Our Lady Immaculate of the the Miraculous Medal. As Michael Hodges' splendid new edition of the Warwick Street History and Guide makes clear, the Immaculate Medal statue is not an innovation in Warwick Street: in the mid-1870s, a statue of this design was put into the Church, and when Bl Pius IX granted copious spiritual prvileges to the same Church, his Grant carefully mentioned "the Church dedicated to God in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary assumed into heaven, and the statue of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary which is placed in that church ... to the faithful who, being sorry for their sins, at least visit the church and statue aforesaid ... May 15 1877, the thirty first of our Pontificate."
Let us hope that this commemoration, already lawful as an option in the Extraordinary Form, will one day make its way into the Calendar and praxis of the Patrimony!