11 January 2024

The Miraculous medal, S John Henry Newman, and the Anglican Patrimony

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!


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:

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.

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.

Banshee said...

St. Therese's dad, St. Louis Martin, was very devoted to Our Lady of Victories and the Miraculous Medal, which was why he had a replica statue of Our Lady of Victories in his house. (Known as "Our Lady of the Smile" to devotees of St. Therese.)

Read a thing claiming that people needing to be convinced by a vision being received 2 or 3 times before being obeyed was just a folklore trope. Heh, these folks don't know human nature, which usually does need to be convinced by hearing things 2 or 3 times! (And of course, if it is in the local lore, then people are more likely to wait and see if it's repeated.)

Banshee said...

Forgot to say that of course, St. Therese spent a fair amount of time praying for England's conversion. And that our contemporary, Fr. Longenecker did get converted by St. Therese, and he's not the only one.

Sometimes the workings of the Communion of Saints are really beautiful.

Stan Metheny said...

I have the texts and chants of the Missal and some Office antiphons in one of my editions of the _Liber_. Does anyone know where I might find the full texts of the proper Office? It may be right in front of me and I'm not seeing it, but I don't find it in any breviaries on my bookshelves nor in any online searches. Pointers to print or online sources would be much appreciated.

motuproprio said...

I attribute my conversion to Cardinal Newman and St Therese of Lisieux.

Banshee said...

Just read the Cincinnati archdiocese's newspaper, about the anniversary of the dedication of Delhi Township's parish church, Our Lady of Victories.

Guess where their founding pastor went to church, back in France!

Paul Goings said...

The feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is kept at S. Clement's in Philadelphia, as Our Lady under that title is the Patroness of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Scribe said...

Dear Father, I have read these comments on Alphonse Ratisbonne with great interest. In 2013 I published my own translation of the earlier accounts of the conversion, together with introduction, copious notes and appendices. It was very well received, and may be ordered from Amazon or any bookshop. It is published under my real name:
Norman Russell. The Conversion of Monsieur Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne. Grosvenor House Publishing 2013. It is a very attractive and modestly priced volume.

(You may not want to post this, as it is a blatant advertisement! But I wanted you to know that a British (as opposed to US) translation exists.) I am myself a devotee of the Miraculous Medal.

Unknown said...


"I attribute my conversion to Cardinal Newman and St Therese of Lisieux."

Mine too!

wonastow said...

Maria Giberne's sister, Kate, was the mother of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Unknown said...

motoproprio and Unknown

"I attribute my conversion to Cardinal Newman and St Therese of Lisieux."

And mine too!

Marc in Eugene said...

Fascinating that Maria Giberne was maternal aunt of Gerard Manley Hopkins!

Such a delight, reading here: thank you, Father Hunwicke.

Todd said...

This is very interesting - didn't know Newman wore the medal! Yes Alphonse Ratisbonne's conversion is a powerful story (I have a little book on it). My learning of it was through the Association of Hebrew Catholics. When I was in Rome, I made special visit to S.Andrea Delle Fratte and said my prayers. This Church also has the two original Bernini Angels no longer on the bridge.

Stan Metheny said...

Besides the propers I mentioned in the previous comment, those provided in the _Liber Usualis_ USA supplement, the PAL Appendix to the _Antiphonale Romanum_ (1912) provides a few texts and chants for the Lauds and Vespers on pp. [220-221], though it relies on the Common of the BVM for the bulk of the Office. The proper lessons for Matins I've not yet been able to find. A couple of other sources have not yet replied, so I'll update if I can find more.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear me, on the two previous appearances of this excellent paper I have resisted the desire to write, as being somewhat off-subject. I can contain myself no longer.

Few people realise that the shrine of our Blessed Mother at the Ordinariate Church of the Assumption Warwick Street is the London shrine of Rue de Bac. The lovely statue, inculturated into its 1950’s English baroque aedicule, is a copy of the first statue of the Miraculous Medal. The shrine was reputedly set up in London at the request of the Holy Father Pio Nono, ca. 1870. I have not verified this. Fr R G Fuller is a bit sketchy in his History of the Church. The good Ordinariate Fathers should of course be making much more of this Shrine (they do need the support of the pious laity, dear things), and have a supply of Miraculous Medals, and a proper structure for Mass intentions at the shrine altar (where the dear PP Fr Elliott-Smith regularly celebrates the EF, we are blessed.) There has just been erected within this chapel a shrine, a bust reliquary, the first in England (and so much in the spirit of his Romanità), of Saint John Henry. It is so very appropriate that he should be here, at this Shrine, in this recusant church, at the altar of which he celebrated his first Mass on his return to Blighty as a Catholic priest. This one holy place, more than any other in the Realm, represents the correction, the undoing, of the evils of the Protestant Reformation.

May many people honour this twin shrine for the salvation of England and Our Holy Mother the Church within these sceptred Shores.

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

Saint John Henry, pray for the land which thou hast redeemed.

Pelerin said...

I love the story about the son of the 2nd Earl of Longford who accepted a Medal from his sister who told him not to wear it as he would end up Catholic. He poopooed the idea and placed it around his neck. He wore it to his dying day and not only did he become a Catholic but he later joined the Passionist Order where he led a most saintly life.
Regarding Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris it now has a new chapel dedicated to the saintly parents of St Therese.

scotchlil said...

From p.935 of 'The Vesperal', Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1924

Nov 27: In Lazarist and other Churches: Double of the 2nd class. All as on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, except:

At 1st Vespers:
V. Signum magnum apparuit in caelo. R. Mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus eius

Mag. Ant: Qui me invenerit, inveniat vitam, et hauriet salutem a Domino.


Domine Jesu Christe, qui beatissimam Virginem Mariam matrem tuam ab origine immaculatam innumeris miraculis clarescere voluisti; concede ut eiusdem patrocinium semper implorantes, gaudia consequamur aeterna. Qui vivis.

at 2nd Vespers: as 1st Vespers, except:

Mag Ant: Sancta Maria, succurre miseris, &tc

Fr John Hunwicke said...



Surely someome out there must have a Breviary post 1894, with the PAL and the Mattins readings?????

Marc in Eugene said...

At there are the Matins lessons etc, as they were appointed for the proprium of Paris, anyway.

Marc in Eugene said...

(It occurs to me that I may well have screwed up that link but I cannot check my doubting because of the moderation. It is [http://www.introibo.fr/L-Immaculee-Vierge-Marie-de-la].)

scotchlil said...

Father John - I will pose the question on the Facebook Breviary Discussion page - messers Di Pippo et al will surely be able to find the relevant material for you.

Paul said...

I posted this in a Facebook post, but I'll put it here too: https://archive.org/details/breviariumromanu04cath_0/page/348/mode/2up

This is taken from the 1906 Breviary.

Ansgerus said...

Die 27 Novembre.
Manifestationis Immac. Virg. Mariae a Sacro Numismate
Duplex Majus vel Dupl.II Cl.

Omnia ut in Offic. votivo Immac. Conceptionis B.M.V. praeter seq.

In I. Vesperis.

v.Signum magnum apparuit in coelo.
r. Mulier amicta sole et luna sub pedibus ejus.

Ad Magnif. Antif.

Qui me invenerit, inveniet vitam et hauriet salutem a Domino.

Oratio ut in Laud.

At Matutinum


Tutela praesens omnium,
Salveto Mater Numinis;
Intacta in Hevae filiis,
Tu foeda munda pectora.

Numisma quos ornat tuum,
Fove benigno lumine;
Virtus sit inter proelia
Aegisque in hostes praepotens.

Sit flentibus solatium,
Aegris levamen artubus,
In mortis hora, fuligidae
Aeternitatis sponsio.

Jesu, tuam qui finiens
Matrem dedisti servulis,
Precante Matre, filiis
Largire coeli gaudia. Amen.

Ansgerus said...

In I. Nocturno.

v. Qui me invenerit inveniet vitam.
r. Et hauriet salutem a Domino.

De Apocalypsi beati Joannis Apostoli.

Lectio j. Cap.12
Signum magnum apparuit in coelo…et mulier fugit in solitudinem, ubi habebat locum paratum a Deo, ut ibi pascant eam diebus mille ducentis sexaginta.
R. Per unum hominem peccatum…

Lectio ij.
Et factum est proelium magnum in coelo…sciens quod modicum tempus habet.
R Transite.

Lectio iij.
Et postquam vidit draco…Et stetit supra arenam maris.
R. Electa mea.

Ansgerus said...

In II. Nocturno.
v. Melior est fructus meus auro.
r. Et genimina mea argento electo.

Lectio iv.

Anno Christi millesimo octingentesimo trigesimo, quod legitima testantur monumenta, beatissima Dei Mater …
quod a Virgine respiciente plurima patrabantur mira seu corporis aerumnis levandis, seu animis e vitiorum coeno eruedis.
R. Ego ex ore.

Lectio v.
In his illud prae ceteris memoratu dignum, quod Alphonso Ratisbonne Romae contigit decimo tertio Kalendas Februarii…
sacro baptismate lustratus est.
R. Nihil.

Lectio vj.
Tantae igitur pientissimae Matris per sacrum Numisma … Manifestationis ejusdem beatae Virginis Officium et Missam celebrare concessit, idemque indultum ad singulos Episcopos ac Religiosorum familias petentes extendit.
R. Signum.

Ansgerus said...

In III. Nocturno.
v. Esto mihi in domum refugii.
r. Ut salvum me facias.

Lectio sancti Evangelii sec. Joannem.

Lectio vij. Cap. 2
In illo tempore: Nuptiae factae sunt in Cana Galilaeae: et erat Mater Jesu ibi. Vocatus est autem et Jesus, et discipuli ejus, ad nuptias.
Et reliqua.

Homilia sancti Bernarxi Abbatis
Dom. I. post Epiph. Serm. I.

Vinum non habent. Compass est Maria…ait ministris:Quaecumque praeceperit vobis, servate et facite.
r. Hortus.

Lectio viij. Ibid. Serm. 2
Quid mihi et tibi est mulier.
Quid tibi et illi est, Domine?
Nonne quod filio et matri?…
Cum, venientibus ad te juxta Matris praeceptum ministris, nihil cunctatus facias quod illa suggessit.
R. Magnificat

Lectio ix.
Serm. de duod. praerog.

Quid ergo ad Mariam accedere trepidet humana fragilitas?…
quae omnibus misericordiae sinum aperit, ut de penitudine ejus accipiant universi,captivus redemptionem, aeger curationem,peccator veniam, justus gratiam, ut non sit, qui abscondat a calore ejus.
Te Deum.

Ansgerus said...

Ad Laudes.
Hymn. O gloriosa virginum.
V. O Maria, sine labe originali concepta.
R. Intercede pro nobis, qui ad te confugimus.

Ad. Bened. Ant.
Posuit in ea verba signorum suorum et prodigiorum suorum in terra.


Domine Jesu Christe, qui beatissimam Virginem Mariam matrem tuam ab origine immaculatam innumeris miraculis clarescere voluisti: concede: ut ejusdem patrocinium semper implorantes, gaudia consequamur aeterna. Qui vivis.

In II. Vesperis
v. Signum magnum apparuit in coelo.
r. Mulier amicta sole et luna sub pedibus ejus.

Ad Magnif. Ant.

Sancta Maria succurre miseris, juva pusillanimes, refove flebiles, ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, itercede pro devoto femineo sexu:sentiant omnes tuum juvamen, quicumque celebrant tuum sanctum Patrocinium.

Oratio ut supra.

Ansgerus said...

The texts of the 2. Nocturn can be found together with further related texts and documents from page 420 onwards in https://archive.org/stream/americanecclesia12cathuoft/americanecclesia12cathuoft_djvu.txt

Ray Kinsella said...

Really got such a lot of comfort from this post...I've been to the Rue de Bac. Humility is the defining mark if devotion to Our Blessed Lady.

Zephyrinus said...

Thank You, Reverend Fr. Hunwicke, for this splendid Post.

Manifestationis Immaculatæ Virg. Mariæ a Sacro Numismate.
Della Medaglia Miracolosa.
Duplex majus.

Further to the excellent Information, Quotes, Readings, Text, etc, from Ansgerus (see, above), I confirm the same (verbatim) from my 1901 Breviarium Romanum, Ratisbonæ, Romæ et Neo Eboraci.

Albert Ryle Kezel said...

Beware! There are 2 Maria Gibernes. One, Newman's friend, an artist and later a nun.
The other was her sister-in-law,
the maternal aunt of Fr Hopkins.
The statue of OUR LADY OF THE SMILE is a copy of a silver statue by Edme Bouchardon, that stood in St Sulpice in Paris.
It disappeared in the Revolution, and has never been seen since.

Fr PJM said...

Our Lady promises "great graces" to all who wear the Miraculous Medal, and that such graces will "abound" for those who wear it with "confidence". Therefore even unbelievers, without any confidence at all, like Ratisbonne was, will receive these graces.
And this shows that the Saviour reaches out to us *first*, while we are yet dead in our sins and even unbelief.

Fr PJM said...

It was a copy of that statue that our Lady used in the cure of St Thérèse.

Atticus said...

Countless dates! One must be somewhat choosy -
Which to note, which to keep, which to lose, eh?
But it’s cause for éclat
When one’s birthday is that
Of the blest Edward Bouvery Pusey.

Stan Metheny said...

A belated thanks to Paul for the tip on finding the Matins lessons in the 1906 BR. I have that pdf but did not think to look there.