Catholics through the world proudly wear medals around their necks. Some for protection, others to demonstrate their faith and to honor the Virgin Mary or their favorite Saint. Regardless of our motives, it is worth to get familiar with the history and symbolism of this medals. Perhaps there are faithfuls among us who would like to wear a medal but don’t know which one to choose. “Holy Medal for a Catholic” is a simple guide to Catholic Medals, which I hope will help some of you make up your mind.
Holy Medal for a Catholic
1. Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal (also known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception) must have topped this list as its origin is purely divine. It was
created on the basis of the revelations that took place in Paris in the nineteenth century. Mother of God designed this medal herself and commissioned it to be made by a young nun from the Community of the Daughters of Charity, Catherine Laboure.
In the apparition, Catherine saw the Virgin Mary standing on the globe, under Her foot is a serpent, which she crushes with the heel (Gen 3:15). Arms of Mary are outstretched to the sides, and miraculous rays of light emanating from her fingers. These rays, as explained by Mary, are to symbolize the graces that she pours out on all who ask for it. The figure of the Virgin is surrounded by an inscription:
“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to You”
There is another, longer version of this prayer, written by St Maximilian Kolbe. Everyone who wears Miraculous Medal should recite it daily:
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to You, and for all who do not have recourse to You, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to You”
The vision also reveals how the reverse of the medal should look like. It is surrounded by twelve stars, which resemble visions of Saint John: “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars” (Rev. 12: 1).
In the middle of the medal is a large letter M, at the top of which is a cross. The letter M stands for Mary, and the cross is a symbol of redemption. They are connected to each other just as Jesus is eternally connected to his mother. She is a co-redemptrix. Her role as the Mother of the Church is also emphasized here.
At the bottom of the medal are two hearts from which flames emanate. One of these hearts is surrounded by thorns and the other is pierced by a sword. The heart surrounded by thorns, of symbolizes Jesus, and one pierced by a sword represents the Virgin Mother. Together the hearts are a sign of Their love for us.
The promises of the Mother of God for those who wear this medal are encouraging. God’s mother promises great graces, especially for those who will wear it around their neck. These graces concern not only the soul, but also the body. There are known numerous cases of healing from all kinds of diseases, as well as material help for the needy. Virgin Mary promised to help all who turn to her with faith…
At the end of the apparition, Virgin Mary said:
“Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person.”
Medal of St Benedict is worn by many Catholics and contains images of his life that convey a message of trust in God’s power and in His ability to overcome evil. There are 36 words inscribed or represented by abbreviation on the medal.
Medal of St Benedict (and any other medal, for fact), when worn consciously and with faith, becomes our silent and incessant prayer.
The front of the medal shows Saint Benedict, in his right hand he holds a cross as a symbol of salvation, and in his left hand something that resembles a book, which is a rule for monasteries written by himself. On the right side of Saint Benedict stands a pedestal with a poisoned chalice, which broke when Benedict made the sign of the cross over it. On a pedestal to the left is a raven which carried away the loaf of poisoned bread that a jealous enemy sent to St Benedict.
The medal is surrounded by inscriptions:
1. Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti
(Cross of the Holy Father Benedict)
Inscribed in the circle surrounding Benedict are the words:
2. Ejus in obitu nro praesentia muniamur
(May his presence protect us in the hour of death)
The back of the medal is made up of inscriptions only:
The four large letters at the angles of the Cross: C S P B stand for:
1. Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti
(The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict)
The vertical beam of the Cross has five letters: C.S.S.M.L.
2. Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux
(May the Holy Cross be my light)
The horizontal beam of the Cross has five letters: N.D.S.M.D.
3. Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux
(Let not the dragon be my guide)
Around the right margin are letters: V.R.S.N.S.M.V.
4. Vade retro Satana, nunquam suade mihi vana
(Begone Satan! Suggest not to me thy vanities)
Around the left margin are letters: S.M.Q.L.I.V.B.
5. Sunt mala quae libas; ipse venena bibas
(The drink you offer is evil, drink that poison yourself)
At the top of the medal is the word:
Benedictines have always regarded St Benedict as a special patron of a happy death. He is also the patron saint of monks, against poison, agricultural workers, civil engineers, the dying, those afflicted with fever, those with gall stones, inflammatory diseases, those with kidney disease, members of religious orders and schoolchildren. He is also the patron saint of Europe.
3. St Christopher Medal
St Christopher medal is among the most common devotions among Catholics. It is believed that Saint Christopher medal protects its wearer from death during the travels and brings blessing. Many people wear this medal on the necks and wrists for this very reason. It is not unusual to hang it in the car.
The medal itself features the image of a tall and formidable man crossing dangerous river. He holds a long staff in his hands, while child-Jesus seats on his shoulder. To fully understand why this image was chosen to be engraved on St Christopher’s medal you need to get familiar with his life story.
The most common inscription on the medal in English says: ” Saint Christopher Protect Us” or ” Saint Christopher Pray for Us” while In French ” Regarde St Christophe et va-t-en rassure”, which translates to “ Look at St Christopher and go on reassured”. Spanish equivalent translates into ” If you trust St Christopher, you won’t die in an accident”.
St Christopher is a well-known patron of travelers and everyone on the move, motorists, children, surfers, mariners, gardeners and athletes. The list goes on as he is also known as a protector against toothaches, hailstorms, sudden death and plaque.
Saint Joseph is a key figure in Christianity and is known as the earthly father of Jesus Christ and the husband of Jesus’s mother-Virgin Mary, therefore he is considered the greatest saint, right after God’s Mother.
St Joseph medal protects its wearers, as he protected and cared for Jesus and Mary. It features an engraved picture of St. Joseph with Baby Jesus. It is inscribed with the Latin phrase: “Sancte Joseph ora pro nobis” which translates to “Saint Joseph pray for us”.
Saint Joseph, in addition to the little Jesus, holds lily in his left hand, as a symbol of purity and righteousness.
St Joseph is the patron saint of all fathers because he was the best dad for a Son of God. He is the patron of young, pregnant women, and adoptive parents, because he was the best protector of his young, pregnant wife and also the adoptive dad for Jesus. He protected his family from all evil, that is why he is also called the terror of demons. When Catholics pray to St. Joseph, they often ask for guidance, protection, and fatherly care.
5. Four Way Cross Medal
This medal is a very interesting option, because it is a combination of four different medals placed on the cross-shaped medallion( sometimes on the diamond or rounded shape). If you have a problem with choosing one medal or if you want to be protected at the same time by Jesus, the Mother of God, Saint Joseph and Saint Christopher, there is nothing better for you.
1. The first medal, usually placed on the top, is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this image we see Jesus pointing his hand at his heart, surrounded by a crown of thorns. The symbolism of this image indicates the great sacrifice that Jesus suffered for us, as well as his endless love for us.
2. At the bottom is a Miraculous Medal depicting Virgin Mary. I have already described its symbolism and meaning above, so I am sending those interested there.
3. On the right side there is a medal of Saint Christopher, which has also been described above.
4. The left side shows the medal of Saint Joseph holding a little Jesus. It’s description is also above.
Often in the middle of the four way cross medal is a dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit as well as baptism.
What is interesting, there is often an inscription on the back of the medal informing you that you are a Catholic and in the event of an accident you ask to call a priest.
On the top there is an image of Our Lady of Mounth Carmel. If you combine this image with the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the front of the medal, we receive the Brown Scapular Medal.
At the bottom we can see a reverse of a Miraculous Medal, which consists of a capital letter M, a cross, the hearts of Jesus and Mary as well as twelve stars (described in detail above).
Michael is known as God’s “Archangel” which means chief angel. His name means “Who is like God?”
While this medal can be worn by anyone who seeks protection, it is typically known as the medal for those in law enforcement.
The Archangel Michael is most often depicted as he is standing on the dragon (Satan), with a sword in his hand. He usually holds weight in the other hand, which is a symbol of weighing, judging souls on the last day, when we will be held accountable for our lives. The sword symbolizes protection and the victorious fight against Satan.
St. Michael is dressed in an armor as a sign of courage and strength, sometimes he is equipped with a shield on which may be a cross, the image of Jesus, and the inscription “Who is like God”. Saint Michael is an angel, therefore he is depicted with wings.
In Roman Catholic teachings, Saint Michael has four main roles:
1. His is the leader of the Army of God and the leader of heaven’s forces in their triumph over the powers of hell.
2. Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing.
3. He weighs souls in his perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, Michael is often depicted holding scales.
4. Saint Michael, the special patron of the Chosen people in the Old Testament, is also the guardian of the Church.
Many Catholics I know wear crosses around their necks, but only a few of them choose to wear a crucifix. What is the difference between them? Simply the fact that on the crucifix Jesus is visible on the cross with all his suffering. Thanks to this image, we remember what really happened on Golgotha over 2,000 years ago. Christ died for all of us on the Cross in unimaginable torments, for our salvation. It happened thanks to His endless love for us.
By wearing Crucifix on a daily basis, we show our faith to the majority of the unbelieving world. We are like his disciples, sent out into the world to bear witness to the faith.
8. Scapular Medal
In 1910, Pope St. Pius X introduced a scapular medal which may be substituted in most cases for any of the various scapulars. Valid enrollment in the scapulars must, however, be made before the substitution.
The conclusion is that the scapular medal is a replacement for the traditional material scapular and wearing it carries the same promises as the original scapular.
The Brown Scapular took it’s origin from the revelation to St Simon Stock in 1251.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel said,“This will be the sign of the privilege that I have obtained for thee and for the children of Carmel; whoever dies clothed with this habit will be preserved from the eternal flames.”
The condition for the substitution is that the medal has an image of Jesus Christ, showing His Sacred Heart surrounded by thorns, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other side.
Promises for the wearers of the Scapular:
- It is a safeguard and pledge of special protection in dangers of soul and body
- It is a sign of salvation, which means that a person wearing this scapular at the moment of death would be saved and would not go to hell.
- Sabatine privilege of release from Purgatory on first Saturday after our death
- We acquire the right to a participation in all the good works, penances and merits of the members of the Carmelite Order.
As symbols of faith and devotion, patron saint medals are used to help the faithful connect to the saints and share a common faith in God. Express your trust in the saints divine intervention through wearing a medal with his image. Saints in heaven are waiting for our prayer, always ready to help…