Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure on November 27, 1830. This visit became the inspiration for the creation of the Miraculous Medal.
Rays of light flowed from rings on her fingers that were made of precious stones. But, it was noted, some of the stones on the ring did not shine. Mary explained:
"These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask."
Around Mary were the words:
"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee"
Mary went on to say this about the medals:
"All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence."
The medal is simply a visible sign of the inner devotion the wearer has for Mary and her Son, Jesus.
The Front Side - On the front of the Medal, Mary stands on a globe, representing earth, with a crushed snake below her feet. This image represents Mary's role as "Queen of Heaven and Earth" and how Satan, depicted as a snake, was defeated by Mary's obedience to God. The rays extending from her hands symbolize the graces Mary gives to those who ask her. The year 1830 commemorates the year that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure.
The Reverse Side - On the reverse side is the letter "M" with a cross above. The cross represents Christ's great sacrifice while the bar below the cross represents the Earth. The "M" stands for "Mary" and her unfailing devotion both to Jesus and to her children here on Earth. Below are two hearts. One is the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The whole image is surrounded by twelve stars. The stars can represent both Jesus' twelve Apostles and the verse from the Book of Revelation (12:1), "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"
* Sources: Information and pictures from St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal and the website of The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, France.