Bishop O’Connell’s Miraculous Medal Homily
At the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, the celebrant of the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was to be Eastern Province Vincentian, David O’Connell, CM, Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. However, Bishop O’Connell was unable to attend, but he was kind enough to send the homily he had prepared for the Feast to be read at Mass. Here is Bishop O’Connell’s homily for the 2020 Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of leading a pilgrimage for the Diocese of Trenton to France. One of the places we visited was the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal on Rue du Bac in Paris. I had been there a few times before, but never as the celebrant of Mass. I was overcome with emotion as I stood near the very spot where Our Blessed Mother appeared three times to the young novice, Sr. Catherine Labouré, in 1830. To think of what happened there moved me deeply. It moves me still.
That I was their bishop was important to the pilgrims of my Diocese. That I was a Vincentian was important to me. So much of the Chapel, originally built fifteen years before the apparitions to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beautifully reflects the traditions and legacy of the Vincentian community and the Daughters of Charity. The actual heart of St. Vincent de Paul is preserved there. The body of his collaborator St. Louise de Marillac is preserved there. The body of the Daughter of Charity St. Catherine Labouré is preserved there. And the presence of Our Blessed Mother can be felt everywhere. It was here, on the eve of St. Vincent’s July feast day 190 years ago, that the Mother of God, pointing to the tabernacle where the Lord Jesus dwelt, beckoned young Sr. Catherine Labouré, “Come to the foot of the altar.”
Although very much a part of Catholic spirituality, our devotion to the Virgin Mary is not now nor has it ever been an end in itself. We pray to her as a loving Mother and intercessor to bring our needs, our joys, and our sorrows, our whole lives to the heart of her Divine Son. Even the Novena prayers make that clear: “never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your assistance or sought your intercession was left unaided.” For all of us who gather each Monday at this beloved Shrine, “penetrated with the most lively confidence in her all-powerful and never failing intercession,” the Miraculous Medal is a constant reminder of Our Lady’s motherly care. “Ever while wearing it, may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son.” The Medal, in its purpose and very design, leads us to the Lord.
In today’s Gospel from St. John, we hear once again the familiar story of the “Wedding Feast of Cana.” When the hosts run out of wine, what do they do? They turn to Mary. And what does she do? Mary turns to Jesus and tells them, “Do whatever he tells you.”
For 190 years, countless devoted women and men have turned in their need to Mary, Queen of the Miraculous Medal, with prayers and petitions. For 190 years, she has invited them, as she did St. Catherine Labouré, to “come to the foot of the altar.” There, before the presence of Christ her Son and our Lord, for 190 years the Blessed Mother has given her Miraculous Medal to those who turned to her and told them then what she tells us now: “Do whatever he tells you.”