Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jesuit Father, "How The Miraculous Medal Changed My Life"

One of the most memorable experiences that I ever had was with the Miraculous Medal! It changed my life. In the fall of 1948, the year after my ordination, I was in what we call the Tertianship. This is a third year of Novitiate before taking final vows. In October of that year, a Vincentian priest came to speak to us young Jesuit priests. He encouraged us to obtain faculties, as they are called, to enroll people in the Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal. Among other things, he said, "Fathers, the Miraculous Medal works. Miracles have been performed by Our Lady through the Miraculous Medal." I was not impressed by what the Vincentian priest was telling. I was not the medal-wearing kind of person and I certainly did not have a Miraculous Medal. But I thought to myself, "It does not cost anything." So I put my name down to get a four page leaflet from the Vincentians, with the then-Latin formula for blessing Miraculous Medals and enrolling people in the Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal. About two weeks later, I got the leaflet for blessing and enrollment, put it into my office book and forgot about it.

In February of the next year, I was sent to assist the chaplain of St. Alexis Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. I was to be there helping the regular chaplain for two weeks. Each morning I received a list of all the patients admitted into the hospital that day. There were so many Catholics admitted that I could not visit them all as soon as they came. Among the patients admitted was a boy about nine years old. He had been sled-riding downhill, lost control of the sled and ran into a tree head-on. He fractured his skull and X-rays showed he had suffered severe brain damage. When I finally got to visit his room at the hospital, he had been in a coma for ten days, no speech, no voluntary movements of the body. His condition was such that the only question was whether he would live. There was no question of recovering from what was diagnosed as permanent and inoperable brain damage. After blessing the boy and consoling his parents, I was about to leave his hospital room. But then a thought came to me. "That Vincentian priest. He said, 'The Miraculous Medal works.' Now this will be a test of its alleged miraculous powers!"

I didn't have a Miraculous Medal of my own. And everyone I asked at the hospital also did not have one. But I persisted, and finally one of the nursing sisters on night duty found a Miraculous Medal. What I found out was that you don't just bless the medal, you have to put it around a person's neck on a chain or ribbon. So the sister-nurse found a blue ribbon for the medal, which made me feel silly. What was I doing with medals and blue ribbons? However, I blessed the medal and had the father hold the leaflet for investing a person in the Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal. I proceeded to recite the words of investiture. No sooner did I finish the prayer of enrolling the boy in the Confraternity than he opened his eyes for the first time in two weeks. He saw his mother and said, "Ma, I want some ice cream." He had been given only intravenous feeding.

This Experience Changed My Life
Then he proceeded to talk to his father and mother. After a few minutes of stunned silence, a doctor was called. The doctor examined the boy and told the parents they could give him something to eat. The next day began a series of tests on the boy's condition. X-rays showed the brain damage was gone. Then still more tests. After three days, when all examinations showed there was complete restoration to health, the boy was released from the hospital. This experience so changed my life that I have not been the same since. My faith in God, faith in His power to work miracles, was strengthened beyond description.

Since then, of course, I have been promoting devotion to Our Lady and the use of the Miraculous Medal. The wonders she performs, provided we believe, are extraordinary. In teaching theology over the years, I have many semesters taught the theology of miracles. And I have an unpublished book manuscript on "The History and Theology of Miracles." My hope is to publish the manuscript in the near future.

 Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.


TonyD said...

So Fr. Hardon went from being skeptical of miracles associated with seemingly arbitrary objects to someone who could believe that such things are possible.

That is a good change for a priest. Really, it might be an essential perspective change depending on how he would be used by God in his priestly role.

For some, our roles in this existence are predefined. Sometimes, miraculous help is required in order to help us fulfill our obligations. Does that make someone a Saint? God was forced to help Fr. Hardon become more accepting of other people's perspectives. That is something that some people can do by nature -- no miracle required.

We define Saints and Doctors of the Church with an almost complete blindness about what God is really doing. Miracles happen for many reasons. At this point, I associate most miracles with failures and inadequacies. Real Saints are rare in this existence. And just as God is transcendent, a real Saint reflects that transcendence. I hope that we don't continue to confuse intellect with transcendence.

Maria said...

The wonders she performs, PROVIDED WE BELIEVE, are extraordinary.

Tony: It was his FAITH that set the miracle in action;)

Maria said...

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal France

Anonymous said...

TonyD, I don't think that God was forced to help Fr. Hardon. I don't think that people can become more accepting of other people's perspectives without the help of divine grace. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Miracles or reception of divine grace can also occur in the heart without a visible proof.

Miracles are part of the restoration process, according to
God's Mercy. So yes, some injustice had to had occurred first. But in the end, God loves us. He doesn't just have the need to 'use people'. He loves His Children!

Anonymous said...

Do you care to know the unvarnished truth about Fr. Hardon? If you keep citing his life story, writings, and promoting his sainthood cause then you must be confronted w/his serious failing(s) as well, e.g., advocating for the harboring of a sexual predator.

TonyD said...

Anonymous 3:09am,

I think that we are mostly in agreement. Though I would suggest that God can effectively be forced to help someone like Fr. Hardon. God may be "forced" based on God's values or God's prior commitments. In the case of Fr. Hardon, prior commitments can be made which involve complex lessons for many people. So the commitments are not typically just with Fr. Hardon, but with many others in conjunction with Fr. Hardon. Such planning would not be "thrown out" without good reason.

Perhaps one might describe this as "using" people. But that definition would be too limiting. People can and do routinely play a role in lessons here. This might also be descibed as "service".

We might move closer to disagreeing about "love". Love coexists with judgment. That judgment might require what we would describe as cruely, punishment, unfairness, or service. So, while God's love is very real, it is also emphasized to us for pragmatic reasons. Those who don't love sufficiently need a role model which is capable of love. We shouldn't let that pragmatic emphasis blind us to other values which coexist with love.