St. Teresa of Calcutta and Her Medal of CharityLaurence Tiblis
St. Teresa of Calcutta and Her Medal of Charity
Her white and blue-striped sari is iconic. Her wrinkled face and smile, etched into the fabric of our Catholic identity. Everywhere she went, the tiny St. Teresa of Calcutta carried handfuls of Miraculous Medals to give away. Whether at the bedside of the ill, taking care of the poor, or in her travels, she would put a Medal in the hand of everyone she encountered and, in her quiet voice, tell them that whenever they were in need of the Blessed Mother’s help, they should kiss the Medal and say, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a mother to me now.”
Often calling it a “medal of charity,” St. Teresa used it as a “simple tool.” It was a common sight to watch her take a fistful of Miraculous Medals, kiss them, and then hand them out to the poor. Queues of people would patiently wait outside her convent in anticipation of her pressing a Miraculous Medal into their hands.
Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who founded the Knights of the Immaculata after learning about “a great miracle that was worked through the Miraculous Medal,” St. Teresa believed in the power of the Medal and championed its mass distribution. She also inherited this Kolbean insight that the Medal was an effective tool for evangelization, as depicted by the symbolism of the front and back.
Our Blessed Mother promised great graces to people who would wear it with confidence, and immediately after the first Medals were distributed throughout Paris, people started receiving Heavenly assistance. Since that time, millions of people around the world have been healed, helped, and transformed through the Miraculous Medal.
The Medal shows Mary standing on a globe with her arms outstretched. Rays of grace emanate from her hands, symbolizing the graces God gives through her to anyone who asks. Mary’s foot crushes the head of a serpent to show that Satan and his followers are helpless before her (Genesis 3:15—”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”)
The back of the Medal depicts the cross of Jesus Christ, the bottom of which intersects the letter M, reminiscent of Mary standing at the foot of the cross and depicting her close relationship to the suffering, passion, and death of her Son. The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are below the cross, showing that their hearts are aflame with love for us. Surrounding the image are 12 stars symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. The stars also recall the vision of St. John as written in 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.”
In June 1997, what was to be her last visit to New York, St. Teresa cradled a full basket of the Medals on her lap as she sat in a wheelchair, frail and sickly. Her sisters kept refilling the basket as sizable quantities were distributed to the large gathering who swarmed to get a fleeting glimpse of this saintly woman. Noteworthy was the reverence with which she handled these religious sacramentals, and the earnestness with which she suggested they be used as tools for spreading the Gospel message of love.
St. Teresa knew that the Miraculous Medal has the power to transform hearts and lives; so do we. Frequently, people tell us about the great graces they’ve received through our Blessed Mother and her Miraculous Medal. Visit our website to read some of them.