Gift of Grace: Loving the Lady of Miracles

Date Posted: May 29, 2019 at 01:34 PM

A bulky man walked around the dimly lighted room and, jolly as he can be, gathered everyone and talked about how he met the woman who was his first love. Like when he first got to know her, his eyes start to glow every time he sees her images; every time he tells stories of her. It was as if he grows fonder as he utters each word about the same woman.

Although all he had were her images – forms that resemble her being – he had remained faithful as if he made a personal pact with her. He was hers; he remained hers.

He loved a lady who was born without original sin; who bore a child with the Holy Spirit; who the King of Kings called ‘mother.’

“My devotion to Mama Mary was to Mama Mary in general, no particular title,” his voice echoed around the gallery as he began explaining how he got to know the love of his life.

With much fervor, he shared how his first love led to a far greater one, “When I entered the seminary of the Vincentians where Mama Mary is the Miraculous Medal, then I focused on the Miraculous Medal. As a seminarian, pag may mga umuwing pari, madre, laging may dalang medalya. Sabi ko iba-iba pala ang design ng Miraculous Medal. So I gathered all those and then I searched for some more medals.”

Fr. Rolando F. Limjoco, C.M., also known as Fr. Choy, has been on the fourth year of his priestly life and has gone on a journey of collecting images of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

He believed and it was.

La Milagrosa

Fr. Choy shared his devotion as his collection of Miraculous Medals and other materials related to the Lady’s image was featured in an exhibit titled La Milagrosa, which began August 15 until September 8 last year – a nod to the Lady’s day of Nativity.   

Fr. Choy’s collection of different Miraculous Medals dangled from a capiz window, his cross-shaped ones hung on an aperture with the same shape.

Images of the Lady also adorned the Adamson University Art Gallery as if she was watching over every onlooker from all over the venue; intently looking with a motherly stare, just like how she was when she appeared in Lourdes to Saint Bernadette Soubirous.

As he walks around, Fr. Choy clarified that Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was actually the Immaculate Conception, and that the title ‘Miraculous Medal’ was only given in honor of the miracles it caused.  

“The proper name of the medal is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but because of the miracles attributed to it by the people who receive the medal, people started to call it miraculous medal. So, the Miraculous Medal and the Immaculate Conception are just one and the same,” he said.

Church history says that the Miraculous Medal was a product of the visions by Catherine Labouré, then a novice from the congregation of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France. She eventually became a Saint of the Catholic faith.

She claimed to have a vision of the Blessed Mother giving her a specific responsibility to the world, a mission in which she will deliver through St. Catherine. She saw an image of the Blessed Mother, an image which the Blessed Mother herself asked her to be casted on a medal.

The image engraved on one side is the Blessed Mother standing on a globe with light shining from her outstretched arms. A serpent can also be seen beneath her feet. This image was framed by the words “O Mary, Conceived Without Sin, Pray For Us Who Have Recourse To Thee.” Its back revealed a letter M with a bar and a cross, and below it were the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, crowned with thorns and pierced by a sword.

This medal the faithful called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, an allusion to the image engraved on it, is said to have cured ailments of the body such as insanity, tuberculosis, epilepsy, paralysis and fractures. News of this feat spread around the world like wildfire.

Fe por la Medalla

As the crowd goes around the gallery, Fr. Choy enthusiastically recalls how he got each image, remembering how the Lady has graced him of chances to get hold of each. With a wide smile, he faces his company and shares his experiences while pointing at or touching each image.

“Behind you are old prints of La Milagrosa, the Miraculous medal. This one is from our seminary in Tandang Sora. This is from an antique shop; this one, nakuha ko po ito sa crypt ng parish namin sa Cebu – San Roque Parish nung naglinis ako ng crypt, I found this frame. Hindi ko na makita kung sinong nakalagay, very dirty tapos punit na yung picture, and then nung pinunasan ko, it’s the second apparition – Our Lady of the Globe or we call her Virgo Potens, Virgin most powerful because she’s holding the globe representing each one of us in particular, and her eyes turned towards the heavens interceding for our prayers. So you can just imagine how powerful our prayer is,” he said with a big grin, pointing to numerous materials relating to the Lady. “Mama Mary is praying for you tapos sasamahan mo pa ng taimtim na dasal. Areglado, didinggin agad ng Panginoon yung panalangin mo, if you only have faith and confidence. Amen?”

Another eye-catching icon is a statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Unlike others, it suggests a different kind of gaze to those looking at it, as if the skies are in her eyes. Fr. Choy explained that he got the statue from an antique shop in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. He recalled that he was caught by its leer as it stood on top of a worn-out refrigerator. Without hesitation, he quickly asked for its selling price -- 11,000 pesos.

He was dejected but with optimism, he prayed to the Blessed Mother, “Mama Mary, gawan mo naman ng paraan na mapapunta ka sa akin kasi first time ko makakita ng rebulto ng Mama Mary na kulay blue ang mata.” But despite exhausting all his wishes in that prayer, he later found out that a foreign national bought all the statues of the Blessed Mother from the said shop.

Fr. Choy was in disbelief, but disbelief eventually turned into deeper faith. After a few months, the owner of the antique shop where he found the blue-eyed statue of the Blessed Mother called him saying the said statue was not included in those purchased, and she was offering it at a much lower price. With joy still evident with a small smirk, Fr. Choy ended his account, saying that this event had strengthened his belief in the Blessed Mother.

The La Milagrosa exhibit is a bricolage that showcases art, faith and hope. The medals – and the stories behind them – bring to life a rich history of the Catholic faith – faith that is found on lived experiences of those who believe and those who trust in the intercession of the Blessed Mother.

With her serene smile and her motherly gaze, she watches over the faithful, in her outstretched arms, she shelters those in need and through her light, she leads sinners to eternal life.  

To Jesus through Mary. O, Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

(Fr. Choy’s medal collection will be displayed in a permanent exhibit at the ground floor of the Marian Center building beside the St. Vincent de Paul Parish church along San Marcelino St.)


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