Surrounded by Vincentian priests who staff the Miraculous Medal Shrine, Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., celebrates a Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Nov. 21. Craig Pittelli photos
Surrounded by Vincentian priests who staff the Miraculous Medal Shrine, Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., celebrates a Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Nov. 21. Craig Pittelli photos

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

“Do whatever he tells you.”

As he reflected on the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana during the Mass celebrating the Feast of the Miraculous Medal, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., urged the hundreds of people seated before him to take the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to heart.

Related: Read Bishop O'Connell's homily

Photo Gallery: Bishop celebrates Mass in Miraculous Medal Shrine

Video:  Watch the livestream video from the Mass

“We need to listen to those words over and over again throughout our lives,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily during the Nov. 21 Mass in the Miraculous Medal Shrine in the historic Germantown section of Philadelphia. Though Mary had first spoken those words to spare a young married couple and their families the embarrassment of cutting their wedding celebration short due to the lack of wine, it was Mary who convinces Jesus to help the couple and he ultimately performs the first miracle of his public ministry.

“He does so because his Mother asks,” Bishop O’Connell said. “The Wedding Feast at Cana offers something wonderfully important for us to think and pray about. Because Jesus and Mary had become part of the lives of the couple and their families at a special, critical moment and because Mary made Jesus aware of their moment of need, Jesus responded.”

He reminded the congregation how the Wedding Feast at Cana “is a symbol of our lives.”

“There are times when the wine runs out,” he said. “We come to the wedding only to discover they have no wine to bring us joy and peace. When faced with hardship, he reminded all to turn to Mary. “She offers us her Son through her Miraculous Medal. He and he alone can turn the water of our tears into the wine of Christ’s comfort and consolation and patience and peace.”

The Bishop shared his own reliance on the Blessed Mother when he told of how “each morning before I get out of bed I do two things: I put on my plastic leg where a real leg used to be so that I can stand and walk another day; and I place a Miraculous Medal around my neck so that I can stand and face another day, conscious of our Mother’s words, ‘do whatever he tells you.’ And I pray these familiar words from the Novena prayers:

“May this Medal be for us a sure sign of your affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties twoard you. Ever while wearing it may we blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son. ”

Prayerful Experiences

The Mass concluded the shrine’s 91st annual Solemn Novena for the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, held Nov. 12-20. Over the nine days, thousands of people journeyed there to participate in various novena services. The shrine is staffed by Vincentian priests and brothers.

First-time shrine visitor and Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, parishioner John Hendrick, marveled at the opportunity to share in the Feast Day Mass.

“As we entered, I was delighted to find so much beautiful art and sacred objects, soaring architecture and breathtaking stained-glass windows,” he said. “As I explored both the main and subfloors, I discovered many beautiful shrine alcoves where you could pray in front of Mary, each one more beautiful than the next.”

Having been raised in the Greater Philadelphia area, Father James Grogan, Nativity Parish pastor, admitted he had never been to the shrine, though he had heard many powerful faith stories associated with it.

“I was surprised at the incredible beauty of this church,” he said. “It seems like such a hidden gem, and I am sure it inspires many prayers, and through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, many conversions of hearts to Jesus,” he said.

Distinguished History

St. Vincent de Paul has left a lasting legacy in the City of Philadelphia. Members of the Congregation of the Mission, more commonly known as the Vincentians, as well as the Daughters of Charity have had a ministry of presence and service in the city for well over 150 years.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine, which now operates under the auspices of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, began in 1875 and was attached to the seminary that provided for the formation of Vincentian priests. In 1915, Vincentian Father Joseph Skelly founded the CAMM with the intent to spread devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Devotion to the Blessed Mother traces back to 1830, when the Blessed Mother, through a series of apparitions to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice in the Daughters of Charity in Paris, requested that the medal be struck with an image that shows the Blessed Mother standing on a globe with rays of light streaming from her outstretched hands. Around Mary is the inscription: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

According to St. Catherine Laboure, the Blessed Mother said that, “Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”

In 1927, there was a change in the structure of the shrine chapel. The transept area dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul was removed and the area enlarged. In its place, Father Skelly built “Mary’s Central Shrine.”  It was also then that Father Skelly established the Solemn Novena in honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, held four times a year.

The devotions at the shrine became so popular that the association made another decision. While retaining the Solemn Novena in preparation for the feast of the Miraculous Medal, the shrine director inaugurated a weekly Novena Service. After consulting local parishes about their evening activities, he chose Monday as the day for the Perpetual Novena in honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. To this day, the Perpetual Novena continues uninterrupted each Monday at Mary’s “Central Shrine.”