‘All for Jesus, Through Mary’: How the Blessed Virgin Made God’s Mercy Concrete in My Life

COMMENTARY: Devotion to the Miraculous Medal brought me back to the path of authentic Catholic faith and healed old family wounds.

Sunset in Paros.
Sunset in Paros. (photo: Solène Tadié)

When I think about God’s mercy, it’s the image of the Miraculous Medal that springs to my mind. It was through its intercession that I was able to fully recover my path to the Catholic faith as a young adult, after years of a stumbling spiritual quest to follow Christ. 

The thought of God’s mercy also takes me back to the incomparably fragrant Greek mountains, enveloped in an array of ochre and bronze colors. It was on their peaks that I first experienced the authentic thirst of the sacrament of reconciliation, in 2016.

I had already re-embraced the Catholic faith of my childhood — lost in adolescence — after my arrival in Rome in 2010, the work and person of Pope Benedict XVI having contributed greatly to this. But while my love of Jesus Christ and my desire for spiritual growth were genuine, my adherence to his teachings remained relatively confined to the realm of the intellect. I loved reading medieval philosophy, wandering through all kinds of Christian manuscripts of the time. I admired the incredible wealth sown in the world by the “Genius of Christianity,” as François-René de Chateaubriand called it in a famous book. 

While I was fulfilling my obligations of faith, I lacked the full understanding of two essential elements to complete the conversion of my heart — that of the profound implication of transubstantiation, namely the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation, which I approached with some reluctance.

It was through my relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary that my faith was propelled into a new dimension. “To find God’s grace, you have to find Mary,” urged St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort in The Secret of Mary. If I’ve been able to experience this in my own flesh, I owe it to my mother, Pascale. This passionate artist who devoted her life to the piano was never a very observant Christian. But she was always filled with love for Christ and his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Following her divorce from my father when I was 3, our relationship was often stormy. But it was this shared spiritual love that put an end to years of quarrels and silences between us. In particular, I remember a conversation in 2014, when she asked me to help her find a beautiful statue reminiscent of the Miraculous Medal, an image that particularly inspired her. A few months later, I found an antique terracotta statue in a Neapolitan antique shop, representing Mary spreading her blessings over the world through her open hands.

This gift, which moved her to tears, was the gateway to a deep reconciliation between us. In the months that followed, as our devotion to Mary continued to grow, we began to arrange “rendezvous,” where we would unite in communion of prayer, she before her new statue in Switzerland, and I before small, improvised prayer altars in my Roman apartment.

Our bond only grew stronger. My mother used to tell me that Mary often appeared to her in her dreams and that this brought her incredibly close to the Lord. “Through the intercession of our Mother in Heaven, our wounds are being healed,” she once wrote to me. 

This spiritual journey through the healing of our mother-daughter relationship led us to organize a vacation together on the Greek island of Paros, where she rented a year-round apartment. I joined her there in July 2016, for an unforgettable week during which we visited all the churches and monasteries on the island (most of them Orthodox), giving thanks to the Lord for having brought us together. On the last evening, we went to the Agioi Anargyroi monastery, nestled high on a mountain overlooking Parokya and the Aegean Sea. We prayed at length before an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That image of my mother gathered in fervent prayer has remained with me ever since.

The sun was setting as we stepped outside, enveloping us in soft pastel colors, while the refreshed air exhaled the scents of sage, thyme and honey, typical of the island. The joy I felt was almost inexpressible. It was as if a very strong divine presence surrounded us with its love, whispering messages to our souls that we would only understand later. 

The profound joy in which I was immersed made me see the world with new eyes, giving rise to a burning desire for forgiveness and communion with Christ. The total forgiveness and filial gratitude I wanted to offer my mother instinctively brought me back to my own condition as a sinner in vital need of redemption. It was at this point that I really felt the tipping point, the trigger that turned me into the confession “addict” I later became. And I didn’t fail to give my soul “a good bath,” to paraphrase St. Padre Pio, on my return to Rome.

That evening in the mountains remains all the more engraved in my heart as it is pretty much my last memory of my mother. I left for Rome the next morning, and my sweet mother died in an accident barely a week later. Beyond the unspeakable pain of losing a parent, I can’t help thinking that the Lord gave us both a priceless gift by breaking the locks of both our hearts before calling her back to him. 

My three sisters, who like many young people in France tend to see Christianity as an outdated spirituality, didn’t want a cross to appear on our mother’s grave, because for those who don’t acknowledge the Good News of Christ’s glorious resurrection, all that remains of this symbol is sorrow without hope. I found it hard to change their minds, and I couldn’t bear the thought of no Christian symbol on my mother’s final resting place.

It was at this moment of impasse and division that the Blessed Virgin once again intervened in our lives. While walking with one of my sisters in Rome, we “by chance” passed the Church of Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte, where Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared in 1842, a few years after her first apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré on Rue du Bac in Paris. My sister immediately recognized the image of the Virgin that our mother so revered. We then came up with the idea of proposing to our other two sisters that we import marble from the island of Paros (known for its incomparable beauty and purity) as a tombstone and have a Miraculous Medal engraved on it. The idea immediately appealed to them. 

A tombstone made with imported marble from the island of Paros (known for its incomparable beauty and purity) with an image of the Miraculous Medal engraved on it, designed by the Tadié sisters for their dear mother. (photo: Solène Tadié)
A tombstone made with imported marble from the island of Paros (known for its incomparable beauty and purity) with an image of the Miraculous Medal engraved on it, designed by the Tadié sisters for their dear mother. (photo: Solène Tadié)

And since Providence had decided to appear along the way, everything proceeded with ease. The craftsman we contacted in Paros remembered my mother well. He liked her so much that he decided to offer us the marble plaque. He engraved it with the beautiful image of the Virgin Mary that we had sent him, and — in another “wink” of Providence — he couldn’t resist engraving a cross on the back of the stone before sending it to us. As St. Marcellin Champagnat’s motto puts it: “All to Jesus, through Mary, and all to Mary for Jesus.”

This series of life-changing events was bound to have a significant impact on my faith life, which has remained imbued with a deep Marian devotion ever since. I can hardly be seen leaving home without my Miraculous Medal, and I go as often as I can to the shrine on Rue du Bac, to which one of my sisters always likes to accompany me. 

Over the years, I’ve developed a deep love for praying the Rosary, which remains my refuge in the storm, my daily backbone. It’s the form of prayer that most opens my heart to God’s mercy, manifested through the infinite love of his Son, Jesus Christ, for every sinner on this Earth. 

God’s mercy will always have in my heart the scent of sage and the gentle glow of a sunset. But it also brings me back to the image of the world over which Mary, with open hands, pours out her graces. I think of the medal with the letter “M” and the cross intertwined, a reminder of the indissoluble bond between Christ and his mother. From the bottom of my heart, I give thanks to divine Providence for having manifested itself so forcefully in my earthly pilgrimage — and for having done so with such delicacy and tenderness.

Pope Francis (R) embraces new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich after he appointed him during an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Pope Francis vs. Cardinal Hollerich

EDITORIAL: The Pope’s comments regarding women’s ordination in his interview with CBS put a damper on the movement to alter the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and diaconate.