The folks at St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) know a thing or two about spreading the faith, so when I spotted their medal offers I grabbed 100 from their Medal Variety Pack for $22. I was not disappointed.
For less than a quarter each, these are very high-quality silver plated medals from Italy, not the little tin ones you find in some shops. You won’t mistake them for the more expensive medals, but they don’t feel cheap and the price is right.
Medals are a great tool for evangelization. Catholics do “stuff” well, and the tactility of our sacramentals is very appealing in a world where too much religion is in the head and not at the fingertips. Steve Dawson, National Director of SPSE, explains how he uses the Miraculous Medal:
The method I employed was simple. When I was at the grocery store, gas station, or any random place, I would pick a person and would casually ask if they would like a free Miraculous Medal. Most of the time they would say “No thank you”, and I would answer, “OK God bless” and walk away. Yet, sometimes they would accept. As I would give them the medal I would say, “Here you go. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine in 1830 and promised that whoever wore this medal would receive great graces from God. So many miracles occurred because of it that it became commonly known as the Miraculous Medal”. That simple.
Here is what I found. Most of the time, the people that I gave the medal and told the story to smiled, said thank you, and that was it. But sometimes, that simple gesture would start further conversation that God was able to use to bear fruit.
I bought mine primarily for my students as a little something at Christmas, and to teach lesson about sacramentals, what they are, how they work, and why we use them. I explained that they provide a concrete connection to a particular saint or devotion; perhaps a name saint for yourself or a loved one, a patron, or simply a tangible sign of the faith. I had the medals blessed, printed up a sheet with some information on the saints, and asked them to choose one, but only if they thought they’d have some use for it.
A few kids passed, but most asked for extra medals for a parent or friend. None of the medals were more popular than any other. When asked for my preference, I suggested the St. Benedict Jubilee Medal, because I fear for these kids and think they can use all the protection they can get.
The adult volunteers were also delighted to be offered medals, and most took a few for family and friends. It opened up conversations I’d never had with most of them about saints and devotions, but also about problems they felt were addressed by someone like St. Jude (hopeless situations) or St. Benedict (arthritis).
This is how conversations can start: with a small gift. You’re not sidling up next to someone on a train and saying, “Have you found Jesus?” I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me. It makes Mr. Fist want to get all punchy.
But to say simply, “May I give you something? Yes? Okay, here’s what it means. God bless you and have a good day.” Even if it doesn’t open a deeper conversation, sacramentals are sacred signs that can prepare or dispose people to receive grace.