Men’s faith formation has been a pet project of mine for the last half of my 26 years as a priest. Among many things, I‘ve wanted us men to rediscover the treasury of Catholic devotions. If men are going to be the spiritual leaders of their own domestic church, we simply must explore these time-tested and Church approved jewels of our Catholic life.
As I poured myself into this endeavor, I was struck by how effeminate many of the sacramentals tended to be. It’s no wonder men are inclined to see these devotions as “what women do.” In particular, most of the rosaries looked like women’s jewelry. I began to scour the internet to find something truly masculine in a rosary. Sure, there were the classic black or brown bead rosaries, but they still seemed weak to me.
One day I happened upon a very intriguing rosary among some of the collectors’ websites. It was tough. It was strong. It had a kind of gravitas to it. This was truly a man’s rosary. As I read the description, it turned out I was looking at an original World War I military rosary. As described, it was commissioned and procured by, believe it or not, the U.S. government and issued by the military, upon request, to soldiers serving in World War I. Some of these rosaries were also seen in WWII. The solders usually referred to them as "Service Rosaries." All of these rosaries were made around 1916. Awesome!!
Now I was really intrigued. I began doing some research on these military rosaries, and I discovered that there were some knock-offs made since the originals in 1916. I wanted to stay clear of those, if I was going to take the dive and purchase an authentic World War I military rosary. So, what made these authentic?
Now, I was really fired up! I didn’t want to make a replica of the original. I wanted to respect the original that way. Instead, I wanted to make one based on the original, but well suited for us warriors - the Church Militant - to do full-on spiritual warfare. It was time to choose the most powerful medals and crucifix for this "assault weapon."
The Pardon Crucifix
For the crucifix, the Pardon Crucifix was a must. It is the only crucifix I know that gives indulgences for carrying it or kissing it. The word indulgence originally meant kindness or favor. In Latin it meant the remission of a tax or debt. Under Roman law it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In this instance, an indulgence is given to remit the temporal punishment of sin that has been forgiven.
These indulgences have been declared upon the Pardon Crucifix by Pope St. Pius X in 1905, and have been approved in the pardon of the living and the souls in Purgatory in 1907.
- Whoever carries on his person the Pardon Crucifix, may thereby gain an indulgence.
- For devoutly kissing the Crucifix, an indulgence is gained.
- Whoever says one of the following invocations before this crucifix may gain each time an indulgence: "Our Father who art in heaven, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." "I beg the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray to the Lord our God for me."
- Whoever, habitually devout to this Crucifix, will fulfill the necessary conditions of Confession and Holy Communion, may gain a Plenary Indulgence on the following feasts: On the feasts of the Five Wounds of our Lord, the Invention of the Holy Cross, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Immaculate Conception, and the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- Whoever, at the moment of death, fortified with the Sacraments of the Church, or contrite of heart, in the supposition of being unable to receive them, will kiss this Crucifix and ask pardon of God for his sins, and pardon his neighbor, will gain a Plenary Indulgence.
The Front of the Crucifix: Above the cruciform figure, the familiar I.N.R.I. has been inscribed with the words "Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. "" Latin uses I instead of the English J, and V instead of U (Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm). The English translation is "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
The Reverse of the Crucifix: On the transverse arms are the words, "Father, forgive them." On the vertical beam of the Cross are the words, "Behold this heart which has so loved men." An image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus is shown in the center.
The Miraculous Medal
In 1830, at the young age of 24, Zoe Laboure entered the Sisters of Charity and changed her name to Catherine. On July 18 of the same year, she saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who came to her in the Chapel. Catherine and Mary supposedly spoke for more than two hours.
On November 27, 1830, Mary revisited Sister Catherine and presented a beautiful picture of herself. Catherine confessed this vision, which after investigation was deemed authentic by Catholic authorities.
Sister Catherine had one final vision of Mary, during which she received even more detailed descriptions about Mary's miraculous medal. Sister Catherine saw Mary standing on top of a globe, shooting rays of light from her hands. Her feet were stamping on a serpent, the representation of Satan. Around the image was an inscription that described Mary's sinlessness.
Two years after Sister Catherine first had these visions, the church minted and distributed medals throughout Paris. It soon became widely reported that the medal graced those who wore it with prosperity, health, and faith. Soon, people took to calling the medal 'Miraculous.' Today, hundreds of thousands of Catholics the world over wear Miraculous medals as testimonies of repentance, prayer, and faith.
St. Benedict Medal
There is indeed no medal that possesses such wonderful power and none so highly esteemed by the holy Church as the Medal of St. Benedict. Whosoever wears this medal with devotion, trusting to the life-giving power of the holy Cross and the merits of the holy Father St. Benedict, may expect the powerful protection of this great Patriarch in his spiritual and temporal needs. The medal is one of the oldest and most honored medals used by Catholics and due to the belief in its power against evil is also known as the “devil-chasing medal.” As early as the 11th century, it may have initially had the form of Saint Benedict’s cross, and was used by pope Leo IX. The reverse side of the medal carries the Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”) formula, which has been used by Catholics to ward off evil since the 15th century. Sometimes carried as part of the rosary, it is also found individually. In widespread use after its formal approval by Pope Benedict XIV in the 18th century, the medal is used by Catholics to ward off spiritual and physical dangers, especially those related to evil, poison, and temptation.
THE FRONT OF THE MEDAL
We see St. Benedict holding his Rule; next to him, on a pedestal, is the cup that once held poison, shattered after he made the Sign of the Cross over it. The other pedestal is topped by the raven, who is about to carry away the poisoned bread. In very small print above these pedestals are the words: Crux s. patris Benedicti (The Cross of our Holy Father Benedict).
Underneath St. Benedict are the words: ex SM Casino MDCCCLXXX (from holy Monte Cassino, 1880).
Surrounding the entire face of the medal are the words: Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur (May we at our death be fortified by his presence.)
THE BACK OF THE MEDAL
In the arms of the Cross are the initials C S S M L – N D S M D, which stand for the rhyme:
Crux sacra sit mihi lux!
Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!
The Holy Cross be my light;
Let not the dragon be my guide.
In the corners of the Cross are C S P D, which stand for the same words found on the front over the pedestals: Crux s. patris Benedicti (The Cross of our Holy Father Benedict).
Above the Cross is the word “Pax” (Peace), the Benedictine motto.
Surrounding the entire back of the medal are the initials to the words of the exorcism: V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, which stand for the rhyme:
Vade retro Satana!
Nunquam suade mihi vana!
Sunt mala quae libas.
Ipse venena bibas!
Do not suggest to me thy vanities!
Evil are the things thou profferest,
Drink thou thy own poison!