MOUND, Minn. — Colin Faust wasn’t even Catholic when he was wearing the Miraculous Medal that he now believes helped save his life.
He was a 21-year-old Marine serving in Afghanistan in 2010, stationed in the most dangerous combat zone in the country.
On top of that, Faust had one of the most hazardous assignments: forward scout observer, helping clear and secure territory once occupied by the enemy, walking on terrain riddled with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Faust stepped on an IED the morning of Oct. 15. Walking a few feet behind a combat engineer, who was using a minesweeper to detect IEDs, Faust’s left foot caught a mine that was missed.
The explosion catapulted him upward. He recalled looking down at the ground while feeling suspended in midair. His rifle landed 100 yards away.
“I remember being extremely confused … not knowing what just happened,” said Faust, now 31. “And, my first reaction, my instinct, for whatever reason, was to say a prayer. I don’t even remember what I said.”
But he definitely remembers what he wore: a Miraculous Medal he had received from his Catholic grandmother that once belonged to her brother, a priest. Faust hadn’t given it much thought before the accident, but he now reveres the medal, which he sees as a sign that God saved his life.
The medal was the only thing he was wearing that day that survived the blast. He wore it daily for seven more years before placing it in storage to preserve it for future generations.
The medal has served as a concrete reminder that God and Mary were looking out for him.
Faust, who described the Lutheran faith of his upbringing in Waconia, Minnesota, as “lukewarm,” years later turned to God who had protected him in battle. His deepened faith led Faust to join the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at St. Victoria Church in Victoria, Minnesota, March 31, 2018, his 29th birthday.
He already had made a connection to the Church by marriage to his wife, Julia, a lifelong Catholic. The couple met in 2013 when Julia’s mother and his, who were friends, planned a family dinner to connect them, hoping they would date.
It worked. By that time, Colin had gone through numerous surgeries and more than two years of rehabilitation. The bottom of his left leg was lost in the blast and his right leg was severely damaged; his left arm was seriously injured.
What was fully intact, however, was a quiet strength and positive attitude that drew Julia to him.
They were married Oct. 15, 2016, the anniversary date of his accident. Now members of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mound, they have a 13-month-old son, Leo.
As much as Faust loves being a husband and father, his primary passion is his faith. He is pursuing a master’s degree in theology from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.
Three years ago, Faust experienced what he calls an “explosion of grace.” He credits Mary for the feeling, which he ties to wearing the Miraculous Medal on the battlefield. The medal, also known as the Medal of Our Lady of Grace, originates from St. Catherine Laboure in France following her Marian apparitions in 1830.
He soon started came across material about the life of St. Padre Pio, an Italian Capuchin Franciscan priest with the stigmata who died at 81 in 1968. The saint’s example of holiness and sanctity convinced Faust to become Catholic.
Marian devotion is one part of his faith. He prays the Rosary daily and has consecrated himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Grotto turns 100
A grotto in Perryville built in honor
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal turned 100 years old on Nov. 11. On the
grounds of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in
Perryville, its origins date to the First World War. Vincentian Superior
Father William H. Musson spoke about the need for shrines in Mary’s
honor in the United States, and it touched off a years-long effort to
construct a rock grotto on the seminary grounds at Saint Mary’s of the
Barrens in Perryville. On Nov. 11, 1920, Archbishop John J. Glennon
dedicated the grotto. In the century since, Catholics throughout the
United States have offered prayers of thanksgiving, celebrated Marian
feast days, taken part in the annual May Procession, brought their
personal intentions to Mary, or simply rested under her gaze.