Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us your Mother Mary, whose renowned image we venerate, to be a Mother ever ready to help us; grant we beseech You, that we who constantly implore her motherly aid, may merit to enjoy perpetually the fruits of Your redemption, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen

The icon depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a dress of dark red with blue mantle and veil. On the left is the archangel Michael, carrying the lance and sponge as instruments of Jesus Christ's crucifixion. On the right is the archangel Gabriel carrying a 3-bar cross and nails. This type of icon is a later type of the Hodegetria composition, where Mary is pointing to her Son, known as a Theokotos of the Passion. The Christ-child has been alarmed by a pre-sentiment of his Passion, and has run to his mother for comfort. The facial expression of the Virgin Mary is solemn and is looking directly at the viewer instead of her son. The Greek initials on top read Mother of God, Michael Archangel, Gabriel Archangel, and Jesus Christ, respectively. Jesus is portrayed clinging to his mother with a dangling sandal. The icon is painted with a gold background. The icon is on a walnut panel, and may have been painted in Crete, then ruled by Venice, and the main source of the many icons imported to Europe in the late Middle Ages and through the Renaissance. It was cleaned and restored in 1866 and again in the 1940s.

Origin and History

The earliest written account of the image comes from a Latin and Italian plaque placed in the church of Saint Matthew where it was first venerated by the public in 1499. The painter of the icon is unknown, but according to legend the icon was stolen by a merchant from Crete who was sailing to Rome. The merchant supposedly sailed and hid the icon while traveling at sea, until a storm hit hard and the sailors prayed to the icon for help. When the merchant arrived in Rome he fell ill, and as his dying wish he asked another merchant to place the icon in a church where it could be venerated. The merchant then confided to his wife about the icon. Upon seeing the beautiful icon, the merchant's wife refused to give it to the church but instead hung it in her home. Later on, the Virgin Mary appeared to the merchant's daughter, requesting that the icon be turned into a parish for veneration. The Virgin Mary indicated to the little girl that she ought to be placed between the basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The wife then went to the Augustinian Friars to whom she gave up the icon. On March 27, 1499, the icon was transferred to the church and the icon was venerated there for 300 years.

In 1798, the governor of Rome, General Massena, ordered several churches in Rome closed and destroyed. St. Matthew's was one of these churches. The Perpetual Help icon was taken by the Augustinian fathers to a nearby church, St. Eusebius. Later on they moved it to Santa Maria Posterula to a side altar. Pope Pius IX had invited a group of priests called the Redemptorists to set up a Marian house of veneration in Rome. They stationed in Via Merulana, not knowing that it was once the church of San Mateo and shrine of the once-famous icon. One day, a Redemptorist father heard stories of the icon and of the church in which it was once enshrined. The Redemptorist built a small church next to the building called St. Alphonse of Ligouri.

The Father General of the Redemptorists, Most Rev. Nicholas Mauron, decided to bring the whole matter to the attention of Pope Pius IX. The Pope decided that the icon should be exposed to public veneration and the logical site was their church of St. Alphonse of Ligouri, standing as it did between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. Pope Pius IX wrote a short memorandum ordering the Augustinian Fathers of St. Mary in Posterula to surrender the picture to the Redemptorists, on condition that the Redemptorist supply the Augustinians with another picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help or a good copy of the icon of Perpetual Help in exchange. Upon the return of the icon, Pope Pius IX gave the icon the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Today, the icon is under the care of the Redemptorist fathers of St. Alphonse of Ligouri Church where the icon is now enshrined.

Since then, the icon has been venerated all around the world. The icon has been popularized among many cultures and has had several titles in different languages such as Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, Perpetuo Succursu, Beata Virgo de Perpetuo Succursu, Ina ng Laging Saklolo and Mother of Perpetual Soccour.

In the Philippine Islands, the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is both highly and nationally venerated among Catholics, and all Catholic churches have a novena and mass every Wednesday in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title. All Catholic churches observe this Wednesday mass and novena recitation in the Philippines. The Wednesday Novena format is strictly observed and followed in all Catholic Churches in the Philippine Islands, which is rooted from the Wednesday Novena booklet that was initially established by the Redemptorist fathers from Baclaran, Parañaque City in June 1948.

The national shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 1998, honoring the Wednesday Novena booklet format to be established in all Catholic churches, from the Luzon state to the Mindanao region, making Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the patroness Virgin Mary of the Philippine Islands. Unlike other Marian images such as the Immaculate Conception, or Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in the Philippine Islands, only Our Lady of Perpetual Help has received strict national attention and novena services on Wednesdays among all Catholic Churches, and its novena booklet is strictly followed and recited among all Catholic Filipinos who have a strong perpetual devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Many churches around the world have been dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, such as the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, New York.

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913
Wikipedia, The Free Encylopedia

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