Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
On June 27, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have had a long-time devotion to Our Blessed Mother under many titles, but began praying to Our Lady of Perpetual Help early in my childhood and continue to pray for her intercession daily.
The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is perhaps the oldest actual icon of the Blessed Virgin. According to tradition, St. Luke wrote an icon of Our Lady while she was still living in Jerusalem. When she saw the beautiful icon of herself holding the Child Jesus in her arms, she blessed both the artist and his work proclaiming, “My grace will accompany this icon.”
The passage of centuries has proven that Mary did not forget this promise. So numerous were the miracles and favors granted by means of this Holy Icon, Pope Innocent III in 1207 stated that Mary’s soul seemed to have entered into this icon since it was so beautiful and so miraculous.
When St. Luke completed the icon, tradition tells us he gave it to his personal friend and patron, Theophilus. In the middle of the Fifth Century, St. Pulcheria erected a shrine in its honor in Constantinople. The icon remained there for a thousand years where it was venerated by countless Christians – kings and emperors, saints and sinners, rich and poor; and where it was the source of many graces.
The original icon disappeared from human history during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Tradition tells us that, on the night before the fall of the Holy City, the Holy Mother of God, took both the icon and the Imperial Crown to Heaven! Many copies that existed at that time have been preserved to this day. The spirit and miraculous power of the icon still live in the present day icon. The Holy Mother of God still lives among us, anticipating needs, saving, ministering, mothering – leading us to the Throne of Her Son in the Heavenly Kingdom.
The Message of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
The child Jesus has just seen the angels who have shown him the instruments of his Passion. St. Michael the Archangel holds the lance and gall-sop. St. Gabriel the Archangel holds the Cross and the nails. Frightened by the sight, Jesus has run to his mother’s arms so quickly that he almost lost one of His tiny sandals. It dangles from his foot. Mary holds Him lovingly but her eyes look at us – pleading with us to avoid sin and love Her Son.
His hands are in hers to show that, as a child, Jesus placed Himself in Mary’s hands for protection and to remind us that He now has placed into Her hands all graces, to be given to those who turn to His mother and ask.
The star on Mary’s veil shows her to be the one who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world – the beacon that leads the way to Heaven.
The falling sandal symbolizes a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread–devotion to Mary.
The golden background is symbolic of Heaven and shines to show the heavenly joy Jesus and His mother can bring to tired human hearts.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is patron of the sick, police, paratroopers, and grocers. Pope Pius XII designated Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the national Patroness of the Republic of Haiti and Almoradi, Spain.
Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as you loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen.
O Mother of Perpetual Help, confidence in thee is a certain pledge of everlasting salvation.
-Bl. Pope Pius IX