Mother Mary our Lady Help of Christians
History of the Devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians
Since the Apostolic Age, Christians have turned with great confidence to the Blessed Virgin Mary for spiritual and temporal help. Knowing that the Mother, of God is also our spiritual Mother, Christians have sought her maternal aid and intercession with the Divine Majesty. And Mary Immaculate, being the marvelous Mother that she is, often comes to help her children before they even come to implore her avail, sometimes before they are even aware of their particular need. Our Lady’s solicitude at the Wedding Feast at Cana manifests this maternal trait of anticipating the needs of her children. Remember: Mary notices that the young couple had run out of wine at their marriage feast. No one had said a word about it to her, yet she mentions the plight of the married couple with tact and delicacy to her Son.
And Our Lord hears and answers her prayer!
The Battle of Lepanto
The tradition of this advocation goes back to 1571, when the whole of Christendom was saved by Mary Help of Christians when Catholics throughout Europe prayed the Rosary. The great battle of Lepanto occurred on October 7th 1571. For this reason, this date has been chosen as the feast of the Holy Rosary. In 1573 Pope Pius V instituted the feast in thanksgiving for the decisive victory of Christianity over Islamism. Pope St. Pius V inserted the title of Help of Christians in the litany of Loreto in 1571 in thanksgiving to Our Lady for the victory of the inferior Christian fleet over the Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
The Pope and Napoleon
Near the end of the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I of Austria took refuge in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Pasau, when 200,000 Ottoman Turks besieged the capital city of Vienna, but a great victory occurred thanks to Mary Help of Christians: on September 8th, Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday, plans were drawn for the battle. On September 12, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Vienna was finally freed through the intercession of Mary Help of Christians. All Europe had joined with the Emperor crying out “Mary, Help!” and praying the Holy rosary.
Centuries later Pope Pius VII, held captive by Napoleon’s forces at Savona, organized a Rosary Novena among the faithful to Our Lady Help of Christians for his liberation. In 1815, Pius VII established the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians in gratitude for his release from captivity.
In 1809, Napoleon’s men entered the Vatican, arrested Pius VII and brought him in chains to Grenoble, and eventually Fontainbleau. His imprisonment lasted five years. The Holy Father vowed to God that , if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special feast in honor of Mary. Military reverses forced Napoleon to release the Pope, and on May 24th 1814, Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later, the Pope decreed that the feast of Mary Help of Christians, be kept on the 24th of May.
St. John Bosco and Our Lady Help of Christians
St. John Bosco (1815 – 1888) was a dynamic priest who founded the Salesian Order in the XIX century in Italy. His many prophetic dreams, beginning atage nine, guided his ministry and gave insights on future events.
On May 14, 1862, Don Bosco dreamed about the battles the Church would face in the latter days. In his dream, the Pope of those days anchors the ‘ship’ of the Church between two pillars, one with a statue of Mary (Auxilium Christianorum or ‘Help of Christians’) and the other with a large Eucharistic Host
St. John Bosco wrote about his congregation, the Salesians: “The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. This title seems to please the august Queen of Heaven very much.”
Prayer to Our Lady Help of Christians
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.