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Our Lady, Help of Christians

by John O'Connell

Description

This article gives information about Our Lady's title, Help of Christians and the connection to St. John Bosco.

Larger Work

The Catholic Faith

Publisher & Date

Ignatius Press, May/June 1999 Vol. 5, No. 3

Vision Book Cover Prints

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 ancient prayer the Sub Tuum indicates that the early Church not only venerated the Mother of God but actively sought her help through prayer. A translation of the third century Greek manuscript (which varies from the more familiar Latin text) reads:

Under your mercy,
we take refuge, Mother of God,
do not reject our supplications in necessity.

But deliver us from danger.
[You] alone chaste, alone blessed.

Mary’s title Help of Christians is one of the invocations in the well-known Litany of Loretto (also known as the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Pope St. Pius V inserted the title of Help of Christians in the litany in 1571 in thanksgiving to Our Lady for the victory of the inferior Christian fleet over the Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

In 1624, the Catholics of Passau, Bavaria enshrined a picture of Mary Help of Christians from the 15 th century in a newly built Shrine to Mary Help of Christians. Pilgrims to the Shrine traditionally uttered the aspiration: Maria, hilf (Mary, help).

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.

St. John Bosco, who was born a month before the institution of the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, had a great devotion to Our Lady under the title of Help of Christians. Dom Bosco founded the Salesians (priests and brothers) and named his congregation of sisters Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. He also founded the Archconfraternity of Mary Help of Christians to promote devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. He built the Basilica Mary Help of Christians.

Dom Bosco, a great mystic, had a famous prophetic dream in which he saw a pope steering the Church as the Ark of the Salvation through stormy seas. A fleet of hostile vessels threatened the ship which found safe harbor between two columns arising from the sea. A statue of the Immaculate Virgin stands on top of one of the columns from whose feet hangs a large placard with the words: Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians). On top of the other taller and bigger column stands a Host under which is a Host with the words: Salus Credentium (Salvation of the Faithful). Mary Immaculate is not only the help of individual Christians but the entire Church depends upon her intercessory aid.

The famous Marian prayer the Memorare expresses the confidence Christians should have in the succor the Holy Virgin provides to her children.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother.
To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me. Amen.

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