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Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon Has Colorful History

by Michael Dubruiel


Short history of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, includes information about the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a Novena.

Larger Work

Catholic Heritage



Publisher & Date

Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., January/February 2000

The origin of the icon that is at the center of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is unknown. Many have thought that St. Luke painted it, but its existence prior to the late Middle Ages cannot be confirmed. Likely it is Eastern in origin due to the Byzantine style and Greek lettering.

The icon features the child Jesus fleeing into his Mother's protective arms as the Archangels Michael and Gabriel show Him the instruments of crucifixion. The Greek letters spell out the first letters of Mary and Jesus' names.

The icon arrived in Rome in the 15th century after a merchant who had heard about a miraculous image on the island of Crete went to the island and stole it. When he arrived in Rome with the icon among his wares, he fell very ill. As he lay dying, he ordered that a friend place the icon in a church, perhaps hoping that it would alleviate his suffering. The friend took the icon to his own home, where his wife hung it in their bedroom.

The Virgin evidently was not pleased with this arrangement, and several times appeared to the man and told him that she wished for her image to be placed in a church. The man, despite the miraculous visitation, was not moved to relinquish control of the image. The Blessed Virgin next appeared to the man's daughter and asked that the icon be enshrined in a church between the two very large churches of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The daughter communicated this to her father and he relented, and so the icon was enshrined in 1499 in St. Matthew's, the church that lies between the two larger edifices.

Pilgrims flocked to the small church for 300 years to pray before the miraculous image, until Napoleon's invading army destroyed the church in 1798. Once the soldiers had left the area, people searched the ruins looking for the image but could not locate it anywhere. It seemed that the image had been lost, and for the next 60 years there was no mention of it.

In 1855, the Order of Redemptorists came to Rome and were granted possession of the location where St. Matthew's had once stood to build a church in honor of their founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori. It happened that a young Redemptorist priest remembered that as a young boy he had been told of a miraculous image that had once been enshrined in the previous church. The image had been safely transferred to an Augustinian monastery near Rome.

When the Redemptorists heard of this, they petitioned the pope to allow the image to be returned to the spot that the Blessed Virgin had requested. The pope granted their request and further commissioned the Redemptorist order to spread devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help throughout the world. The image was transferred in a solemn procession on April 26, 1866, to the Church of St. Alphonsus.

Today, replicas of the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help grace the altars of countless churches throughout the world.

Michael Dubruiel is a book-acquisitions editor at Our Sunday Visitor. This article was excerpted from his book, "The Church's Most Powerful Novenas," to be released spring 2000 by Our Sunday Visitor.


Basilica Of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help

Shortly after the miraculous image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was restored to the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, copies of the image were commissioned. One of these early paintings was sent to Redemptorists at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Boston, Mass. They enthroned the image above the main altar of their church on Pentecost Sunday of 1871.

Miracles were reported within two days. A child who had an incurable wound was brought before the image and was completely healed. A woman who suffered with palsy approached one of the Redemptorists, who pointed to Our Lady. The lady prayed and found herself completely healed. The crowds that soon followed necessitated the building of an even larger church in 1878, the present-day basilica.

Since then, literally hundreds of cures have been attributed to the miraculous image enshrined at the basilica. On either side of the altar where the image is enshrined, crutches left behind by those who were cured rise like flowers in sweet testimony of the healing love experienced there.

For more information, contact Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mission Church, 1545 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02120; telephone: (617) 445 - 2600.

A Novena To Our Mother Of Perpetual Help

(The following prayers to Our Lady are repeated once a day for nine consecutive days):

Behold at your feet, O Mother of Perpetual Help, a wretched sinner who has recourse to you and confides in you. O Mother of Mercy have pity on me.

I hear you called by all, the Refuge and the Hope of sinners; be then, my refuge and my hope.

Assist me, for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth your hand to a miserable fallen creature, who recommends himself to you, and who devotes himself to your service forever. I bless and thank Almighty God, Who in His mercy has given me this confidence in you, which I hold to be a pledge of my eternal salvation.

It is true, dearest Mother, that in the past I have miserably fallen into sin, because I had not turned to you. I know that with your help, I shall conquer. I know, too, that you will assist me, if I recommend myself to you; but I fear, dear Mother, that in time of danger, I may neglect to call on you, and thus lose my soul. This grace, then, I ask of you with all the fervor of my soul, that, in all the attacks of hell, I may ever have recourse to you.

O Mary help me; O Mother of Perpetual Help, never suffer me to lose my God.

Three Hail Marys

Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke your most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on you; for, in all my temptations, in all my needs, I shall never cease to call on you, ever repeating your Sacred Name, Mary!

O, what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fills my soul when I utter your Sacred Name, or even only think of you! I thank the Lord for having given you, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering your name, let my love for you prompt me ever to hail you, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys

Mother of Perpetual Help, you are the dispenser of all the gifts which God grants to us miserable sinners; and for this end He has made you so powerful, so rich and so bountiful, in order that you may help us in our misery. You are the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to you; come to my aid, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to you. In your hands I place my eternal salvation, and to you I entrust my soul. Count me among your most devoted servants; take me under your protection, and it is enough for me. For, if you protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because you will obtain for me the pardon of them from Jesus your Divine Son. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation, I may through negligence fail to have recourse to you and thus perish miserably.

Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace to have recourse to you and (mention your request), O Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys

Pray for us, O Mother of Perpetual Help, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ who gave us your Holy 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 maternal aid may merit to enjoy perpetually the fruits of Your redemption, Who lives and reigns with God forever and ever. Amen.

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