Our parish has a large icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in front of the votive candles. Recently, while lighting a candle, I took a few extra minutes to ponder this icon and I recalled the many times my parents would take me to Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions as a child. When I attend daily Mass now, I leave on Tuesday mornings with the ringing of the devotions in my ears, as many of our daily Mass attendees remain in church to pray these devotional prayers. I became hungry to learn more about Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions and share here what I have learned...
The history of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions goes back to Crete in the year 1495. It was here that an unknown artist painted the Byzantine Icon and people came to venerate it as Our Mother of Perpetual Help because numerous prayer requests were granted through devotion to her. The icon underwent several relocations as a result of thievery and church damage, and in 1866 it was permanently located in Rome at the church of St. Alphonsus of Liguori under the care of the Redemptorists. At that time, Pope Pius IX asked the Redemptorist Order to make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world.
In 1918 the order founded Holy Name Church in Omaha, Nebraska and began a solemn novena that has been prayed during each Tuesday Mass at that church in front of a shrine dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Thousands found comfort and salvation by praying at her shrine and many souls have been brought back to her Divine Son through her intercession. Devotion to this icon quickly spread throughout the United States. St. Alphonsus Church in St. Louis, Missouri began the practice of devotions outside of Mass. These Tuesday night devotions were soon adopted by other churches and took the form of a perpetual novena that is still observed worldwide today.
In the icon, Mary is shown dressed in royal colors with a star on her veil to indicate that she leads the way to Jesus. She is looking directly at us, not to Jesus or with her eyes downcast as she is usually portrayed. This is to signify that she has compassion for our fears and sorrows. The angels Gabriel and Michael are holding the instruments of crucifixion-a lance and sponge, a three bar cross and nails. The Greek letters at the top of the Icon identify their names. The angels are dressed in purple to signify Christ’s passion. The angel’s hands are covered as a sign of reverence for handling sacred objects, just as the priest covers his hands with a humeral veil while holding the monstrance during Benediction.
The child Jesus is shown with an adult face and high brow which indicates his Divine mind. He is shown looking away as if he had been running to his mother for protection from some horrible event. It is assumed that he has witnessed the foreshadowing of his crucifixion. The haste with which he runs to his Mother is depicted by his right sandal dangling loosely by the strap as if it almost fell off, and also by how he clasps his mother’s right hand with both of his. Her hands are held open as if she is inviting us to join her and the Christ child. The next time you are in need, emulate the Christ child and hurry to Our Mother of Perpetual Help with your intentions.
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. you became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your 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 God's mercy is from age to age on those who love God. 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.
The feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is on June 27th.