OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP

The Picture

The original picture painted on gold ground, is the work of a devout and skillful master. The best judges concede that it must have been painted in the 13th or 14th century, in the East, as its Grecian or Byzantine style plainly shows. The Blessed Mother, in half-figure, has her child on her left arm, and in her right hand, she holds the hand of her Divine Infant. Her beautiful eyes are directed towards the beholder with an expression of tender reproach, and speak eloquently of her great anguish at the sufferings of her Son. On either side of her head are four Greek letters, which stand for the words “Mother of God.”
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The Divine Infant is in full figure. On his head is a crown. He wears sandals, one of which is fastened to his left foot, the other hangs loose from the right. Over his left shoulder are the Greek letters signifying “Jesus Christ.” He clasps his mother’s right hand in both his own, as though seeking protection from the instrument of His Passion, presented to Him by the two angels at his side. The Angel on the right, over whom are to be seen in Greek the initials of the name of “Michael the Archangel,” presents to the Holy Child, the Lance, the Reed and the Sponge of His future Passion, while the Angel on the left holds up before His gaze four nails and a cross, with two beams, as well as the tablet of the inscription; over Him are the initials in Greek of “Gabriel the Archangel.” The drapery of the picture is exquisite.
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History of The Picture
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The original picture, just described, was venerated for many years in the Island of Crete (now called Candia), when upon an invasion by the Turks, about 400 years ago, it was taken away by a pious merchant of that Island to escape profanation. Having been the means of enlisting the power of the Mother of God during a violent storm which occurred on the voyage, a landing was finally made at Ostia, near Rome. At Rome, by a clear manifestation of God’s will, the picture was to remain. The pious merchant, falling grievously ill, and feeling death’s approach, summoned his host and friend, and exacting from him a strict promise that he would have the picture set up for veneration in one of the churches of Rome, he confided the precious treasure to his care, and then breathed his last. Now become manifest the wondrous ways of God. The wife of the man who had the holy picture confided to him, conceiving a strong natural affection for the Madonna, deaf to her husband’s representations, finally prevailed upon him to disregard his promise and retain the picture. Three different times the Blessed Mother appeared in a dream to the unhappy man to remind him of his obligation. Affrighted, he related these occurrences to his wife, who only laughed at his credulity. A fourth time Our Blessed Lady appeared, and said to him in a tone of great severity: “I have now warned thee three times, but in vain,–I see there is no other means of leaving thy house, than that thou be first carried out of it.” Very soon after the man died.
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The husband’s death seems to have been no warning to the obstinate widow. A new warning was at hand. One day her daughter, a young innocent girl, came running to her, saying: “Mother, I have just seen, in our house, oh, such a beautiful Lady, who said to me, ‘Go tell your mother and your grandfather that the ‘Mother of Perpetual Help’ (for the Blessed Virgin gave herself this sweet title) ‘wishes her picture to be set up for public veneration in one of the churches in Rome.'” The mother, deeply moved, was about to comply. But a wicked woman of the neighborhood, hearing of the mother’s determination, violently opposed the plan, and at the same time insulted and blaspemed Our Blessed Lady. Instant retribution followed. She was stricken down with mortal illness, but repentant and confessing her crime, was permitted to touch the holy picture, when she was instantly cured. The evident miracle conquered the widow’s obstinacy. But now the question presented itself: “To which of the three hundred churches of Rome shall the picture be given?” Our Blessed Lady herself graciously deigned to answer this question, by appearing a second time to the child and saying to her: “I desire to have my home between my beloved Church of St. Mary Major, and that of my dear adopted son John (St. John Lateran).” Between these two Basilicas stood the Church of St. Matthew, at that time in charge of the religious of the Augustinian Order. To the Prior, then, of these religious the Picture was given.
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On March 27th, 1499, by a triumphant procession through the streets of Rome, the picture was solemnly installed over the High Altar of the Church of St. Matthew, where, for three hundred years it was the fruitful source of numberless graces and favors to the Romans and their neighbors. In the year 1600, a Roman historian writes: “In the Church of St. Matthew is a picture of the Blessed Virgin, which, from the numbers of miracles wrought and the countless graces received, well merits to be regarded as Miraculous.
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During the French occupation of Rome (1809—1814) the Church of St. Matthew was demolished by order of the usurping government, compelling the Augustinian Fathers to abandon their monastery. On removing to the Church of Santa Maria, in Posterula, they took with them the miraculous picture but no longer exposed it for public veneration, dreading sacrilegious profanation. One by one the older members of the Community, who had known the Church of St. Matthew in happier days, passed away. In the year 1846, however, two persons were praying in the oratory of the Augustinian Monastery of Santa Maria, in Posterula, one an old man of more than seventy years, the other a youth. Suddenly the old man, pointing out to the youth this long-forgotten picture of the Madonna of Perpetual Help, on the wall of the oratory, said impressively, “This picture was formerly held in great veneration in the Church of St. Matthew, and every year a feast was celebrated in its honor.” The speaker was an Augustinian Brother, Orsette by name, the last survivor of the Community of St. Matthew. The youth, Michael Marchi by name, looked attentively at the picture, but attached no great importance to the old Brother’s words. Towards the close of his life, Brother Orsette, now almost blind, took great pleasure in conversing with young Marchi of his dear Madonna, her glory and the magnificent feasts of former days. He would sometimes say, with great earnestness and in a mysterious way, “You understand, Michael, that the Madonna, so long venerated in St. Matthew’s is the one you see here in the chapel. Mind, don’t forget it,” adding, “I tell you, Michael, this is certain. Do you hear me? Do you understand what I say? Oh, how many miracles this picture has wrought! Oh, it was indeed miraculous!” The young Marchi listened and “kept all these things in his heart.”
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Not long after the death of Orsette (1853), Pope Pius IX. ordered the Superior-General of the Redemptorists to transfer the Central House of the Order from Naples to Rome; hence, the Redemptorists, in June, 1854, purchased, on the Esquiline, the Villa Caserta, an old Roman palace, in the garden of which were still visible some ruins of the Church of St. Matthew. The house was transformed into a monastery, and a new church was built close by, dedicated to St. Alphonsus, the founder of the Redemptorist Order. One of the Fathers of Villa Caserta, searching one day among some old books and manuscripts for historical information concerning the site on the Esquiline, discovered some valuable documents relating to the ruined Church of St. Matthew, and in particular to a Picture of Our Lady, famous for its many miracles. When he gave an account of what he had found out, one of the Fathers suddenly exclaimed, “I know where this miraculous Madonna is. I have seen it myself many a time, in the chapel of the Augustinians of Sancta Maria, in Posterula.” The Father who thus spoke was none other than the youthful confidant of Brother Orsette, Michael Marchi, who had become a Redemptorist soon after the foundation of the Villa Caserta. He died there in January, 1886.
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One Saturday, in February, 1863, Father Blosi, S. J., preaching on the glories of Mary, took for his subject the ancient and miraculous “Picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” recalling its past glory and how the Blessed Mother had made known her will, that the picture should be placed for veneration in a church situated between St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. The Redemptorists were deeply impressed when they heard of this sermon, for many providential circumstances pointed clearly to their own Church of St. Alphonsus as the new sanctuary chosen by Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Very Rev. Father Mauron having waited two years longer and after many prayers offered to ascertain God’s will, on December 11th, 1865, had an audience with Pope Pius the IXth, in which he presented a supplication, that His Holiness would deign to grant to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer the possession of that venerable picture. Pius IX. gladly signed the petition, and January 19th, 1866, after a banishment of sixty years, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was again brought back to a sanctuary between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.
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On April 26th, the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and of St. Cletus, the Pope, who first built the Church of St. Matthew, the holy picture was carried in solemn procession through decorated streets, amid the acclamations of more than 20,000 people, to its place in the Church of St. Alphonsus.
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During the Triduum more than 50,000 persons came to honor the sacred picture. Again, as in 1499. Mary strewed her path with graces and miracles. On May 5th, Pius IX. himself came to honor the Madonna. He had already placed a copy of the original picture in his Chapel.
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The Chapter of St. Peter at Rome has the custom of crowning with a golden diadem the most illustrious and venerated pictures of the Madonna. On the Sunday preceding the Feast of St. John Baptist, the Dean of the Chapter confided the crown to the Most Rev. Father-General of the Redemptorists, after receiving from him an oath, that it would always remain over the picture. Mass and the ceremony of coronation followed, whilst outside the roaring of cannon and the pealing of bells announced, that the Picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was numbered among those worthy of the title miraculous.
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The beneficent action of miraculous pictures is generally confined within certain limits, and does not extend beyond the shrine where the original picture is venerated, but not so in regard to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Her sweet influence extends wherever this devotion is practised.
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The devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help soon spread throughout the Christian world. Exact copies of the beautiful picture were made, and a greater value was given them by the fact that they were touched to the original picture in Rome. Notwithstanding the unholy carpings of captious critics, there is nothing unreasonable in this practice. If we treasure a lock of hair of some dear departed one; if we stand with reverent mien in the apartment used by a saint of God, and there yield our soul to holy reveries; if we value at an unspeakable price a shred of the garment, or a tiny bone of God’s heroes and heroines; if we kiss with reverent love those spots pressed by the Saviour’s feet; why should we not place a special value upon that which has touched a wonder-working picture, made illustrious by God’s holy Mother?
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Prayer and Consecration to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
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Most holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, whom I love to honor under the lovely title of Mother of Perpetual Help, I, N., although most unworthy to be thy servant, yet moved by thy wonderful compassion and by my desire to serve thee, now choose thee, in the presence of my guardian angel and of the whole celestial court, for my queen, advocate, and mother: and I firmly purpose always to love and serve thee for the future, and to do whatever I can to induce others to love and serve thee also. I beseech thee, O Mother of God, and my most compassionate and loving Mother, by the blood which thy Son shed for me, to receive me into the number of thy servants, to be thy child and servant forever. Assist me in my thoughts, words, and actions every moment of my life, so that all may be directed to the greater glory of my God; and through thy most powerful intercession, may I never more offend my beloved Jesus, but may I glorify Him, and love Him in this life, and love thee also, my most tender and dear Mother, so that I may love thee and enjoy thee in heaven and bless God for all eternity. Amen.
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Indulgences
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The faithful who devoutly recite the three prayers to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, saying the Hail Mary at least three times, may gain: An indulgence of 500 days.

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