Our Lady of Perpetual Help

OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP (also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, or Ina ng Laging Saklolo), one of the many titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary as represented in a celebrated 15th-century Byzantine icon.

The icon has been in Rome since 1499, and is permanently enshrined in the Chiesa di Sant'Alfonso di Liguori all'Esquilino, a rectory church located on the Via Merulana on the Esquiline Hill of central Rome's Vth prefecture.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this artistic iconography is known as the Virgin of the Passion or Theotokos of the Passion due to the instruments of the Passion present on the image.

Due to the  Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or the Redemptorist Priests, who had been appointed as both custodians and missionaries of this icon by Pope Pius IX in 1865, the image has become very popular among Roman Catholics in particular, and has been very much copied and reproduced. 

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is informally known in the Philippines as the Holy Virgin of Baclaran, and is widely venerated by Filipino Catholics and Overseas Filipino communities. 

A German copy of the icon is venerated in the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Parañaque City. Pope John Paul II once said Mass at the shrine as cardinal, and later prayed before the icon during his first pastoral visit to the country in February 1981.

The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) is one of the largest shrines in the Philippines. The Holy See has granted it permission to remain open 24/7 all year round, come rain or shine.

On 23 June 1867, the icon enshrined in Chiesa di Sant'Alfonso di Liguori, Rome was granted a Canonical Coronation and its official recognition of the Marian icon under its present title. The Redemptorist priests are the only religious order currently entrusted by the Holy See to protect and propagate a Marian religious work of art.

The feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is celebrated on June 27, with novena devotions held every Wednesday. Under Pope Pius XII's Pontificate, our Mother of Perpetual Help was designated as the national Patroness of the Republic of Haiti and Almoradi, Spain.

History of the Icon
The devotion to this Marian advocation revolves around the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, painted on wood, with background of gold. It is Byzantine in style and is supposed to have been painted in the thirteenth century. It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child while the Archangels Michael and Gabriel presenting Him the instruments of His Passion. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel respectively.

The icon was brought to Rome towards the end of the fifteenth century by a pious merchant, who, dying there, ordered by his will that the picture should be exposed in a church for public veneration. It was exposed in the church of San Matteo in the famous Roman street of Via Merulana, which connects the basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran. Crowds flocked to this church, and for nearly three hundred years many graces were obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The picture was then popularly called the Madonna di San Matteo. The church was served for a time by the Hermits of Saint Augustine.

These Augustinians were still in charge when the French invaded Rome (1812) and destroyed the church. The picture disappeared; it remained hidden and neglected for over forty years, but a series of providential circumstances between 1863 and 1865 led to its rediscovery in an oratory of the Augustinian Fathers at Santa Maria in Posterula.

Pope Pius IX, who as a boy had prayed before the picture in San Matteo, became interested in the discovery. But at that time, the ruins of San Matteo were in the grounds of a convent of the Redemptorists -- the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer -- founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787).

The Father General of the Redemptorists, Most Rev. Nicholas Mauron, decided to bring the whole matter to the attention of the Pope. The Pope listened attentively and felt sure it was God’s will that the icon should be gain exposed to public veneration and the logical site was their church of St. Alphonsus, standing as it did between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The Holy Father at once took a piece of paper and wrote a short memorandum ordering the Augustinian Fathers of St. Mary in Posterula to surrender the picture to the Redemptorists, on condition that the Redemptorists supply the Augustinians with another picture of Our Lady or a good copy of the icon of Perpetual Help.

The Icon meant much to the Augustinians, but when the two Redemptorists came armed with the Pope’s signed memorandum, what could they do but obey? On January 19, 1866, Fathers Marchi and Bresciani brought the miraculous picture to St. Alphonsus’ church. Preparations were now made to inaugurate the new public reign of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. On April 26th, a great procession was staged in which the picture was carried throughout the Esquiline region of Rome. Upon returning to the church, the picture was enthroned over the high altar, in a resplendent shrine-niche especially constructed for it.

The report of marvelous healings spread rapidly throughout the city of Rome and people came by the hundreds to visit the shrine. Soon the whole area around the altar was filled with abandoned crutches and canes and several whole glass-covered cabinets were filled with gold and silver thanksgiving offerings in the shapes of miniature hearts, arms, legs and other votive offerings. Scarcely two weeks after the solemn exposition of the picture, Pope Pius IX himself came to visit the shrine. He stood quietly before it for a long time and then exclaimed: “How beautiful she is!”.

Pope Leo XIII, the next pontiff, had a copy of the picture on his desk so that he might see it constantly during his working day. St. Pius X sent a copy of the icon to the Empress of Ethiopia and granted an indulgence of 100 days to anyone who repeated the phrase: “Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.”

Pope Benedict XV had the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help placed immediately over his chair of state in the throne room. Here it could be seen by all just over his head, as if to say: “Here is your true Queen!”.

Pope Pius IX told the Redemptorists, in speaking to them of the treasure he had committed to their care: “Make her known!” It seems as though they hardly needed the exhortation. In the United States, they built the first Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in the Roxbury section of Boston, and it was eventually raised to the honor of a “Papal Basilica” by Pope Pius XII.

Sources: ewtn.com and catholicculture.org

 

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