Today is the memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians, a title that seems first to have been used by Saint John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, in 345, and invoked ever since. In the latter half of the 16th century, Pope Saint Pius V urged Catholics to plead for her intercession in the war against the onslaught of the fanatical Islamic Ottoman Turks, which was, fortunately for the future of Europe, successful. The Pope had the title inserted into the Litany of Loreto, in thanksgiving for the victory in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 against overwhelming odds. Pope Pius VII instituted the official feast day in the midst of his struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte at the dawn of the 19th century. The upstart emperor had the pope imprisoned, starved and browbeaten, but had to let him go when his empire began to crumble in 1814. Sic transit gloria mundi. The Pope returned in triumph to Rome on this 24th of May that year, the glory of the papacy stronger than ever.
More recently, during his own pontificate, as we mention in an accompanying post, Pope Benedict XVI has asked Catholics to intercede for the Church in China, still mired in many of the evils of Communism, one of which is to set up a State-controlled ‘patriotic Church’, that Catholics in the country remain faithful to the Holy Father in the midst of all the persecution and confusion this causes.
Our Lady Help of Christians is a title under which Mary, the Mother of God, may offer aid to any one of her children in need of assistance, which includes all of us, at some times more than others. We may pray today the prayer written to her by one of those devoted sons, Saint John Bosco:
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
As Christ predicted to His own disciples, and to all of us, such is the price we must pray for standing in the truth, and with the Truth Himself. For it is through only through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)
Domina nostra, Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis!