When I moved to my present parish almost five years ago I inherited a longstanding devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Each Saturday at the morning Mass, a novena prayer is said and an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is venerated in front of the altar. The devotion has become an important anchor for all those who attend.
The image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is probably the best known and most recognisable icon within the Catholic Church and this is thanks to the Redemptorists who were commissioned by Pope Pius IX to “make her known to the whole world”.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Redemptorists receiving the icon and presents an important opportunity for the development of devotion of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The icon today
Until 1798 the icon was venerated in the Church of St Matthew in Rome. Following great turbulence in Rome and the destruction of St Matthew’s, the image was removed for safekeeping by the Augustinians to the chapel of their monastery in Posterula. It remained in the care of the Augustinians until 1866 when it was entrusted to the superior of the Redemptorists who placed the image in St Alphonsus’s church in Rome where it remains today. This church is now also the titular church in Rome of Cardinal Vincent Nichols and is built upon the site of the original Church of St Matthew.
The 150th anniversary
Celebrations commenced on April 24, which was the anniversary of the return of the image. Cardinal Nichols visited St Alphonsus to celebrate Mass alongside Redemptorists from around the world. There was a great procession of the icon before the beginning of Mass where many nationalities were represented. During his homily, Cardinal Nichols said: “It is my prayer today that we may continue to take those words of Pius IX to heart, and that devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in this church and elsewhere, may continue for the next 150 years, showing to many the limitless mercy of God for us all, His little ones, and made manifest in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
How to get involved
As part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary, the Holy Father has granted a plenary indulgence which is available to all who make a pilgrimage to the image in Rome or to any Redemptorist church throughout the world to venerate the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
In addition to making a specific pilgrimage, this may be an opportunity for discovering the riches of this devotion by learning the novena prayers and obtaining a copy of the icon for our own homes and parishes. We can also make a concerted effort to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help which falls each year on June 27. There are so many devotions within our Church that are being rediscovered at this time. Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is one such devotion which deserves to gain new interest and followers.