May 23, 2017

Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians

Mary Help of Christians

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24th. Today, like centuries before, Christians facing persecution, violence and death, have invoked Mary’s protection under this designation. Concerning it, Saint John Bosco wrote of his order, the Salesians' primary mission: "The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. This title seems to please the august Queen of Heaven very much."

The tradition of this devotion goes back to 1571, when the whole of Christendom was saved by Mary Help of Christians as Catholics throughout Europe prayed the Rosary. The battle of Lepanto defeating the Ottoman Empire occurred on October 7th 1571. The date was chosen as the Feast of the Holy Rosary. In 1573, Pope Pius V instituted it in thanksgiving for the victory of Christianity over Islamism.

Near the end of the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I of Austria took refuge in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Pasau, (present day Germany,) when some 200,000 Ottoman troops besieged the capital city of Vienna, but a great victory occurred thanks to Mary Help of Christians: on September 8th, the Feast of Our Lady's Birth, plans were drawn for the battle. On September 12, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Vienna was freed by the intercession of Mary Help of Christians. All Europe joined with the Emperor seeking Mary's help and praying the Rosary.

In 1809, Napoleon's men entered the Vatican, arrested Pope Pius VII and brought him in chains to Grenoble, and eventually Fontainbleau. His imprisonment lasted five years. The Holy Father vowed to God that, if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special Feast in honor of Our Lady. Military reverses forced Napoleon to release the Pope, and on May 24th 1814, Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later, the Pope decreed that the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, be kept on the 24th of May. O Mary, the Church's spiritual pillar and Help of Christians, I beseech you to keep me firm in the Divine Faith, and safeguard in me, for ever more, the freedom and dignity of God's children.

Adapted excerpt from "Mary Help of Christians", the Catholic News Agency.

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