Archive for January, 2010

Jan. 31: Septuagesima Sunday/4th Sunday of the Year

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

TODAY marked the third anniversary of my appointment as the Pastor of St. Mary Parish.  After celebrating my parish Masses for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mass of Pope Paul VI), I moved into the rich Pre-Lenten Season of Septuagesima as  I prepared to travel to Sioux Falls to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is the Gospel appointed for Septuagesima Sunday (St. Matthew 20: 1-16).

From THE LITURGICAL YEAR

By the Servant of God, DOM PROSPER GUÉRANGER (April 4, 1805 – January 30, 1875), ABBOT OF SOLESMES

The Three Pre-Lenten Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima:

So important was Lent to both Eastern and Western Christians that they actually had a separate season to prepare for it. Thus, the day after Septuagesima Sunday, they would begin a period of voluntary fasting that would grow more severe as it approached the full and obligatory fast of Lent. The amount of food would be reduced, and the consumption of certain items, such as butter, milk, eggs, and cheese, would gradually be abandoned. Starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, this self-imposed asceticism would culminate in abstinence from meat. Thus the name for this seven-day period before Ash Wednesday is “Carnival,” from the Latin carne levarium, meaning “removal of meat.” Finally, within the week of Carnival, the last three days (the three days prior to Lent) would be reserved for going to confession.  This period was known as “Shrovetide,” from the old English word “to shrive,” or to have one’s sins forgiven through absolution. These incremental steps eased the faithful into what was one of the holiest — and most demanding — times of the year.

Lent is a sacred period of forty days set aside for penance, contrition, and good works. Just as Septuagesima imitates the seventy years of Babylonian exile, Quadragesima (“forty,” the Latin name for Lent) imitates the holy periods of purgation recorded in the Old Testament.

SCHEMA OF THE PRE-LENTEN SUNDAYS LEADING UP TO THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT:

Traditional Pre-Lent (Septuagesimatide):

  • Septuagesima Sunday. Exile and the need for asceticism. (Depositio of the Alleluia the night before.)
  • Sexagesima Sunday. The perils of exile (persecution) and the fruits of asceticism (the Word being sown into our hearts.
    • Thursday after Sexagesima: Carnival
    • Shrove Monday. [Traditional time for confession]
    • Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras. [Trad. time for confession]
  • Quinquagesima Sunday (a.k.a. Carnival, or Shrove Sunday). “We are going up to Jerusalem” — a setting of the stage for the pilgrimage of Lent, and the one thing we must bring with us: charity. [Also, traditional time for going to confession]

Lent (Quadragesima):

  • Ash Wednesday. The solemn season begins with a reminder of our mortality and our profound need for repentance and conversion.
  • First Sunday of Lent. The model for our fasting, Christ in the desert, and the kinds of temptations we can expect to encounter.

February Liturgical Ministry Schedule now on-line

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

You can view the Liturgical Ministry Schedule for February, 2010 by going to the “pages” section on the right hand column (lower section), or by clicking here:

Ministry Schedule February 2010

January 25: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle

Monday, January 25th, 2010

“Who has not felt a fear lest he be wandering from the true doctrine of Christ? Let him cherish and obey the holy light of conscience within him, as Saul [St Paul] did; let him carefully study the Scriptures, as Saul did not; and the God who had mercy even on the persecutor of His saints, will assuredly shed His grace upon him, and bring him into the truth as it is in Jesus.”

— The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman: from the sermon ‘St. Paul’s Conversion Viewed in Reference to His Office’ (1831)

COLLECT OF TODAY’S MASS:

O God, who hast taught the whole world by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle: grant, we beseech Thee, that we who this day celebrate his conversion, may, through his example, draw nearer unto Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.

Deus, qui universum mundum beati Pauli Apostoli praedicatione docuisti: da nobis, quaesumus; ut, qui eius hodie Conversionem colimus, per eius ad te exempla gratiamur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

About the art/artists: 

The Conversion on the Way to Damascus (Conversione di San Paolo) is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (29 September 1571–18 July 1610), painted in 1601 for the Cerasi Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome.  Across the chapel is a second Caravaggio painting (1600) depicting the inverted Crucifixion of St. Peter.

Fra Angelico, or il Beato Angelico (c. 1395 – February 18, 1455), born Guido di Pietro, was a painter in the early Italian Renaissance and a member of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans.  Fra Angelico, who was known to his contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John from Fiesole), was beatified in 1982 by the Venerable Pope John Paul II.

DOM PROSPER GUÉRANGER: The 40 Days of Christmastide

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

From THE LITURGICAL YEAR

By the Servant of God, DOM PROSPER GUÉRANGER (April 4, 1805 – January 30, 1875), ABBOT OF SOLESMES 

CHAPTER THE FIRST
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels [St Luke ii 10] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.

The custom of celebrating the Solemnity of our Savior’s Nativity by a feast or commemoration of forty days’ duration is founded on the holy Gospel itself; for it tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, after spending forty days in the contemplation of the Divine Fruit of her glorious Maternity, went to the Temple, there to fulfil, in most perfect humility, the ceremonies which the Law demanded of the daughters of Israel, when they became mothers.

The Feast of Mary’s Purification is, therefore, part of that of Jesus’ Birth; and the custom of keeping this holy and glorious period of forty days as one continued Festival has every appearance of being a very ancient one, at least in the Roman Church. And firstly, with regard to our Savior’s Birth on December 25, we have St John Chrysostom telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show that it is well founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of our Saviour’s Birth, since the acts of the Enrolment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds upon the Gospel of St Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month [Lev. xxiii 24 and following verses. The seventh month (or Tisri) corresponded to the end of our September and beginning of our October. -Tr.] that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St John the Baptist: hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel’s visit, and conceived the Saviour of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December.

But it was not till the fourth century that the Churches of the East began to keep the Feast of our Saviour’s Birth in the month of December. Up to that period they had kept it at one time on the sixth of January, thus uniting it, under the generic term of Epiphany, with the Manifestation of our Savior made to the Magi, and in them to the Gentiles; at another time, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, they kept it on the 25th of the month Pachon (May 15), or on the 25th of the month Pharmuth (April 20). St John Chrysostom, in the Homily we have just cited, which he gave in 386, tells us that the Roman custom of celebrating the Birth of our Savior on December 25 had then only been observed ten years in the Church of Antioch. It is probable that this change had been introduced in obedience to the wishes of the Apostolic See, wishes which received additional weight by the edict of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, which appeared towards the close of the fourth century, and decreed that the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord should be made two distinct Festivals. The only Church that has maintained the custom of celebrating the two mysteries on January 6 is that of Armenia; owing, no doubt, to the circumstance of that country not being under the authority of the Emperors; as also because it was withdrawn at an early period from the influence of Rome by schism and heresy.

The Feast of our Lady’s Purification, with which the forty days of Christmas close, is, in the Latin Church, of very great antiquity; so ancient, indeed, as to preclude the possibility of our fixing the date of its institution. According to the unanimous opinion of Liturgists, it is the most ancient of all the Feasts of the Holy Mother of God; and as her Purification is related in the Gospel itself, they rightly infer that its anniversary was solemnized at the very commencement of Christianity. Of course, this is only to be understood of the Roman Church; for as regards the Oriental Church, we find that this Feast was not definitely fixed to February 2 until the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century. It is true that the Eastern Christians had previously to that time a sort of commemoration of this Mystery, but it was far from being a universal custom, and it was kept a few days after the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity, and not on the day itself of Mary’s going up to the Temple.

But what is the characteristic of Christmas in the Latin Liturgy? It is twofold: it is joy, which the whole Church feels at the coming of the divine Word in the Flesh; and it is admiration of that glorious Virgin, who was made the Mother of God. There is scarcely a prayer, or a rite, in the Liturgy of this glad Season, which does not imply these two grand Mysteries: an Infant-God, and a Virgin-Mother.

For example, on all Sundays and Feasts which are not Doubles, the Church, throughout these forty days, makes a commemoration of the fruitful virginity [The Collect, Deus qui salutis aeternae beatae Mariae Virginiate fecunda humano generi, etc.] of the Mother of God, by three special Prayers in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She begs the suffrage of Mary by proclaiming her quality of Mother of God and her inviolate purity [V. Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti. R. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.], which remained in her even after she had given birth to her Son. And again the magnificent Anthem, Alma Redemptoris Mater, composed by the Monk Herman Contractus, continues, up to the very day of the Purification, to be the termination of each Canonical Hour. It is by such manifestations of her love and veneration that the Church, honoring the Son in the Mother, testifies her holy joy during this season of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas.

Our readers are aware that, when Easter Sunday falls at its latest – that is, in April – the Ecclesiastical Calendar counts as many as six Sundays after the Epiphany. Christmastide (that is, the forty days between Christmas Day and the Purification) includes sometimes four out of these six Sundays; frequently only two; and sometimes only one, as in the case when Easter comes so early as to necessitate keeping Septuagesima, and even Sexagesima Sunday, in January. Still, nothing is changed, as we have already said, in the ritual observances of this joyous season, excepting only that on those two Sundays, the fore-runners of Lent, the Vestments are purple, and the Gloria in excelsis is omitted.

Although our holy Mother the Church honors with especial devotion the Mystery of the Divine Infancy during the whole season of Christmas; yet, she is obliged to introduce into the Liturgy of this same season passages from the holy Gospels which seem premature, inasmuch as they relate to the active life of Jesus. This is owing to there being less than six months allotted by the Calendar for the celebration of the entire work of our Redemption: in other words, Christmas and Easter are so near each other, even when Easter is as late as it can be, that Mysteries must of necessity be crowded into the interval; and this entails anticipation. And yet the Liturgy never loses sight of the Divine Babe and his incomparable Mother, and never tires in their praises, during the whole period from the Nativity to the day when Mary comes to the Temple to present her Jesus.

The Greeks, too, make frequent commemorations of the Maternity of Mary in their Offices of this Season: but they have a special veneration for the twelve days between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, which, in their Liturgy, are called the Dodecameron. During this time they observe no days of Abstinence from flesh-meat; and the Emperors of the East had, out of respect for the great Mystery, decreed that no servile work should be done, and that the Courts of Law should be closed, until after January 6.

From this outline of the history of the holy season, we can understand what is the characteristic of this second portion of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas, and which has ever been a season most dear to the Christian world. What are the Mysteries embodied in its Liturgy will be shown in the following chapter.

World Day of Communications

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

VATICAN CITY – The Holy Father’s Message for the 44th World Day of Communications – “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word”

Nota Bene: The complete text of the Holy Father’s message is available by clicking here:  World Day of Communications 2010

Pope Benedict told priests on Saturday, saying they must learn to use new forms of communication to spread the gospel message.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church‘s World Day of Communications, the pope, who is 82 and known not to love computers or the internet, acknowledged priests must make the most of the “rich menu of options” offered by new technology.

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources — images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites — which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis,” he said.

Priests, he said, had to respond to the challenge of “today’s cultural shifts” if they wanted to reach young people.

But Benedict warned priests not to strive to become stars of new media.

“Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart,” he said.

After decades of being wary of new media, the Vatican has decided to dive in head first. Last year, a new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering one application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

Benedict still writes most of his speeches by hand in German and it is younger aides who manage his forays into cyberspace.

January 21: Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Today is the feast of St. Agnes, beloved virgin martyr of the Roman Church, whose name is inscribed in the Canon of the Mass.

Today, the Holy Father blessed two lambs whose wool will be used to make the pallia for the new Metropolitan Archbishops of the Church.

COLLECT OF THE MASS:  Let us pray. O Almighty and everlasting God, Who choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong: mercifully grant that we who keep the solemn feast of blessed Agnes, Thy Virgin and Martyr, may experience the benefit of her pleading with Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

From the Roman Martyrology: At Rome, the passion of St. Agnes, virgin, who under Symphronius, governor of the city, was thrown into the fire, but after it was extinguished by her prayers, she was slain with the sword.  Of her, St. Jerome writes: “Agnes is praised in the writings and by the tongues of all nations, especially in the churches.  She overcame the weakness of her age, conquered the cruelty of the tyrant, and consecrated her chastity by martyrdom.”

V.  Right dear in the sight of the Lord.
R.  Is the death of his Saints.

May holy Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, and all the Holy, Righteous, and Elect of God, make intercession for us sinners to the same God our Lord : that we may be accounted worthy to obtain from him help and salvation.  Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever.
R.  Amen.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia: 

ST. AGNES was but twelve years old when she was led to the altar of Minerva at Rome and commanded to obey the persecuting laws of Diocletian by offering incense. In the midst of the idolatrous rites she raised her hands to Christ, her Spouse and made the sign of the life-giving cross. She did not shrink when she was bound hand and foot, though the bonds slipped from her young hands, and the heathens who stood around were moved to tears. The bonds were not needed for her, and she hastened gladly to the place of her torture. Next, when the judge saw that pain had no terrors for her, he inflicted an insult worse than death: her clothes were stripped off, and she had to stand in the street before a pagan crowd, yet even this did not daunt her. “Christ,” she said, “will guard His own.” So it was. Christ showed, by a miracle, the value which He sets upon the custody of the eyes. Whilst the crowd turned away their eyes from the spouse of Christ, as she stood exposed to view in the street, there was one young man who dared to gaze at the innocent child with immodest eyes. A flash of light struck him blind, and his companions bore him away half dead with pain and terror.

Lastly, her fidelity Christ was proved by flatter and offers of marriage. But she answered, “Christ is my Spouse: He chose me first, and His I will be.”  At length the sentence of death was passed. For a moment she stood erect in prayer, and then bowed her neck to the sword. At one stroke her head was severed from her body, and the angels bore her pure soul to Paradise.   Died– c. 350

Lives of Unwanted Especially Sacred

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Archbishop Carlson at Communion in St. Peter's, Rome

The Archbishop’s Column (from the Catholic Review)

January 13, 2010

by The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis

Have you ever felt unwanted? It’s a horrible feeling that strikes at the heart of your soul. Rejection is always painful, but to be rejected for who you are is perhaps the most painful experience a human being can have.

When I was in grade school, we played games where two boys representing the leaders of opposing teams would take turns choosing their teammates. I was never the first boy chosen, but I also wasn’t the last. I wonder how that boy felt? Did he wonder why he wasn’t good enough? Did he feel guilty or angry or ashamed? As awful as it must have been to be the last boy chosen, he at least got to play with us. He wasn’t totally rejected (even if we didn’t know how to make him feel really wanted).

What about the boys and girls who were never chosen at all — the unborn, the handicapped, the homeless children who couldn’t go to school?

In his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life),” Pope John Paul II writes, “By his incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being. This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God … but also the incomparable value of every human person” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #2).

Every human life is sacred. Every person is a child of God who possesses incomparable dignity and worth, no matter his or her state in life or personal gifts and talents. Regardless of who we are; what our background is; the state of our physical, emotional or mental health; our accomplishments; our race, religion or cultural heritage; our age; or our social status; every individual human being is precious in the sight of God and should also be valuable in the eyes of fellow human beings.

No one is unwanted by God. His love embraces all. Think for a moment of the power of that statement. Can it really be true that the God who made the universe in all its vastness and complexity knows and loves each and every one of us, including (or perhaps especially) those of us who have been rejected by parents, families, communities or society as a whole?

Can it really be true that God sees in us (all of us, everyone of us) something that is worth more than we can possible imagine — something that far exceeds silver or gold, power or prestige, fame or fortune?

Yes!

Every human is wanted by God because every person has been given the gift of life. This gift is a share in God’s own being that is more precious than anything we can possibly imagine. Life itself is the treasure given to us by God to be nurtured and protected and shared generously with others. Nothing on earth is more valuable than human life. That’s why deliberately taking a human life by murder, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide or any other means is such a grave sin. God alone gives life and only He can take it back again.

No one is unwanted by God. That’s why we reverence all life, why we help the handicapped and care for the infirm and the elderly, why we encourage and assist women with unplanned pregnancies through the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund and why we speak out forcefully against all attempts to treat society’s unwanted human beings as somehow less valuable than they truly are in the sight of God.

No one is unwanted in God’s family. We don’t always show it as clearly as we should, but all are welcome. All are valued. All are members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

All life is sacred — especially those who feel unwanted or who have been rejected by the unjust, unloving and inhuman laws, policies and social practices of this and every other age.

As Pope John Paul taught us, “Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can … come to recognize … the sacred value of human life from the very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and political community itself are founded” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #2).

When God chooses His team, everyone is first. No one has to wonder, “Does God really want me?” God wants everyone. That means He wants you and me, and every human being who has ever lived, and everyone who is yet to be conceived.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days” (Dt 30:16, 19-20).

DAMIAN THOMPSON: What if we just said, get stuffed?

Friday, January 15th, 2010
DAMIAN THOMPSON

What if we just said: get stuffed?

by Damian Thompson

Damian Thompson is Blogs Editor of the Telegraph Media Group.
Elderly liberals in the United States, horrified by the return of solemnity to Catholic worship, are mounting a campaign against the new English translation of the Mass, entitled What If We Just Said Wait. The campaign and petition have been endorsed by the supersmug National Catholic Reporter, which really tells you all you need to know.

Here’s my suggestion. What If We Just Said Get Stuffed, You Finger-Wagging Liberals Who Wreck The Mass Every Sunday By Boring The Pants Off Us With Your Politicised Bidding Prayers, Dreary Folk Antiphons And Other Self-Aggrandising Stunts.

Or, if you’d like to express yourself more temperately, sign this petition, entitled: “We’ve Waited Long Enough”. It reads:

We believe that the newly approved English translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

We believe that the Church in English-speaking nations has waited far too long for an accurate, faithful translation of the original Latin.

We believe that the current translation currently in use in English-speaking nations is overdue to be replaced, as it was developed using the method of dynamic translation, a method rejected by the Vatican in the document Liturgiam Authenticam.

We stand united with the English-speaking bishops’ conferences in their approval of the new translation.

We oppose any efforts to continue to delay this new translation.

If you agree with these statements – and the Priest of Salem, your blogging pastor, certainly does, you add your name by going here:  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/enoughwaiting/

Link to Damian Thompson’s article:  http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100022346/what-if-we-just-said-get-stuffed/

Link to Damian Thompson’s posts:  http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/

Let us ask the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for the people of Haiti

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

LET US PRAY TO OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP FOR THE PEOPLE OF HAITI.  Under this title, Our Blessed Mother is honored as the PATRONESS OF HAITI and the HAITIAN PEOPLE:

O Lord Jesus Christ, by whose gift Mary Thy Mother, whose image we venerate, is our Mother too, and ready at all times to help us: grant, we beseech Thee, that we, who earnestly beg her maternal help, may be counted worthy to reap through all eternity the fruit of Thy redemption.  We ask this of Thee, Who live and reign with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.  Amen.

The Latin Collect of the Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, celebrated on June 27:  Dómine Jesu Christe, qui Genetrícem tuam Maríam, cujus in sígnem venerámur imáginem, Matrem nobis dedísti perpétuo succúrre reparátam: concéde, quaésumus; ut nos, matérnam ejus opem assídue implorántes, redemptiónis tuæ fructum perpétuo experíri mereámur.  Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia saécula sæculórum.   Amen.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or Succour) – Introduction:

Our Lady (or Our Mother) of Perpetual Help (Succour)  is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, associated with the Byzantine icon of the same name, said to be from the 13th or 14th century, but perhaps 15th century, which has been in Rome since at least the late 15th century. The image is very popular among Catholics throughout the world, and has been much copied and reproduced. In the Byzantine Church this iconography is known as the Theotokos of the Passion.

Desciption of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help:

The icon depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a dress of dark red with blue mantle and veil. On the left is the Archangel Michael, carrying the lance and sponge as instruments of Our Lord’s Passion. On the right is the Archangel Gabriel carrying a 3-bar cross and nails. This type of icon is a later type of the Hodegetria composition, where Mary is pointing to her Son, known as a Theotokos of the Passion. The Christ-child has been alarmed by a pre-sentiment of His Passion, and has run to His Mother for succour, or help.   The facial expression of the Virgin Mary is solemn and is looking directly at the viewer instead of her Son. The Greek initials on top read Mother of God, Michael Archangel, Gabriel Archangel, and Jesus Christ, respectively. Jesus is portrayed clinging to His Mother with a dangling sandal.  The icon is painted with a gold background on a walnut panel, and may have been painted in Crete, then ruled by Venice, the main source of the many icons imported to Europe in the late Middle Ages and through the Renaissance.  It was cleaned and restored in 1866 and again in the 1940s and 1990’s.

History of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help:

The earliest written account of the image comes from a Latin and Italian plaque placed in the church of Saint Matthew where it was first venerated by the public in 1499. The writer of the icon is unknown, but according to legend the icon was stolen by a merchant from Crete who was sailing to Rome. The merchant supposedly sailed and hid the icon while traveling at sea, until a storm hit hard and the sailors prayed to the icon for help. When the merchant arrived in Rome he fell ill, and as his dying wish he asked another merchant to place the icon in a church where it could be venerated. The merchant then confided to his wife about the icon. Upon seeing the beautiful icon, the merchant’s wife refused to give it to the church but instead hung it in her home. Later on, the Virgin Mary appeared to the merchant’s daughter, requesting that the icon be turned into a parish for veneration. The Virgin Mary indicated to the little girl that she ought to be placed between the basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The wife then went to the Augustinian Friars to whom she gave up the icon. On March 27, 1499, the icon was transferred to the church and the icon was venerated there for 300 years.

In 1798, the governor of Rome, General Massena, ordered several churches in Rome closed and destroyed. St. Matthew’s was one of these churches. The Perpetual Help icon was taken by the Augustinian fathers to a nearby church, St. Eusebius. Later on they moved it to Santa Maria Posterula to a side altar. Pope Pius IX had invited a group of priests called the Redemptorists to set up a Marian house of veneration in Rome. They stationed in Via Merulana, not knowing that it was once the church of San Mateo and shrine of the once-famous icon. One day, a Redemptorist father heard stories of the icon and of the church in which it was once enshrined. The Redemptorists built a small church next to the building called St. Alphonse of Ligouri.

The Father General of the Redemptorists, Most Rev. Nicholas Mauron, decided to bring the whole matter to the attention of Blessed Pope Pius IX.  The Pope decided that the icon should be exposed to public veneration and the logical site was their church of St. Alphonse of Liguori, standing as it did between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. Pope Pius IX wrote a short memorandum ordering the Augustinian Fathers of St. Mary in Posterula to surrender the picture to the Redemptorists, on condition that the Redemptorist supply the Augustinians with another picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help or a good copy of the icon of Perpetual Help in exchange. Upon the return of the icon, Pope Pius IX gave the icon the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In June 23, 1867, the image was crowned by the Dean of the Vatican Chapter in a solemn and official recognition of the Marian icon under the title of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. In April 21, 1866, the Redemptorist Superior General gave one of the first copies to Pope Pius XI, which is now preserved in the chapel of the Redemptorists’ General Government in Rome. The icon is under the care of the Redemptorist fathers of St. Alphonse of Ligouri Church where the icon is now enshrined.

Since then, the icon has been venerated all around the world. The icon has been popularized among many cultures and has had several titles in different languages such as Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, Perpetuo Succursu, Beata Virgo de Perpetuo Succursu, Ina ng Laging Saklolo and Mother of Perpetual Soccour.

According to tradition, when handing over the Icon to the Redemptorist in 1866, Blessed Pope Pius IX expressed the desire that they should make her known to the world. From that time until present day, devotion to the Mother of Perpetual help has spread all over the world. Thousands of copies of the Picture have been dispatched throughout the world and there are many shrines where copies of the original Icon are venerated and regarded as miraculous.

Among the best known shrine are those in Boston and New York (USA), Haiti, where Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the Patroness of the country; Santiago (Chile, Curitiba, Belém and Manaus in Brazil, Tequisquiapan in Mexico; Belfast and Limerick in Ireland; Bussolengo in Italy; Torun and Cracow in Poland; Singapore and the most famous of all in Manila (Philippines).

The Perpetual Novena which began in St. Louis (USA) in 1927, has made a notable contribution to the spread of this devotion. The Novena has been called “Perpetual”, because it is held on a fixed day each week of the year. During the Novena devotions, the faithful not only say the traditional prayer, but they also present written petitions and thanksgivings for favors received. There is also a meditation on some aspect of the spiritual life.

A Redder Wine than Cana’s…

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

FOR A NEW YEAR’S TOAST

 — by the Rev. Thomas H. Cosgrove, C.Ss.R. (1919-2008)

If you would fill your flagons

To toast the New Year’s birth,

We know the sweetest vintage

That bubbles on the earth.

 

A redder wine than Cana’s,

Where water, flaming, flushed.

As if a million rubies

Were thrown within, and crushed.

 

A dregless draught, and dearer

Than pearls without a taint,

Or relic softly stolen

From the body of a saint.

 

It wins us timeless treasures,

To live and linger yet

When all the stars are cinders

And when the sun is jet.

 

And when this toast is taken,

Unlike the ruder wine,

It lifts a man from lusting

And makes him half divine.

 

But where to find the wonder–

The drink beyond surpass?

Behold!  a priest is lifting

A Cup at Holy Mass.

— January, 1943

Reprinted from the January, 2010 edition of Seelos Center News (Volume XLIX, Number 1), the monthly newsletter of the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.  For more information on Blessed Seelos and his Shrine in New Orleans, go to: www.seelos.org.
Biographical information on the author of FOR A NEW YEAR’S TOAST:  Fr. Thomas H. Cosgrove was born July 2, 1919 in Kansas City, MO. He made his first profession of vows in 1940 at Mount St. Clements College in DeSoto, MO. Fr. Cosgrove made his final professed on September 2, 1943. He was ordained in 1945 in Oconomowoc, WI. Father Cosgrove served from 1948 to 1951 as a missionary in Cooperstown, ND; Carlisle, KY; and Oconomowoc.  He taught at the Redemptorists’ St. Joseph’s College Seminary in Kirkwood, MO from 1951 to 1954.
Fr. Tom was an Air Force military chaplain for five years from 1954 to 1959; he was stationed in Okinawa and at the Vance Air Force Base in Enid, OK. He also served as chaplain at Cochran Hospital in St. Louis.
Fr. Cosgrove was the pastor at St. Gerard Majella parish in Kirkwood from 1987 to 1989; he also served as pastor in parishes in Grand Rapids, MI; Detroit, MI; Wichita, KS; Kansas City, MO; and Omaha, NE. He also conducted retreats at the Redemptorists’ retreat house in Glenview, IL.
Fr. Tom was an author, editor and contributing editor for many years for the Liguorian magazine and preached about the magazine throughout the United States to help increase its subscription base.
Fr. Thomas H. Cosgrove died on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at the age of 89 at St. Clement’s Healthcare Center in Liguori, MO.
FOR A NEW YEAR’S TOAST was written while Fr. Cosgrove was in major seminary, two years before his priestly ordination.  May he rest in peace.