May 24: Patronal Feast of Mary, Help of Christians

Our Parish and Parish Church are officially dedicated to Blessed Mary ever-Virgin under her title, Auxilium Christianorum, or Help of Christians:

The feast of Mary, Help of Christians, May 24th, was instituted by Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII was arrested, 5 July, 1808, and detained a prisoner for three years at Savona, and then at Fontainebleau. In January, 1814, after the battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on the vigil of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy (September 23), the Patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumph. The Supreme Pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress to the Blessed Virgin Mary, visited many of her sanctuaries on the way and crowned her images (e.g. the “Madonna del Monte” at Cesena, “della Misericordia” at Treja, “della Colonne” and “della Tempestà” at Tolentino). The people crowded around the venerable Pontiff who had so bravely withstood the threats of Napoleon. He entered Rome on May 24, 1814, and was enthusiastically welcomed. To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile, he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of Mary (September 15) to the universal Church. When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples; Pius VII fled to Savona (March 22, 1815), where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy.

After the Congress of Vienna and the battle of Waterloo, Pope Pius VII returned to Rome, July 7, 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady he instituted for the Papal States the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be celebrated on May 24, the anniversary of his first return. Soon, the Dioceses of Tuscany adopted it (in 1816) and others followed.

This feast of Our Lady is also the patronal feast of Australia, and in accordance with a vow (1891) is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Congregation, dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians (and the title of the mother church of his congregation at Turin). The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion Our Lady under this title all over the world.

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