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Saint of the Day

Mary, Help of Christians

May 24
The tradition of the title of Mary, Help of Christians, dates back to 1571 when Christianity was saved through the intercession of the Blessed Mother during the now famous battle of Lepanto. It was in this battle--on October 7, later declared as the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-- that Christian forces were victorious over Muslim invaders, believed to be due to the continuous Rosary prayers of Christians throughout Europe. Tradition tells us that following the decisive battle, many Christian soldiers marched to Loreto, where then invoked Mary, Our Blessed Mother, as the "Help of Christians." Following that invocation, devotion to Mary under this title spread.

Centuries later, in 1809, the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, rampaging across Europe, stormed the Vatican and arrested then Pope Pius VII. The pope, was chained, brought to Grenoble, and later Fontainebleau where he would remain imprisoned for more than five years. During his imprisonment, Pope Pius VII smuggled a message from his cell, urging Christians everywhere to pray to Mary, Help of Christians, for the defeat of Napoleon and restoration of the Church. In 1814, Napoleon was defeated, and the Pius VII returned, triumphant to Rome, giving thanks to the Lord and the Blessed Virgin for his release. At that time, he decreed that the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, would be celebrated on May 24. Devotion spread across the Church, throughout the world.

Furthering the devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, was Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), priest and founder of the Salesian Order and the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. A prophetic dreamer, Saint John Bosco foresaw the difficult times ahead that the Church would face. In one such dream, he witnessed the future pope anchoring the 'ship,' the Church, between two pillars--one with a statue of Mary, Help of Christians, the other with a large Eucharistic host. He wrote to his order, saying, "The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. This title seems to please the Queen of Heaven very much." He stated, "If you want to see miracles, have devotion to Mary, Help of Christians." Saint John Bosco dedicated his entire order to her invocation, and upon his deathbed stated, "The help of God and of Mary will not fail you...I recommend devotion to Mary Help of Christians and frequent Holy Communion."

Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin, Help of Christians, we place ourselves under your motherly protection. Throughout the Church's history you have helped Christians in times of trial, temptation and danger. Time and time again, you have proven to be the Refuge of sinners, the Hope of the hopeless, the Consoler of the afflicted, and the Comforter of the dying. We promise to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, your Son, to proclaim His Good News of God's love for all people, and to work for peace and justice in our world. With faith in your intercession, we pray for the Church, for our family and friends, for the poor and abandoned, and all the dying. Amen.
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!

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