Devotion to Our Mother Of Perpetual Help
According to tradition when handing over the Icon to the Redemptorsit in 1866. Pope Pius IX expressed the desire that they should make her known to the world. From that time until the present, 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 shrines are those in Boston and New York (USA), Haiti, where Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the Patroness of the country; Santiago in 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. Loius (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 favours received. There is also a meditation on some aspect of the spiritual life. Each year in the month of June, in preparation of the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, There is a Solemn Novena, nine days of prayer and reflection on the christian life.
The Meaning Behind the Icon
This beloved picture may look strange to modern Western eyes. It doesn't portray Mary as a delicate maiden with downcast eyes. Her direct gaze and strong features command our attention. We are struck by the unrealistic qualities of the figures. Jesus is the size of toddler, but his features are those of an older child. Mary and Jesus aren't set in a scene but float against a background of gold. This picture was painted in the Byzantine style of the Eastern Church. The purpose of this style of art is not to show a beautiful scene or person but to convey a beautiful spiritual message. Because the artist is trying to communicate something more glorious than anything in this world, the picture isn't a realistic portrayal. A Byzantine painting is like a door. Seeing a beautiful door is nice, but who wants to just stand there looking at the door? We want to open the door and go beyond it. The door might be attractive or unattractive, but it is only a door, there to lead us into a new world. That's how we must approach this picture. The artist, realizing that no one on earth would ever know what Mary or Jesus really looked like, and that their holiness could never be depicted in purely human terms, has portrayed their beauty and their message in symbols.