The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, is June 27th. One can begin a novena to Our Lady today, and end on the glorious feast day. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is perhaps better known in the Eastern Churches. The story is quite beautiful.
It begins with an icon, gold painted upon wood, as is the style of Byzantine icons. Its dates range from 1200-1500. Some believe the icon to be a true copy of a painting that, according to legend, was painted from the life by Saint Luke using the meal table of the Holy Family in Nazareth.
It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child while the Archangels Michael and Gabriel present before Him the instruments of His Passion. On the right is the Saint Archangel Gabriel carrying a 3-bar cross used by Popes at the time and nails. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters, which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel. The Greek inscriptions read ‘MP-ΘΥ (Μήτηρ Θεού, Mother of God); OAM (Archangel Michael); OAΓ (Archangel Gabriel); and Iς-Xς ( Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Jesus Christ ), respectively.
The image depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a dress of dark red, representing the Passion of Jesus, with a blue mantle, representing her perpetual virginity, and cloaked veil, which represents her pure modesty. The Virgin Mary has a star on her forehead, signifying her role as Star of the Sea while the cross on the side has been claimed as to the school which has produced this icon. The Byzantine depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in art has three stars, one star each on the shoulder and one on the forehead. This type of icon is called Hodegetria composition, where Saint Mary is also pointing to her Son, known as a Theotokos of the Passion.
It was brought to Rome toward the end of the fifteenth century by a pious merchant, who, dying there, ordered by his will that the picture should be exposed in a church for public veneration. It was exposed in the church of San Matteo, Via Merulana, between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. For nearly three hundred years many graces were obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The picture was then popularly called the Madonna di San Matteo. The Augustinians were in charge when the French invaded Rome (1812) and destroyed the church.
The picture disappeared; it remained hidden and neglected for over forty years. The Augustinian friars who rescued the icon first took it to the nearby Church of St. Eusebius, then later set it up on a side altar in the Church of Santa Maria in Posterula.
In January 1855, the Redemptorist priests purchased Villa Caserta in Rome along the Via Merulana and converted it into their headquarters. Without realizing it, the land they had purchased was actually the church and monastery of Saint Matthew, the site which was the alleged choice of the Virgin to enshrine the icon.
The pope, Pius IX, who as a boy had prayed before the picture in San Matteo, became interested in the discovery and in a letter dated December 11, 1865 to Father General Mauron, C.SS.R., ordered that Our Lady of Perpetual Succour should be again publicly venerated in Via Merulana.
He was amongst the first to visit the picture in its new home, and his name is the first in the register of the arch-confraternity. Two thousand three hundred facsimiles of the Holy Picture have been sent from St. Alphonsus’s church in Rome to every part of the world. At the present day not only altars, but churches and dioceses are dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In some places, as in the United States, the title has been translated Our Lady of Perpetual Help. (from wf-f.org and Wikipedia)
Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and His mercy is from age to age on those who love Him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help