This title of Mary is popular everywhere, and it reveals spiritual lessons that can inspire us every day.
Shortly before his dementia grew too severe to travel, my grandfather came to visit me one last time. Already he was acting very different from his usual self, but at the time he was still able to share stories of his life and have some awareness of what was going on around him.
I lived in Washington, DC, then, so I took him and my grandmother to visit one of my favorite places in that city: the Catholic Information Center. I volunteered there at the time, helping out with events and manning the cash register.
When we walked into the Center’s gift shop, my grandfather became fascinated with a large image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “My mother always had this image in her home,” he exclaimed. “She had a great devotion to it!”
He insisted on buying the image, right then and there, even though it would be a tight fit in his luggage back to Miami. There was something about that image that captivated him. It still hangs on the wall of my grandparents’ house today.
I think of this memory every year, on this feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. There is something truly captivating about the image of Mary as a source of “perpetual help.” Of all the Marian titles, this one may be the most popular.
What is it about Our Lady of Perpetual Help that is so arresting? I think the universal appeal of this image centers on our Christian identity as children of Mary.
A mother always, always tries to help her children, if there is any way that she possibly can. When we truly think of Mary as our mother, we turn to her for help very often. It’s enormously hopeful and deeply comforting to know that her help for us is unending.
The icon itself has an amazing history. It sounds like something out of a storybook, with a storm at sea, a visionary dream, and a forgotten and rediscovered treasure.
But it’s the spiritual truths behind the image that give it such deep meaning. It seems to convey, in one deceptively simple scene, the greatness of Our Lady’s intercessory power.
Even as his brilliant mind was beginning to dull, my grandfather sensed the loving strength and quiet helpfulness the image conveys. Any of us could benefit, as well, from having this image close at hand for prayer and contemplation. It’s especially fruitful if you’re going through a hard time, such as sickness, grief, or other hardships.
Here are 3 reasons that this image belongs in every Christian home.
1It helps us understand Mary’s role
In the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, baby Jesus is frightened and flees into her arms. Seeing God himself seek comfort from this holiest of women reminds us to do the same. This image inspires us to run to Mary for help, just as Christ did, in all the trials we face.
2It’s a source of accompaniment
Tradition holds that, in this image, young Jesus is frightened because he sees a vision of his future Passion. Mary reassures the frightened child with her actions and her very presence.
Looking at this image, it feels like we can hear Our Lady saying, “Yes, it’s going to be very hard. But I will stay with you. You won’t have to do it alone.” And indeed she would remain by his side throughout His entire Passion, offering steady support to console him, simply by being there and loving him.
Mary walks beside us when we carry our crosses too. She abides near us, offering her steady, gentle, supportive love. This image helps us keep this truth at the forefront of our minds, so we can be consoled by her presence as Christ was, both as a child and as a man.
3It offers joyful hope
Of course, the Passion is not the end of the story. The Resurrection came, and it comes into all of our hardships too.
Christ wears a crown in this image, showing that he is King of heaven and earth. It’s a reminder that whatever crosses we bear are finite: What will last forever is the glory of Christ and his reign as king. We see evidence of this truth in the many miracles attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
We can rejoice in confident hope, knowing that Christ has won the victory for us, once and for all. A glance at this image throughout the day can renew our spirits, giving us strength to “fight the good fight” (1 Tim 6:12) and follow Christ our King.