OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
The miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was painted between 1320 and 1380 and was brought from Crete where it had purportedly been venerated at the Monastery of Kera under the name “our Lady Cordiotissa (full heart). Studies confirm it is a style traceable to around the year 1000. The picture was probably developed from a much venerated picture painted by Lazarus the Monk in the early 7thcentury. Oral history tells us the icon was stolen by a Venice merchant and brought to Rome in 1495 where it remained hidden in a private home for four years.
In 1499 Our Lady appeared to a small child in the home and made her name Perpetual Help known. She named the Irish Augustinian Church of St. Matthew as the church she wished to be venerated and the icon was enthroned there for three centuries.
In 1798 the French invaded Rome and leveled some thirty churches, including St. Matthew. The picture was then transferred to the nearby church of St. Eusibio until 1819 when it was removed to the church of St. Mary in Posterula. There it remained in obscurity for over twenty years.
In the 1840’s the old Brother Sacristan in St. Mary in Posterula told the story of Perpetual Help to one of his altar boys, Michael Marchi. The Brother had spent his early religious life at St. Matthews and knew the picture was meant to be in the location where St. Matthews once stood. In 1854 the Redemptorists built the church of St. Alphonsus, unknowingly, on the same spot where St. Matthews had been. Michael Marchi, now a Redemptorist priest, told his confreres the Perpetual Help story he had learned as a child.
In 1866 the Redemptorist Superior General, Father Nicholas Mauron and Father Marchi went to see Pope Pius IX. When the Pope heard the story, he ordered that the Miraculous picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help be transferred to the care of the Redemptorists.
On April 26, 1866 Our Lady was Solemnly Enthroned in St. Alphonsus church and Pope Pius IX gave the Redemptorists the charge to “Preach Perpetual Help to the whole world.”
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ICON WITH THE TITLE,
OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, had a deep love for Mary, the Mother of God. This love comes through in his personal spirituality as well as through his many theological writings and devotions on Mary. He often referred to Mary in a most personal way as “my Madonna”. It was with special joy, therefore, that in 1866 the Holy Father entrusted the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists with the simple but profound mandate, “Make Her Known.” Since the beginning of our Congregation, but especially following this mandate, devotion to Mary now under the title of Our Mother of Perpetual Help has been a key ingredient of Redemptorist spirituality.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, that when our retreat center was established on the shores of Crooked Lake in 1961 it should be named Our Mother of Perpetual Help Retreat Center. Only later and to be more in conformity with legal requirements was the center’s name expanded as The Redemptorist Retreat Center.
Our dedication to Mary can be seen in the numerous icons to Mary under this title throughout the retreat center. Special prominence, however, is the newly built Our Mother of Perpetual Help chapel which now overlooks Crooked Lake.
Mary continues to have a place of prominence in our weekend silent retreats. A variety of materials including pictures, devotions, and readings can be found in the retreat center gift shop.
For further information on devotion to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, please go to www.Redemptorists-Denver.org