The devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is an important patroness in many cities and countries worldwide, such as Haiti and the Philippines.
Latin America knows her too as Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, or, Our Lady of Perpetual Succor. Many cathedrals, parishes, schools, hospitals, and organizations all over the world carry her name.
I never knew anything about the spiritual meaning of Our Lady of Perpetual Help other than it being one of the many Marian devotions. But a series of "God incidents" brought me closer to this particular devotion. Here is how it started:
My Story with Our Lady of Perpetual Help
A few years ago, my husband used to work in Baltimore. Downtown Baltimore seemed to me like a little Rome; you can find a Catholic Church on almost every corner. Next to his workplace there was a church called St. Alphonsus in honor of Alphonsus Liguori, a bishop and Doctor of the Church who founded the Redemptorists religious order.
St. Alphonsus is the patron saint of confessors and theologians, and the church named after him in Rome has the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In fact, the Redemptorists are the official caretakers of the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon and the foremost promoters of the devotion.
At that time, I had a weak relationship with my husband. We were upset with each other. My husband would go to Mass every day and soon befriended one of the priests and confessors there who advised him about our marriage.
Also, my mother-in-law was about to visit us from El Salvador, so my husband asked her to bring us a Catholic image for the house, nothing in particular. The image she brought us was an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
My husband put the image at the home altar, very visible and surrounded by holy water, candles, and souvenirs from places we have been.
A few months later we were planning a vacation in Italy, and the date we choose to go was June 27th . . . which happened to be the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We were not aware that it was her feast day, in fact, we still didn't know very much about this Marian devotion at all.
When we arrived in Rome, we learned that day was the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, so we went to visit the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori, located between two of the Papal basilicas in Rome. This is the church that keeps the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help hung on the altar.
The icon is made of wood, no more than 20" in height with a gold leaf background. I couldn't believe I was right in front of this popular byzantine piece of art, full of symbolism, famous for been an instrument to grant graces and revelations. In short, it is proof of a living miracle.
Our Lady as an Intercessor of All Graces
Once inside the church I found myself in awe contemplating the Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon, when suddenly, about 10 nuns came out of nowhere and seated themselves on the pew behind me. They began to pray the rosary. I tried to join this wonderful prayer group; I didn't see their faces, but their presence inspired me with calm and kindness. Because I speak Spanish, understanding their Italian was easy for me.
I was praying with them, and by the seventh Hail Mary I found myself reciting the rosary in almost perfect Italiano. Immediately, I started to feel overwhelmed. My body temperature became warm and I started to cry. I got tears, but those that you have when you are happy. It was a spiritual joy and euphoria that can be only attributed to the Holy Spirit; it is like your body and soul respond to this strong feeling that makes you feel closer to God. As a common mortal, you can't stand such a powerful sensation, and the only thing you can do is cry. It is beautiful. Usually, I don't feel anything extraordinary when I go to church. Why did it happen this time?
My husband had a great experience in the church, too. He was praying near the front in one of the pews when a priest called him over. My husband was shy at first, almost afraid to be scolded because he was wearing shorts - which is not proper etiquette in Roman churches. But that was not the reason the priest called out to him. The priest called him because he needed help to carry the holy icon in a solemn procession for the feast day celebration. My husband felt honored by being asked to do this. It was such a privilege.
This is just a short version about what happened, but there are so many details to tell. After this spiritual experience, it seemed like we saw the Our Lady of Perpetual Help image everywhere. I started to tease my husband that she was following us!
Learning More About the Icon
After all these incidents, I became curious to learn more about the Meaning Behind the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon. Also, by reading the book 33 Days to Morning Glory, I learned that Mary is perfectly united to the Holy Spirit. I understood that what I felt in the church while I was praying was a fruit of grace. From there, I developed a greater fondness for this particular Marian devotion and a full sentiment has flourished for me after this experience.
My husband and I now have a better marriage relationship by letting go of the proud and annoyed spirit we had, and by learning to be docile and having a different spirit, a peaceful one. I am 100% convinced that my marriage would not longer exist if we wouldn't take refuge in God.
Some people call these coincidences "God's incidents." All the events brought us to know about Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and to know that she interceded for us, and to know she is the one who guides us to the Redeemer. That was a proven way for me to know how Our Lady aids our souls.
I wanted to reciprocate this love we were shown, so we consecrated ourselves to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Any Catholic can be consecrated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and ask her intercession, by following these simple steps:
1) Be enrolled by name at a church or shrine where a confraternity is canonically erected.
The Confraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a spiritual organization whose members are united for the express purpose of honoring and serving the Mother of God under the special title of "Our Mother of Perpetual Help." The Archconfraternity is canonically established at the church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, where the original image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is venerated.
You can view the original icon from Rome via live online streaming here as it hangs in the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Through the website you can also submit prayer requests and light a virtual candle!
Members are urged (but not obligated) to:
a. Renew this Act of Consecration once a month;
b. Have recourse to our Mother of Perpetual Help in every need;
c. Have a Perpetual Help picture in their homes;
d. Wear an Our Mother of Perpetual Help medal;
f. Spread this devotion to others.
Do you have a devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or any personal stories to share about this icon? Please share in the comments below.