May the Good Lord bless you all!
Thursday the 27th. of June is the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. For many years I have had a great devotion to Our Blessed Lady venerated under this title.
This is for no small reason. Some 25 years ago now, a very close friend of mine who is now also a Catholic priest, was studying with me at the same theological college to become an Anglican (Episcopalian) minister. Every Wednesday evening we would sneak off to the local Catholic church for Novena devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Benediction. In fact, so faithful we were to this spiritual exercise, that during one of those dreadful "ecumenical" functions, our seminary Principal was introducing the locally invited clergy to the students; on bringing around the Catholic Parish Priest, (a formidable Irishman by the name of Fogarty, replete with a red face and an huge nose), he remarked: "Oh, Canon, here are Timothy Hopkins and Bill Barton", the priest replied to the Anglican's surprise in a distinctive brogue, "Oh sure, they're two of me most faithful parishioners"!
To his credit, the dear Anglican clergyman never once mentioned the incident and we were both duly "ordained" in the Church of England. Not so long after, by the grace of God, we were received into the One True Church. I subscribe my conversion from Protestantism to the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I had the sublime privilege of celebrating my second Holy Mass before the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the church of St. Alphonsus, Rome in December of 1984. My love of this devotion has ever increased.
The human race originated in the East. There it was that God placed the Garden of Eden. The East is in a very special way favoured by the Creator. It was to the Easterners that the Revelations of God came. It was there that civilisation originated. Marvelous cities grew up there: Jerusalem, Babylon, Niniveh, Pekingâ€¦. From the East each day there comes the light of the sun. From the East came the Light of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
From the East also came the humble Virgin Mary. From the East came the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
This "icon" or sacred picture of two dimensions (considered by the Eastern Catholics as a "window into heaven", a "real presence" of those depicted in it), portrays an olive-skinned Woman of the Orient and Her Divine Child. Its origin is shrouded in mystery. Some say it was painted by St. Luke himself, the biographer of the Mother of God.
A long story tells of this icon's travels, travels that brought it from Our Lady's land of birth through Crete, Messina, Capri, the port of Ostia, and finally to Rome.
Look carefully at this image. You will notice two angels. One is holding the instruments of Christ's Passion: a lance to pierce His side, a rod with a sponge on vinegar to offer Him in his thirst. The other angel holds the Cross itself. The Child's eyes are fixed on the Cross. Out of fear, He is losing a sandal. He clutches His loving Mother's hand. Her eyes are full of tears, knowing what was to befall him years later.
On arriving at Rome, the sacred picture was placed in a church dedicated to St. Matthew, some way between the Lateran Basilica and the Basilica of St. Mary Major. One day a local girl, in prayer, asked who this Lady was. The answer given her was: "I am the Virgin of Perpetual Help".
It was on the 27th. of March in the year 1499 that the image was exibited in this church. From that very day a veritable stream of miracles issued forth, associated with it.
Many Saints and Holy Men came to pray before the picture. Notable among them was the founder of the Redemptorist Order, the "Hammer of Heretics" and crusher of the Jansenists, St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Sadly, as a result of God-less revolution, the old church of St. Matthew was destroyed. However, upon its ashes arose the unusual (for Rome) gothic style church of St. Alphonsus.
It was the will of Blessed Pope Pius IX that the Superior General of the Redemptorists should receive the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from his hands. The holy Pope ordered the image crowned in 1867. From that point in time the devotion was spread, principally by the Redemptorists. Literature was produced, medals were struck, images were reproduced. The devotion was to spread quickly to the four corners of the world. Everywhere miracles were reported.
Help us re-promote her devotion by performing the Nine Wednesdays!
The Nine Wednesdays is a special form of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It consists in attending the public devotions held at a church where Our Mother of Perpetual Help is venerated on nine Wednesdays one following the other without a break, and in worthily receiving the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion at least once during that time.
In days gone by The Nine Wednesdays found millions of faithful Catholics thronging Our Mother's shrines, making their prayers to God through the loving hands of this Good Mother. Let us, in our small way, make this happen again!
Help to the poor, help to the unemployed, help to those in financial straits, help to those carrying the cross of sickness, help to parents concerned about their children, help to the young in the struggles and difficulties of life, help to those beset with temptations and waging a losing battle against sin, help to all - such is the answer Mary gives to those who devote themselves to the Nine Wednesdays!
Say this prayer every day:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who has given us Your own Mother Mary, whose glorious image we venerate, to be our Mother ever ready to come to our help; grant ,we pray you, that we unceasingly imploring her motherly help, may merit always to experience the fruits of your Redemption, Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We will celebrate our PATRONAL FESTIVAL on SUNDAY 11TH. AUGUST .
This will consist of:
8.00 a.m. Low Mass & Veneration of the Saint Philomena Relic, anointing with the Holy Oil.
11.00 a.m. SOLEMN HIGH MASS, PROCESSION OF THE IMAGE OF THE SAINT, VENERATION OF HER FIRST CLASS RELIC, ANOINTING FOR THOSE WHO DESIRE WITH HER HOLY OIL. Sermon by the Revd. Fr. Enrique T. Rueda, M.A.
All are invited to a reception after the ceremonies. A convivial luncheon will be served. Donations of cooked dishes and sweets are most welcome. Our youngsters will perform for us a play, the "Martyrdom of Saint Philomena".
A 16" Spanish - made statue of St. Philomena (worth $ 290.00) will be raffled. Tickets are available at $ 1.00 each
Please send orders for tickets to 1946 S.W. 9th. St., Miami, FL 33135.
NOVENA OF MASSES PRIOR TO SAINT PHILOMENA'S FEASTDAY
A Novena of Masses will be offered on the nine days prior to the Feast. To partake of the spiritual benefits derived from the Novena, please print this newslatter and write your intentions on the form provided below, return it with a donation to our building fund, if possible! Intentions will remain on the altar during the course of the Novena, the 9 Masses being offered for the intentions expressed.
Regarding the Patronal Festival: Please call us for directions to the Shrine and recommendations for accommodation, etc.
I would like to remind all that the Shrine of Saint Philomena in Miami is not financially supported by the local diocese and receives no funds from any religious society. We rely for our day to day existence on donations and profits made through the sale of statues, books, medals, pictures, etc. of our Patroness. Donations and sales have been miserably small since the horrendous events of September 11th., but are slowly picking up again. We are eternally grateful for your support in the past and very much need it for the present and future.
What more can I say, but:
God Bless you, dear Friends of Saint Philomena!
Revd. Fr. Timothy A. Hopkins, B.A., M.Th., P.G.C.E.
(Copyright: Revd. Fr. Timothy A. Hopkins, 2002, A.D.)
To have your intentions included in the Novena, please print and return this following form:
Dear Shrine of Saint Philomena:
Please include these intentions in the Novena of Masses to be offered in the nine days prior to her Festival this year, August 11th., 2002 A.D:
I enclose a donation of : $ __________¦for your building fund,
dedicated to constructing a truly fitting sanctuary to Saint Philomena
in Miami, Florida, U.S.A.