Throughout the centuries Christians have constantly been aided by the miraculous help of the Blessed Virgin. In one way or another, She has been instrumental in helping mankind with personal battles, as well as in battles that saved whole territories or regions. Today, as we continue on our journey of saints and special feasts, we come to the Feast of ‘Mary, Help of Christians’, which was the title given by Saint John Chrysostom, as a devotion honoring the Blessed Virgin in the year 345. The title Mary Help of Christians is associated with the defense of Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East, which were Christian territories, from Muslims, during the Middle Ages.
One of the most dramatic victories of all time took place at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. It was then that a mighty fleet of Muslims, the Islamic Ottoman Empire, were threatening to invade and overrun the whole of Christian Europe. You have to understand that this was a group of heretical infidels whose sole purpose was to destroy the Faith…to destroy Christianity…this is an ugly truth that has been at the base of the Islamic religion since it’s creation…but anyway, back to Mary Help of Christians...
When the saintly Pope Pius V called Christian armies from all over Europe to defend the continent and asked the faithful to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother, in defeating the Muslim Turks. He asked for rosary crusades and Blessed Sacrament processions throughout the lands. Christian troops aboard their tiny fleets prayed the rosary together and received the Sacraments before going into battle, against their enemies…who far outnumbered them in size and scope.
In the beginning, the Christian fleet was faring poorly…they were taking blows left and right…it was a bleak picture for those faithful men…but in the middle of the battle…the winds changed and blew in their favor. The Turkish fleet were thrown off guard, confusion set in …they were turned around and began to mistakenly shoot at each other…As the battle continued to rage throughout the afternoon, a great storm arose, causing many more of the Turkish ships to sink. With the storm raging overhead, the Turkish fleet was now feeling the wrath of the storm and a feeling of hopelessness settled over the few remaining ships… causing the remaining men to turn and flee. The strong hold that the Turks had gained over the Mediterranean was broken. The commander of the Christian fleet, Don Juan of Austria, proclaimed that this triumph was due to the powerful intercession of the Queen of The Rosary. The Venetian Senate wrote to other states, reiterating this message…they wrote” It was not generals, nor battalions, nor arms that brought us victory, but it was Our Lady of the Rosary.”
In commemoration of such a miraculous victory, Pope St. Pius V ordered the celebration of the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary and the addition of the invocation: “Auxilium Christianorum, Ora Pro Nobis” “Help of Christians, Pray for Us.”
There are other incidents in which the people prayed for the Blessed Mother’s help and it was received. One such incident was when Pope Pius VII was abducted by Napoleon, who was trying to get the Pope to sign over control of France…and when it seemed that Napoleon had the upper hand….Catholics from all over began to pray the rosary….soon Napoleon was faced with his own problems and forced to abdicate his position of power, Pope Pius VII was freed the next day, and after a five year exile, he returned to Rome. That day was May 24th. A year later in 1815, the Pope consecrated that day perpetually to Mary and instituted the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, “to commemorate the ‘un-hoped for’ help of Mary, Most Holy, towards the Pope and the Christian people.”
On May 17, 1903, Pope Leo XIII granted a Canonical coronation towards the Marian image bearing the same title, which is now presently enshrined within the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians.
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian,
how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children, how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you, your perpetual help in all my necessities, in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
Prayer of St. John Bosco for Our Lady, Help of All Christians