The image of Our lady of Perpetual Help is an image of Our Lady done in the Byzantine style. It is painted on wood with a gold leaf background. The wood was tested, and dates back to between 1325 – 1400. In the image the Blessed Mother is holding the Child Jesus. Each of them has a golden halo surrounding them. In the background there are two angels, one on the right and one on the left. Each one of them is presenting the instruments of the passion to the Child Jesus, who is clinging to his Mother’s hand and appears to be frightened by what he sees. The angel on the right is the Archangel Gabriel, and he is holding a cross and four nails. The angel on the left is the Archangel Michael who is holding a lance, a pole with a sponge, and a vessel of vinegar.The Blessed Mother is gazing straight ahead with a calm, yet sorrowful stare.
This image of Our lady of Perpetual Help has long been venerated on the isle of Crete. As the inhabitants were fleeing a Turkish invasion, they carried the image with them to Rome. As they traveled over the rough seas, they invoked the protection of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the ship was saved from a terrible storm.
In March of 1499, the image was carried triumphantly through the streets of Rome. The clergy processed along with the people and carried it to it’s new home; over the main altar of St. Matthew’s Church, where it remained under the care of the Augustinian friars. During this time, the holy image became the object of a very popular devotion which God rewarded with many miracles. It remained there for several centuries.
The image has been known by many names. ‘Virgin of the Passion,’ ‘The Golden Madonna,’ ‘The Mother of Catholic Homes.’ But according to some, the Blessed Mother requested that this image be referred to as ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Help.’ She wishes for all to approach Her and seek Her help in all things, especially for those who are most needy and afflicted, She wishes to be a source of love and protection. The Icon represents an image of Our Blessed Mother that should inspire in those who gaze upon it, a sense of hope and prayer. Serving as a means of devotion for those who seek Mary’s intercession, as She cradles the Christ Child tenderly in Her arms, it may also serve as an aide to those who wish to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s Redemption. Looking at the Virgin’s face we can see that there is no pain nor suffering that we can bring to Her…that She would not understand…that She would not be able to help us with.
So with an attitude of faith and prayer, let us gaze upon this holy Icon and admire not only the artistic value of the artist’s strokes…but also the spiritual beauty that has stretched throughout the ages to bring comfort and peace to those who venerate this beautiful image. The expression on the Blessed Mother’s face is of a mother who knows pain…who knows the burden of suffering…yet remains tender and serine. Her gaze is on us, Her children who She is inviting to seek Her comfort, and offering an invitation to us to obey the Will of God….with all of its joys…with all of its sufferings, so that in the end we may be able to stand in God’s presence…and in the presence of this same Blessed Virgin Mary, who reigns as Queen, and enjoy our eternal reward in Heaven.
Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on thee, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary.
O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fill my soul when I pronounce thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank God for having given thee, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely pronouncing thy name: let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.