Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The following article is an excerpt from our book, “The Many Faces of Mary Book II.”

The Icon begins its travels.
We read that after he had completed the painting, Luke gave it to his best friend and patron, Theophilus. Then, there is little reported until we find ourselves in the middle of the Fifth Century. We find the Icon in Constantinople, where St. Pulcheria erected a Shrine in honor of the Icon and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or as She is also called, Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.[1] For one thousand years, our Icon remained in Constantinople, where it had the love and devotion of believers from every walk of life, royalty and their serfs,[2] kings and queens and their subjects, the haves and the have-nots, all knelt and prayed, and their petitions were answered.
The 15th Century and Our Lady takes the image to Heaven.
Then in 1453, Constantinople was under siege and again we read that the night before the fall of the ancient, holy city, Our Mother Mary took the Icon up to Heaven. However, many copies were made, at that time in history, and are venerated in some part of the world till today.
A mother’s work never done, Our Lady of Perpetual Help is still listening. Forever our Mother, She is still interceding with her Son on our behalf. As you can see on the Icon, She is looking toward us, begging us to love Her Son and to turn to Him in our time of need. Mother Mary always points to Her Son. I have stopped counting all the paintings and statues we have seen of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus, but they all are the same, echoing the words at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”
The 16th Century and the Icon of Our Lady reappears.
Now, thr next time we hear of the Icon is in the Sixteenth Century and tradition tells us that the Icon is now on the island of Crete. A merchant enters the picture. He spots a magnificent Icon in a church, and hearing about the miracles that have come about through the veneration of what he sees as a valuable piece of art, he steals it, stealthily packing it among his samples. He sets out on the high seas toward Italy, when the ship is attacked mercilessly by torrents of rain, thunder and lightning, the waves threatening to capsize the ship. Only by the grace of God did he and the ship survive the angry winds and slamming waves relentlessly beating against the hull of the ship. Finally, he landed, but his punishment wasn’t over. After a year of endless struggle, we find our unscrupulous merchant in Rome.
But that’s not the end of the story. In Rome, our merchant falls critically ill and seeks help from a friend. There was little the friend could do and the time came for the merchant to entrust the miraculous Icon to the care of his friend with the admonition that upon his death, he bring it to a church. The friend promised to fulfill the merchant’s dying wish. But he didn’t reckon with his friend’s wife who, upon seeing how valuable it was, insisted on keeping it. The result, the husband also died without having honored his dying friend’s wish.
Not to be discouraged by another setback, Our Lady appeared to the couple’s six year old daughter, and told her to tell her mother and grandmother (who naturally got involved) to relinquish the Icon at once and bring it to St. Matthew the Apostle Church, located between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. It took quite a bit of soul-searching and arguing with herself back and forth, but at last the little girl’s mother went to speak to the Priests of St. Matthew the Apostle, and the Icon was placed in the church on March 27, 1499, under the title of the Virgin of St. Matthew’s. The Icon would be venerated for the next three hundred years in St. Matthew the Apostle, the numbers of petitioners growing once more, only now throughout all of Rome. As the faithful prayed and pleaded, Our Lady interceded, and the Lord responded.
[1]In the United States, this icon carries the name of Our Lady Perpetual Help, but in other countries, it is venerated under the name of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.
[2]another word for servants, vassals or slaves

For more information about this Shrine and our Book, “The Many Faces of Mary, Book II” click here
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