Happy feast day of our Lady of Perpetual Help!
“Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival day in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary, on whose solemnity the Angels rejoice and give praise to the Son of God.” (from the Introit for today’s Mass)
I was first attracted to our beautiful Mother under her title “Lady of Perpetual Help” two Octobers ago. We were on our way to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor as part of my vocational discernment, and we stopped at my grandparent’s house for the night. I had remembered my dad mentioning that they have an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in their bedroom, one they’ve had for years, and I caught a glimpse of it while we were staying with them.
I was very nervous and excited about the trip, and was soliciting all the heavenly help I could for my discernment; so, as we got into the car and prepared to start for the convent, I whispered a prayer in my heart to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, asking her to help me as I sought to discover and discern clearly my vocation. I didn’t expect a whole devotion to grow from that one little prayer, but it has turned out to be the mustard seed, in whose branches I pray that one day the birds of paradise will dwell.
We reached the Little Sister’s residence just in time to be warmly greeted by the Sister I’d become friends with (and still am!), to dump our luggage in our rooms and then go to Mass. As we headed into the chapel, whose image do you think was smiling sweetly and calmly at me right near the doors?
“Thou art all lovely and sweet, O daughter of Sion, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array. The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, because by thee He hath brought our enemies to nought.” (Gradual for today’s Mass)
I came home, uncertain of anything but that that trip had totally been planned by God with a purpose in mind for our whole family, covered with graces. All that winter and the following spring, I continued to keep in touch with the Little Sisters, to learn and pray about their life, to (less than patiently most of the time) wait for another sign, another opportunity to move further along in my discernment. Finally I came to realize that I was in need of spiritual direction, of the guidance of a priest much wiser than myself. And who else but Father L., a dear Franciscan priest who had already been such a channel of grace to me the year before in my struggles with scrupulosity? I got Dad to contact him, and again waited less than patiently for our first appointment. And, lo and behold, when he welcomed me and my parents into the office that has hosted most of our meetings for more than a year now, a large and beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help gazed right down on me. Of course, her image was there when we’d met a year prior to this, but I hadn’t had the eyes to see her. Now I did.
My journey with spiritual direction thus far has been a beautiful and rose-filled one, as under her gentle eyes, I have (hopefully) grown, and been led from discerning religious life into discernment of the married state. My dear Mother has spared no extravagances in continually reassuring me of her presence. It seemed as if everywhere I went, she had an icon somewhere, waiting for me to notice her. When, last Trinity Sunday, we embarked on the infinite seas of the Latin Mass and became part of our current parish, I discovered to my delight the largest image of my Perpetual Helper I’d seen yet, just to the right of the St. Joseph Altar. Some of the dearest friends we’ve come to know and love through our parish have her icon in their homes. When we went to a dance last fall, hosted by a lovely, large Catholic family, one of the first things I saw was a gorgeous icon of her, from their Catholic art company (visit them here), which I had just enough money to place the highest bid on; it was really almost robbery (sorry guys!); but it just felt like providential robbery. Now I have her beautiful image always over my bed, and some very dear friends besides.
I have already mentioned my Total Consecration to Mary, which I first made last December on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was recommended by St. Louis De Montfort in his book that a soul who belongs to Mary through this devotion should renew his consecration at least yearly. I was planning to do it once a whole year had passed, until my sister mentioned that she was going to renew her consecration early. Oh! I thought. You can do that?
When I first consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis’ practice, I was overwhelmed by his writings, by the beautiful 33-day period of preparation, and the consecration itself. I consider it one of the most important days of my life, next to Baptism and First Holy Communion. Anyone who has not been blessed by reading some of St. Louis’ writings on Our Lady must take advantage of this saint, who was a treasure-chest of knowledge about the House of Gold. I pray that everyone will embrace this devotion to Our Lady, by which we give ourselves completely and irrevocably to her sweet Heart, so that we may belong completely to Jesus through her, so that she may do exactly what she pleases with us and thus bring infinitely more glory to God by our lives than we ever could left to our own devices.
And so, this past month I have gone again through the period of preparation, and have been drawn closer and closer to Our Lady and received graces I could never have imagined. This morning, after praying along with the Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I renewed my Consecration to this most beautiful Mother of mercy, this Virgin most faithful, this Perpetual helper whose heart is now my home. She has made herself my fortress, my strength, my song, and my secure road to Jesus. I know I will never, ever regret having given myself and all that I have to her. It has been the greatest blessing.
Last night I met with my spiritual director, and mentioned to him how I was looking forward to renewing my consecration on the morrow. With a smile he told me to savor the thought of how much God loves me, to have, just as I am beginning a new chapter of my life, given me to Mary.
I know that for the rest of my life, my Perpetual Helper, my Sweet Star, will hold my hand as I seek my vocation, travel its long or brief road, and make the final voyage to the Eternal Shore where she awaits me, the Gate of Heavenly Rest.
“Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits; for my spirit is sweet above honey, and mine inheritance above honey and the honey-comb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger; and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.” Ecclus. 24
In the end, it was a simple exchange, myself for Mary. And how could I think twice about that?