Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians
Memorial observance for the C.PP.S. and the ASC
By Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
My parish growing up in Fort Recovery, Ohio was dedicated to Mary Help of Christians. As a kid I don’t remember ever being confused about the title. If I thought about it at all, then I imagine my thought would have been: Mary Help of Christians? Of course, what else would a mom do?
When I left home I joined a Congregation that was placed under the protection and patronage of Mary Help of Christians. Pope Pius VII had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Mother and during his time of trial and exile he had placed his trust in Mary. After his return from exile he declared the date of his return, May 24, to be the feast of Mary Help of Christians. When the Confraternity of the Precious Blood petitioned for recognition as an archconfraternity, Pius VII added his favorite Marian title to the archconfraternity’s invocations. And on August 15, 1815, the Congregation was founded as the Missionaries of the Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood. Gaspar placed the Congregation under the invocation of the Most Holy Mary Help of Christians. (CPPS Resources #2, “Saint Gaspar del Bufalo and the Blessed Virgin Mary.”)
The Mass readings that we have to celebrate this feast are strong in their imagery and reassurance. In the reading from Revelation (12:1-3,7-12, 17) we are presented with a powerful queen who is willing to suffer and labor to give birth, bringing life to the world. She shows her dominion over the forces that seek to deceive the world. Her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus, are protected by the Blood of the Lamb and those who give testimony to the promise of salvation and the power and authority of God’s anointed One.
And the story of the Cana wedding feast in the Gospel (John 2:1-11) offers us the image of the gentle and confident intercessor who gives to all of us the simplest of instructions: Just do what my Son tells you to do, and everything will be alright. I believe that it is this gentle and confident Mother who looks out to us from the famous picture of the Madonna of the Precious Blood. It is an image that presents the gift of life that she brought into the world, and with a gentle gesture of her left hand, invites us to receive the precious gift that the anointed one offers to us.
What does this all mean for us as we observe this holy day in honor of Mary Help of Christians? Perhaps we can find some inspiration from this quote found in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Constitution on the Church. “In an utterly singular way she (Mary) co-operated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace…By her maternal charity, Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still wander through this world in the midst of dangers and difficulties until they are led to the happiness of their heavenly home.”
Today’s to-do list: Live with obedience, faith, hope and a burning charity! Mary Help us to join you in communion with your Son!
Fr. William Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., is the moderator general of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood worldwide. An Ohio native, he now lives in Rome. The Congregation serves in over 20 countries around the globe.