May 24: MARY, HELP OF CHRISTIANS. History and meaning of the feast.
In many places the Blessed Virgin is honoured under the title of Auxilium Christianorum, a phrase added to the litany of Loreto in the sixteenth century to thank our Lady for the help she granted Christians at Lepanto. It is an advocation which expresses the confidence of Catholics in their Mother in heaven, a mother always ready to defend her children from every evil.
Throughout history, the Blessed Virgin has always given her protection to the Church, but in times which were difficult ones, humanly speaking, at open attacks from the enemies of Christ, Mary has gone even more clearly to the aid of her children. It is not surprising then that one of the oldest witnesses to this devotion to Mary is confident prayer. I refer, St. Josemaria said, to that antiphon composed centuries ago which we continue to repeat even today: We gather under your protection, holy Mother of God. Do not reject the prayers we say to you in our need, but save us from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
Our passage through this earth is like a long and dangerous voyage; a protracted trip through all the seas of the world, in the teeth of wind and storm, sailing onward towards the safe harbour which the Lord offers us in glory. On the horizon of our life, the Blessed Virgin is Stella maris, the star who guides us, who protects us, and invites us to change course when we lose our bearings.
In me is to be found every grace of doctrine and of truth, every hope of life and of virtue (Sir 24:25). How wise the Church is to put these words on our Mother’s lips so that we Christians do not forget them. She is our safety, the Love that never fails, the refuge ever open to us, the hand ever ready to caress and console.
One of the Fathers of the early Church said that we should try to keep in our minds and in our memories a clear summary of the life of the Mother of God (cf. St John Damascene, Homiliae in dormitionem B. V. Mariae 2, 19). I expect you have often looked up points in handbooks on medicine, mathematics, or other subjects, where they list, for quick reference, the immediate remedies or measures to be taken so as to avoid elementary mistakes in these subjects.St. Josemaria
We should often meditate, in the calm and quiet of our prayer, on all we have heard about our Mother. The reward will be that the story of her life will become engraved on our souls; we will find ourselves going to her without hesitation, especially when we have no one else to turn to.
Omnipotent and merciful God, we now ask in the words of the liturgy, who gave us the perpetual help of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a defence for all Christians, graciously grant that by struggling in this life and strengthened by her help, we may merit to be victorious over the evil of the enemy in the hour of our death. Collect prayer.
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