“Mary, Help Us!” This has been the continuous cry of Christians who visit Marian shrines throughout the world. Typically a pilgrim goes to a Marian shrine with a heavy heart and fervent plea in which they ask Mary to intercede for their needs.
“Mary, Help Us!” This was the request of the Christian people during the Battle of Lepanto when they asked Our Lady to bring an end to the violence and war.
“Mary, Help Us!” This is the request of the sick who enter into the spring waters of Lourdes, in hopes of a miraculous cure.
“Mary, Help Us!” It is the cry recommended by Bernard of Clairvaux in moments of temptation:
When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary. Whether you are being tossed about by the waves of pride or ambition or slander or jealousy, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary. When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering the skiff of your soul, gaze up at Mary. When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt, think of Mary, call out to Mary. . . . . Following her, you will never go astray. Asking her help, you will never despair.
(Bernard of Clairvaux, Super Missus Est, Miss, II.17).
The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help
Today in the United States many people seek the help of Mary by making pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. We know Mary by other titles indicating her ‘help,’ such as Help of Christians or Perpetual Help. The devotion to Our Lady of Good Help (Notre Dame de Bon Secours) dates back to (at least) the 1600’s in Belgium. St. Marguerite Bourgeoys invoked this title of Mary when she built her pilgrimage chapel to Notre Dame de Bon Secours in Montreal. Adele Brise, after her apparitions of the Queen of Heaven, dedicated a chapel in honor of her Belgian devotion to Bon Secours.
Devotion to Our Lady of Good Help was never popular, but the approbation given to the 1859 Marian apparitions in Wisconsin has popularized the devotion, albeit distinct from its historical origins. In all reality though, all devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under any title, could be characterized as Our Lady of Good Help. When pilgrims visit any shrine of Mary, they seek her good help, which is her intercession and mediation of grace. When pilgrims go to Fatima or the Shrine of Our Lady of Snows, they seek Mary’s good help.
Devotion to Our Lady of Good Help was quite popular in Canada in the 1800’s, but in my assessment, the devotion never popularized in the United States outside of the shrine in Wisconsin and a parish in Rhode Island. In an effort to renew this devotion, vis-à-vis the Shrine in Wisconsin, I penned a “Litany to Our Lady of Good Help.” The litany implores the intercession of Mary under different titles that express Mary’s help. It then implores Mary’s help for the individual devotee and afterward for the whole world in specific circumstances.
Last month, I wrote about how we can help Mary in her mission by fulfilling her request (to Adele Brise) to offer our Holy Communion for the conversion of sinners. Now, let us ask Mary to help each one of us and the world in her role as Our Lady of Good Help—the Mediatrix of Grace.
Litany of Our Lady of Good Help
Penned by: Rev. Mr. Edward Lee Looney
Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ, have mercy.
V. Lord, have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Response: Pray For Us
Holy Mother of God,
Queen of Heaven,
Star of the Sea,
Star of the New Evangelization,
Comforter of the Afflicted,
Health of the Sick,
Refuge of Sinners,
Our Lady of Good Help,
Response: Mary Help Us
In times of temptation,
In times of sickness,
In times of sorrow,
In times of confusion,
In times of persecution,
In times of failure,
In times of betrayal,
In times of weakness,
In times of discernment,
In times of war,
Response: Mary Help Them
For those who are unemployed,
For those who are homeless,
For those who struggle to make ends meet,
For those in troubled marriages,
For those contemplating abortion,
For those contemplating suicide,
For those who are sick,
For those suffering with physical handicaps,
For those trapped in a life of sin,
For those who suffer from addictions,
For those near death,
For those who do not believe in God,
For those who have rejected God’s commandments,
For those who need our prayers,
For the immigrant,
For the poor souls in Purgatory,
For teachers and catechists,
For Catholic schools and universities,
For bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians,
For consecrated religious,
For all married couples and families,
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray, Grant, O God, through the intercession and mediation of Our Lady of Good Help, all the graces we need to live a life in accordance with your will. Come to the help of your servants who are in need of heavenly assistance. Incline your ear to the prayers offered by them through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven, through Christ our Lord. AMEN.