Yesterday, May 24, the Church quietly observed a feast of Mary, namely, Mary, Help of Christians. Certainly the feast was observed by some in the Church. I’d imagine the Carmelites at the National Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, affectionately called Holy Hill, in Wisconsin, and by the Saelesians of Don Bosco, who have a devotion to Mary under this title. Since this feast is not in the Roman Missal, a person’s exposure to its celebration would occur only if it was the titular feast of a parish or church.
In the past, May 24th has not only been observed as the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, but according to Fr. Xavier Donald MacLeod’s book History of the Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in North America, the Diocese of Montreal in the 1800’s observed it as the feast of Our Lady of Good Help.
This title of Mary, Our Lady of Good Help, has been a highlighted title of Our Lady in the United States in recent years on account of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help located in Wisconsin. This humble shrine commemorates the 1859 apparitions received by [Sister] Adele Brise in Champion, Wisconsin. Our Lady instructed Adele to go to Confession, receive Holy Communion with the intention for the conversion of sinners, and to teach the children their catechism.
Adele Brise responded to Our Lady’s invitation by going door to door, offering to teach children their catechism and in exchange she would do household chores for the family. Later, Adele founded a tertiary group of Franciscans who taught in a school located near the site of the apparition. The property soon included a convent and school, in addition to a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help per Adele’s instruction.
It is interesting to note that the name given to the Shrine does not reflect the appellation of Our Lady, for she appeared as the Queen of Heaven, but instead to Our Lady of Good Help. It was out of Adele’s personal devotion that each chapel had inscribed above the door, Notre Dame de bon secours, priez pour nous (translation: Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us).
In North America devotion to Our Lady under this title dates back to at least the 1600’s since St. Marguerite Bourgeoys dedicated a chapel in Montreal to Our Lady of Good Help. Bishop Ignace Bourget, the bishop of Montreal, in the 1800’s sought to renew devotion to Our Lady of Good Help, establishing a Confraternity and a feast (observed May 24).
Bishop Bourget called upon Our Lady of Good Help to destroy error and vice, especially drunkenness and impurity. Devotion to Our Lady of Good Help never has been “popularized” like other devotions, such as Mother of Perpetual Help or Seven Sorrows. Yet, it seems appropriate and fitting for devotion to Our Lady of Good Help to be popularized now by means of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, given the supplication offered in the past to Our Lady of Good Help. The approbation given to the 1859 apparitions raises awareness of this relatively unknown title of Our Lady.
Perhaps even more fitting, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is located in Wisconsin, one of the drinking capitals of the United States. Moreover, our society is plagued by the epidemic of immodesty and pornography. Sins against chastity occur all too often—fornication, adultery, prostitution, pornography, etc. These sins begin a slippery slope which could result in pregnancy outside of marriage, which consequently could lead one to consider abortion.
Today, more than ever, we need the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help, who can help to destroy the errors of modernism and atheism that are infiltrating our culture. We need Mary’s good help to overcome vices, particularly drunkenness and impurity. This devotion, coupled with the message given to Adele Brise, that of praying for conversion and catechesis, go hand in hand.
We must pray for the conversion of our society by imploring Our Lady’s intercession, she who identified herself as the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners. And finally, we must catechize in our schools and churches about the dignity of the human person (viz a viz Theology of the Body) which has been lost in our pornographic age.
Our Lady of Good Help, destroyer of error and vice, pray for us!