Monday, June 29, 2015

Running to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Simply put, Mary knows our needs and problems.
She herself suffered the way we did and more than that.
To whom can we turn to for guidance
than to her and to Jesus her Son?
Baclaran in ParaƱaque City has been one of the well-known spots in the Metro. People visit the National Shrine there, dedicated in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, imploring the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the day it was inaugurated, its doors have remained open, day and night, to the people who wish to implore her help in all their needs. 

Devotion to her in the Philippines is well-known, as people gather at her Shrine, or at every parish in the country every Wednesday to recite a weekly Novena in her honor. In fact, the National Shrine receives hundreds of thousands of letters of petition and thanksgiving in the past years.

In the year 1866, Pope Pius IX entrusted the centuries-old icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), a religious congregation founded by St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori. With this entrustment was his mandate to make her known to the whole world. The Redemptorists became faithful to the command of the Holy Father, and so wherever they go, Our Mother was with them. True enough, 150 years later, the faithful continue to implore her protection and intercession in all their needs.

But what does this image of Our Mother have? Why does it receive such clamor? 

Turning to the image, one can see Mary holding her Son. Jesus does not appear here in his glorious status, someone who blesses people or shows his reign as God, but he comes to her Mother as a son usually runs to his mother when he needs something. It seems that Jesus himself needs help. He looks at the Archangels Gabriel and Michael and the things they hold, things which are connected to his passion and death. 

As Mary holds her Son, she looks at us.
Jesus runs to his Mother, loosing one of his sandals, and Mary holds him tenderly, comforting him as a mother does. She does not get rid of the Archangels, but she just held Jesus tightly, giving him enough courage and strength to carry on with his mission. Like Mary's telling him, Ok lang iyan, anak. Ayos lang ang lahat. Mary, in fact, stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus, bravely facing her Son in the last moments of his life. Instead of running away, she was there, united to her Son, suffering with him.  

As Mary holds her Son, she looks at us. Her serious, yet serene, glance on the looker has many things to say. She looks at us with love. She looks at us as a mother does look at her children. It seems as if she wants us to learn something from what's happening. She wants us to be a part of the story, not just someone who looks.

So, with this picture - this icon - of Jesus running to his Mother, and Mary looking at us while holding Jesus in her arms, what does it have to say to us?

As Jesus ran to Mary for love and refuge, We may also run to her. She does not provide the graces we need - only God does - but she is the guiding star which leads her faithful children to Jesus. She cannot get rid of the sufferings and trials of life, but she can provide us with strength and guidance to continue with the struggles of life.

I personally remember one time I was bound to go home from a gathering in ParaƱaque. The jeep I was riding stopped at LRT Baclaran Station, so I took the chance of visiting Our Lady. It was already 12:30 midnight, and the place surrounding the Shrine is still alive with people going to and fro, some of them were thieves. I placed myself at the protection of Mary. I know she will never let me be in danger.

As I was going down the jeep, One pickpocket placed his hand inside my pocket, trying to get my cellphone. Out of the blue, I held his arm and looked at him fiercely. Letting his arm go, he ran away taking nothing. I did not know where I got that courage, that fierce look, or even the bravery to hold the thief's hand to stop him. I am a coward especially in situations like this.
Suddenly, I feared for my life, so I hastened to get away from the area. But before leaving Baclaran, I visited Our Mother to thank her for saving me from the harm. I fell down on my knees and thanked her with tears in my eyes. Never in my life did I experience this kind of courage; I know I got enough courage because of Mary.

Simply put, Mary knows our needs and problems. She herself suffered the way we did and more than that. To whom can we turn to for guidance than to her and to Jesus her Son? She does not provide the answer to our needs, but she guides and leads us to Jesus, the one who is our Perpetual Help. She provides love and guidance to the people who ask her intercession and protection.

This love became the driving force for the Redemptorists to make her known everywhere. And true enough, every devotee knows how it means to be loved by a mother who loves us more and helps us in all our needs. This is also the same reason why people never fail to visit her Shrine in Baclaran everyday, or anywhere she is invoked for that matter. 

The image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is the Icon of Love, for it is here that we can see Mary's purpose in our life as our Mother. A mother we can turn to in times of need, problems or troubles. A mother who leads us to Jesus, her Son, who provides us of our needs. A mother who loves us, and challenges us to love others as she does her Son.

In celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the entrustment of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists, the Holy Father Pope Francis grants a Plenary Indulgence to those who make a pilgrimage to the Church of San't Alfonso in Rome, or to any Redemptorist Church anywhere in the world, and pray before the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. This may be granted under the usual conditions (Sacramental Confession, Communion, Prayers for the Holy Father)

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