How The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Returned From Obscurity
[The following is excerpted from "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" by Rev. Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R.]
"One day in 1862, the Redemptorist community of the Villa Caserta was assembled at the usual after dinner recreation. In the course of the conversation, the Father in charge of the archives of the Congregation recounted that he had recently discovered in an old tome an account of a church called St. Matthew's, which had formerly stood near the Villa Caserta and which possessed a miraculous picture of Mary under the title of Perpetual Help....a member of the Villa Caserta community heard the archivist's story. Suddenly, as the title of 'Our Lady of Perpetual Help' was mentioned, there flashed into his mind...[an] account of the famous Madonna, once venerated in St. Matthew's under this title....Overjoyed that he was able to impart some authentic information on the subject, [the priest] exclaimed, 'That picture is still in existence. I know where it is, and I have often seen it.' Then he repeated...[his memory] regarding the picture in the [Augustinian] monastery of Santa Maria in Posterula. The Fathers were delighted to hear that the venerable painting had survived...the ravages of time. Perhaps it occurred to them that it would be most fitting that the picture should be restored to public [veneration] in their own church, which stood so near to the site of the old St. Matthew's...."
"The superior general of the Redemptorists, Father Nicholas Mauron....presented himself to the Sovereign Pontiff, [Blessed] Pius IX, and briefly narrated the history of the miraculous image. Then he petitioned the Holy Father to give orders that the picture should be restored to public veneration...Pius IX was deeply moved by the story. He had a tender devotion to the Mother of God...His answer to Father Mauron's petition was immediate. With his own hand, he wrote the order that the picture should be consigned to the Church of Saint Alphonsus, between St. John Lateran and Saint Mary Major. Father Mauron was commanded to procure for the Augustinian monks another picture, to take the place of the miraculous image in their community chapel....The Augustinians willingly consented to the transfer, and received from Father Mauron a beautiful modern painting of Our Lady. The venerable image was brought to the monastery of St. Alphonsus, where its somewhat faded colors were retouched by a skillful artist."
"Finally, on the afternoon of April 26, 1866, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was once again solemnly enthroned....All the streets and the houses in the vicinity of the church were decorated in festal array. Amid the devout prayers and acclamations of an immense throng, the picture was carried in procession through the neighboring streets, and then was placed over the altar of the church. Doubtless, there were many invisible graces conferred by Our Lady on this occasion; but she also gave two visible signs of her maternal love. A little boy, four years of age, who was dying of gastric fever and meningitis, was carried to the window by his mother as the procession passed by. 'O Mother of God,' prayed the poor woman, 'cure my child or take him to Paradise!' Mary heard the mother's prayer, and in a few days, the little boy was completely restored to health. In a similar manner, Our Lady obtained the cure of a little girl who has been a cripple for several years. On the days following the enthronement of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, thousands of person came from all parts of Rome to pray before the picture. Among these was Pope Pius IX, who visited the church on the afternoon of May 5. After gazing on the picture for a long time in silent devotion, he exclaimed, 'How beautiful it is!' Then he directed that a copy of the painting should be placed in his private oratory...."
"...[T]he rapidity with which the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help has grown, and the extent to which it has spread in the universal Church...are truly marvelous, not to say miraculous. In Italy, there are sanctuaries to the Blessed Virgin under this title at Modena, Fumone di Lazio, Cortona, Polignano, Muro Lucano, Pagani, Alcamo, Busselengo di Verona, and many other places....In Ireland, the cities of Limerick, Belfast, and Dublin are centers of fervent devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Moreover, the extensive missionary labors of the Redemptorist Fathers contributes much toward making her known and loved by the people of this truly Catholic land...."
"But the land that is preeminently the domain of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is America. Probably the most renowned sanctuary in the United States is the shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the church of the same name at Boston. Since the establishment of this shrine in 1871, it has been the scene of hundreds of cure of an apparently miraculous character. The most celebrated incident of this nature took place in 1883, when Miss Grace Hanley of Boston was instantaneously cured of a disease that had baffled the eminent surgeons. The city of St. Louis is another stronghold....The shrines in New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Kansas City are also much frequented. Nor are the Redemptorist Fathers alone the propagators of the devotion. The Fathers of the divine Word and the Josephites do much toward making Our Lady of Perpetual Help loved and venerated...."