Our Lady, Help of Christians [Dom Guéranger]
Statue of Our Lady, Help of Christians, with rhododendron blossoms, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, USA, as posted on America Needs Fatima blog
(The following is excerpted from the 24 May entry in Volume VIII of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation of Dom Prosper Guéranger's 'The Liturgical Year' by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)
"...Ever since our entrance upon the joys of the Pascal season....there has not been a single feast our blessed Lady to gladden our hearts by telling us of some mystery or glory of this august Queen....It would seem as though Holy Church wished to honour, by a respectful silence, the forty days during which Mary enjoyed the company of Jesus, after [H]is Resurrection. We, therefore, should never separate the Mother and the Son, if we would have our Easter meditations be in strict accordance with truth -- and that we surely must wish...."
"To-day, however, we have a feast in honour of Mary. True, it is not one of those feasts which are entered on the general Calendar of the Church; yet is it so widely spread, with the consent of the Holy See, that our Liturgical Year would have been incomplete without it. Its object is to honour the Mother of God as the Help of Christians -- a title she has justly merited by the innumerable favours she has conferred upon Christendom. Dating from that day whose anniversary we are soon to celebrate, when the Holy Ghost descended upon Mary in the Cenacle, in order that she might begin to exercise over the Church Militant her power as Queen -- who could tell the number of times that she has aided, by her protection, the kingdom of her Son on earth?"
"Heresies have risen one after the other; they were violent; they were frequently supported by the great ones of this world; each of them was resolved on the destruction of the true faith; and yet, one after the other, they have dwindled away, or fallen into impotency; those of the present day are gradually sinking by internal discord; and Holy Church tells us that it is Mary who 'alone destroys all heresies throughout the whole world' [from the Matins of the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]. If public scandals or persecutions, or the tyranny of secular interference, have at times threatened to stay the progress of the Church, Mary has stretched forth her arm, the obstacles were removed, and the Spouse of Jesus continued her onward march, leaving her foes and her fetters behind. All this was vividly brought before the mind of the saintly Pontiff, [Pope St.] Pius V, by the victory of Lepanto, gained by Mary's intercession, over the Turkish fleet, and he resolved to add one more title to the glorious list given to our Lady in the Litany: it was Auxilium Christianorum, Help of Christians."
"...On May 24, in the year 1814, there was witnessed in Rome the most magnificent triumph that has yet been recorded in the annals of the Church....Pius VII re-entered Rome amidst the acclamations of the holy City....He had been a captive for five years, during which the spiritual government of the Christian world suffered a total suspension....What a day was that 24th of May, which witnessed the triumphant return of the Pontiff into the holy City, whence he had been dragged during the night by the soldiers of an ambitious tyrant [Napoleon I]! He made the journey in short stages, meeting, on his way, the allied armies of Europe, who recognized his right as King. This right is superior, both in antiquity and dignity, to that of all other monarchs; and all, no matter whether they be heretics, schismatics, or Catholics, must admit it, were it only on the strength of its being an historical fact."
"But what we have said so far is not sufficient to give an adequate idea of the greatness of the prodigy thus achieved by our Lady Help of Christians. In order to have a just appreciation of it, we must remember that the miracle was not wrought in the age of Sylvester and Constantine, or of St. Leo III and Charlemagne, or of the great prophetess [St.] Catharine of Siena, who made known the commands of God to the people of Italy and to the Popes of Avignon. The century that witnessed this wondrous event was the nineteenth. Europe was under the degrading influence of Voltairism, and there were still living the authors and abettors of the crimes and impieties that resulted from the principles taught in the eighteenth century. Everything was adverse to such a glorious and unexpected triumph; Catholic feeling was far from being roused...the action of God's providence had to show itself in a direct and visible manner; and to let the Christian world know that such was the case, Rome instituted the annual feast of May 24, as an offering of acknowledgment to Mary, Help of Christians."
"Let us now weigh the importance of the twofold restoration which wrought on this day by the intercession of the holy Mother of God. Pius VII had been forcibly taken from Rome and dethroned; on this May 24 he was reinstated in Rome, both as Pope and as temporal sovereign. On the Feasts of St. Peter's Chair at Rome and at Antioch, we gave our readers the doctrine of the Church, which teaches us that the succession to the rights conferred by Christ upon St. Peter belongs to the Bishop of Rome. From this it follows that residence in the city of Rome is both the right and the duty of the successor of St. Peter, save in the case of his deeming a temporary absence to be demanded by circumstances. Whosoever, therefore, by means of physical force, keeps the Sovereign Pontiff out of Rome, or prevents him from residing there, is acting in opposition to the Divine Will; for the pastor ought to be in the midst of his flock...."
"The second is her having reinstated the Pontiff in possession of his temporal power, the surest guarantee of his being independent in the exercise of his spiritual power. We have but to consult history, and we shall learn what miseries and dangers have followed from the Popes being the subjects of any earthly monarch. The experience of the past shows us that the city of Rome, if under any other government than that of the papacy, excites the mistrust of Christendom as to the liberty necessary for the due election of the supreme Pontiff....Whosoever dares to invade it, attacks the liberty of the entire Church; and we know, as St. Anselm says, that 'there is nothing in this world more loved by God than the liberty of [H]is Church;' hence the severe punishments that have ever followed such as offered violence to it."
"...Let us then give thanks to the blessed Mother of God, on this feast of the twenty-fourth day of May...."
"I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me; my help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth [Psalm 120: 1, 2]. Thus prayed the Israelites of old; thus also prays the Church: though for her the help is nigher and comes more speedily. The Psalmist's petition has been granted: the heavens have bowed down, and the divine help is now close by our side. This help is Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary....But this King of kings has given us a Queen, and this Queen is Mary, [H]is Mother. Out of love for her [H]e has given her a throne on [H]is right hand, as Solomon did for his mother Bethsabee; and [H]e would have her also be the Help of Christians. The Church teaches us this, by inserting this beautiful title in the Litany; and Rome invites us, on this day, to unite with her in giving thanks to out blessed Lady of Help for one of the most signal of her favours...."
"But Rome is not the only spot on earth that needs thy powerful help, O Mary! The vineyard of thy Son is everywhere being laid waste by the wild beast. Vice and error and seduction are everywhere. There is not a country where the Church is not persecuted, and her liberty trampled upon. Society has lost its Christian traditions; it is at the mercy of revolutions against which it has no power. O thou that are the Help of Christians, aid the world in these its perils! Thou has the power to save it from danger! Wilt thou permit the people to be lost who were redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and whom [H]e from [H]is Cross entrusted to thy care?"
"Thou, O Mary, art the Help of each Christian soul, as well as of the entire world. That same enemy, who is bent on the destruction of the whole human race, is seeking to drag each one of us into perdition. He hates the image of thy Son, which he sees reflected in our human nature. Oh! come to our assistance; save us from this roaring lion of hell. He knows thy power, and that thou canst procure our deliverance, so long as we are left in this present life. Thou hast gained the most stupendous victories for the salvation of thy clients; tire not, we beseech thee, in aiding poor sinners to return to their God. When Jesus spoke of them that were invited to the marriage feast, and told us how the king said to his servants: Compel them to come in [Luke 14: 23], it was thee that [H]e had mainly in view. Lead us then to our King!"
"Our supplications to thee, O Help of Christians, are thus earnest, because our wants are great; but we are not on that account the less mindful of the special honour that we owe thee at this holy season of Easter, when the Church contemplates the joy thou hadst in the presence of thy Risen Jesus. She congratulates thee on the immense happiness that thus repaid thee for thine anguish on Calvary and at the Sepulchre. It is to the Mother consoled by and exulting in her Son's triumphant Resurrection that we offer this sweet month, whose loveliness is so in keeping with her own incomparable beauty. In return for this homage of our devotion, pray for us, dear Mother, that our souls may persevere in the beauty of grace given to them by this year's union with our Jesus! and that we may be so well prepared for the Feast of Pentecost as to merit to receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost, [W]ho comes that [H]e may perfect the work of our Paschal regeneration."