Devoção a Nossa Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro
“Let the whole world know”. The history of devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help took major proportions from that sentence, uttered by Pope Pius IX in 1866, when he entrusted the Redemptorist missionaries the mission to make it known and loved worldwide.
The dating of the icon is controversial, and some say it lies between the X and XI centuries, others say the beginning of the fifteenth century. The festivities happen on June 27.
Before being delivered to the sons of St. Alphonsus Liguori (Redemptorists), the picture icon of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help sojourned for different destinations. According to an ancient inscription placed next to the icon with a historical summary of the image, the origin of this frame is the island of Crete in the Aegean Sea. A tradition of the sixteenth century tells the story of a merchant that stole a painting of the Virgin greatly venerated in a church on the island of Crete, then hid it among the baggage and embarked for the West with the intention of selling it.
During the trip, there was a terrible storm. But thanks to God and the Virgin, the ship managed to reach the desired haven. A year later, in Rome, the merchant fell seriously ill and sought hospitality at the home of a friend. At death, he told him the secret and asked him to place the image in a church. The friend promised so, but died without fulfilling the promise, since his wife had always refused to loosen up the beautiful picture.
Later, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a six-year-old daughter of the woman who kept the picture, asking her to warn her mother and grandfather that the picture of St. Mary of Perpetual Help should be placed in a church dedicated to St. Matthew located between the churches of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. And so it happened.
However, years later, the war came and with it, the almost total destruction of the church and the monastery. In 1798, the Augustinians, who ran the place, moved to a nearby church and took the picture, which was forgotten.
In January 1855, the Redemptorists bought the residence called “Villa Caserta”, in Rome. It would be the centerpiece of their home missionary congregation, which was already deployed in Western Europe and North America. Precisely in that area the ruins of the Church of St. Matthew, destroyed by war, were found.
Redemptorists wanted to know everything related to their new property. They were delighted when, in 1863, a Jesuit priest asked during a sermon: “Who knows where’s a picture of Mary that was in the Church of St. Matthew in the street Merulana, known as the Virgin of St. Matthew, and more specifically perpetual Help?”. Thus the search for the painting resumed.
After some time, Pope Pius IX ordered that the picture should go back to the desired location in the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and said to the Superior General of the Redemptorists that devotion was to be taken to the four corners of the world.