June 27 and 28, 2019
Mother of Perpetual Help
The Church places two great feasts shoulder to shoulder, a day apart for all of us to experience Christ’s mercy and to soothe our wearied bodies and restless minds in. The first celebrates our beloved Mother under the title of Perpetual Help. Jesus gave His mother to John and to all when He was dying. He not only rose again to send His Holy Spirit to be our helper; He also sent His Mother who appears everywhere in every age, especially to each of her children who suffer.
In the Ancient Byzantine Icon, Mother of Perpetual Help, also Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we see the Blessed Virgin holding Jesus for us. His hands rest in hers as she fixes her eyes on us with compassion and great tenderness letting us know that she will perpetually care for us; she will allow nothing to separate us from Jesus. We, too, can cling to her, holding her hand. She will take us to where her Son is so we can adore Him and become carriers of His love to all in need.
From the moment I first saw this Icon years ago I was drawn to it. Icons are powerful instruments in the Lord’s work. I have no theological explanation, no specific features stood out to draw my attention. It was purely an interior pull where I felt the Presence of Mary who wanted me to come close. I simply prayed to her; she loved me and wanted me to know that and she wanted me simply to be near her and Jesus. When I learned what name she held in the image I thought, “How fitting dear Mother, because I’m perpetually in need of help.”
When I travelled to Rome for Mother Teresa’s canonization in 2016 I learned that the original Icon is kept at in St. Alphonsus Liguori Church there. To kneel and pray before the original was a top priority in my pilgrimage. I didn’t realize how unusual this attraction was until I spent a few days in Rome engulfed in its glory and praise to God shouting to the sky in a brilliant display of ecclesial fireworks. Beauty and majesty exploded from every particle of every church outside and inside.
The ruins of the Roman Empire lying here and there made me think of Jesus’ words to his disciples as he prepared them for their martyrdom. “All will hate you because of me, yet not a hair of your head will be harmed.” (Luke 21:17). Rome is a testimony to the truth of Christ’s words. The overwhelming beauty and glory I saw came forth from the Father’s own hand out of the soil on which the Roman Empire was built and fertilized by the blood of the Martyrs.
I remember pedalling with great excitement to St Alphonsus expecting to see yet another monumental Church in which to pray before the ancient Icon of the Mother of God. I had trouble finding it, so small and hidden it stood as if it was simply forgotten. What I did see first was Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major), a “must-see” Basilica second to St. Peter’s.
I had to search for St. Alphonsus tucked away on Via Merulana only 160 metres away. It could fit into one of the Capellas of Santa Maria Maggiore. Note the size difference in the photos. St Alphonsus is still a magnificent work of art in which I entered with a humble awareness that I was about to pray before an image of the Mother of God that has been in Rome since 1499 and believed to be created in the thirteenth century.
I was meeting my Mother here enshrined above a tabernacle in Rome in a beautifully humble, even relatively tiny Church. She spoke to my heart years earlier drawing me close to her through an Icon painted by someone (Legend says St. Luke) who loved her, someone she spoke to over 700 hundred years ago.
I was the only visitor at the time so I enjoyed a profound silence in which to offer my love and gratitude, longing and needs, and those of many I carried in my heart. This was a moment in which I easily reflected on the absolute authority Christ has in conquering the human heart, including mine, gathering souls from every corner in every generation to share in His Divine Life. And here I was in the Presence of His Mother, my Mother who shares in that work with her Son. The amazing part of this was 160 metres away she is at work in a Church that dwarfs St Alphonsus. Yet, as Mother of Perpetual Help, she chose to be enshrined in a humble, hidden Church in Rome just like she was with Jesus in Nazareth.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Following this feast, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He revealed His love for us by focusing on His Divine Heart revealed to Saint Margarate Mary Alacoque from 1673 to 1675. He emphasized His human and resurrected Heart which has loved us beyond our imagination. Yet knowing the temptation to turn away from Him He asked Margaret for a day of reparation after the Octave of Corpus Christi. He asked us to receive the Eucharist frequently, especially on the first Friday of each month, and spend an hour with Him in adoration before the Sacred Host.
While Margaret Mary Alocoque’s encounter with Christ brought about the greatest focus on the Heart of Jesus, devotion to His Heart has been a big part of the Church’s history. This makes perfect sense. During His life, Jesus frequently highlighted the human heart as the source of love and evil, the most significant aspect of who we are. “Where your heart is there will be your treasure, also.”(Matt 6:21). It’s within our heart that love has the possibility of growing. We hear God constantly referring to the heart as He leads the Israelites. “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit in you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
The human person of the Father in His Son reveals a perfect human heart that is also Divine, pure, spotless, and infinitely compassionate. Our Lord reveals Himself, then, through His Heart. The most beautiful image of His love is the wound from the lance piercing his side. This wound is seen as His Heart from which flows the saving water of Baptism and Blood of the Holy Eucharist.
Our heart can pulse with love and joy for others, or it can harden into lifeless stone. The June issue of Magnificat says this about the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: “It means that a divine Person loves us with a perfect human heart. Consequently, our own human hearts are consoled and perfected; we have only to unite our hearts to Christ’s to receive all that it contains.”
Jesus encouraged us through Margaret with this promise: “Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.”
I look at the Divine Mercy image and the Sacred Heart image with the same gaze. My heart moves with the same longing, and begs for the same mercy, love, and healing for those who are in most need and for myself, so needy. Jesus revealed Himself and His Love to two unique souls, Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque and Saint Faustina Kowalska. To both in unique ways, He shows us the infinite Mercy of God, reminds us of His Passion and death, and moves our hearts to love Him, especially in the Holy Eucharist. For when we feed on the Body and Blood of our Lord we, as he told us, will have life in us, life to have and to give. Our hearts will be changed the more we eat His flesh and drink His Blood. All the wounds of our sins will be healed. We all need medicine at some point in our lives to heal sickness. For the healing that brings eternal life, we need, as St. Ignatius of Antioch told us in the first century, the Eucharist, the Medicine of Immortality. That medicine was given to the world from Christ’s Merciful heart just before His Passion and Death at the last supper with his disciples.
SHINE IN MY HEART
by Rod Minns June 28, 2019 (Sacred Heart of Jesus)
Sacred Heart of Jesus
come to our weak, poor hearts
make them strong and rich like yours
pure and compassionate
entirely like your heart
infinitely filled with mercy.
The waters of Baptism
and the Blood of Eucharist
burst from your Heart
flooding the world
for every human heart
frightened and caged by sin
with all its feverish longing,
to plunge into the cleansing
Ocean of your Mercy
washed clean of all impurities,
lusts, anger, and judgements.
Through your holy name
and Sacred Heart
hearts of flesh are born in us
radiant as the evening sky
treasuring your name
clinging to your will
and finding within
your Sacred Heart
our eternal home.