History of the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual HelpAbout the time that Columbus brought the Santa Maria to the shores of the Americas, another sailing vessel was bringing this wonder-working image to the shores of Europe. Who painted it, or when, we do not know. It had been venerated in the isle of Crete and from Crete it came to Rome. There it was retained by a private family until our Blessed Mother herself appeared to the little girl of the household and told her that she wished her picture to be placed in a Church. She even designated the place – “between my beloved Church of Saint Mary Major’s and that of my beloved son, Saint John of Lateran.”

On 27 March 1499 the picture was exposed for veneration, as she had ordered, in the Church of Saint Matthew where it remained for three long centuries drawing pilgrims from all parts of the Christian world. In 1798 war demolished the venerable structure, but the picture was not allowed to perish. The good Augustinian Fathers, who all these years had been in charge of Saint Matthew’s, took it with them to the new monastery granted them by Pope Pius VII in another part of the city.

The very last member of their Order to be professed in old Saint Matthew’s was Brother Augustine Orsetti. In his new home he had as a frequent visitor a youth named Michael Marchi, who later became a Redemptorist priest. The Redemptorists came to Rome in 1855 and built a Church in honor of their founder, Saint Alphonsus, on the site of the ancient Saint Matthew’s. The old Brother had often spoken to young Michael about the Madonna in the monastery Chapel saying, “Don’t forget now – mind me well – the picture in our Chapel is the one that was venerated in old Saint Matthew’s. It was indeed a miraculous picture.”

So when Father Marchi told of the miracle-working image in the Augustinian monastery, the Redemptorists petitioned Pope Pius IX to have the image placed in the Church on the spot chosen by Our Lady herself. And the Pope in granting the request said: “It is our will that this picture of the Blessed Virgin be returned to the Church between Saint Mary Major’s and Saint John Lateran’s.” At the same time he commanded the Redemptorists to “make her known” all over the world.

On 26 April 1866, a solemn procession carried the miraculous Madonna to her chosen spot in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, one of Mary’s greatest lovers and defenders. Today the original painting reposes in Rome while millions of replicas bring her and her Perpetual Help to all men everywhere.

– text from the booklet Alone with God by the Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn, New York; it has the Imprimatur of Bishop Francis J Mugavero, Diocese of Brooklyn, New York