We are in the final hours of this Pallium Pilgrimage. From the very beginning it was clear that Our Lady and Our Lord had a divine hand in this visit to Rome. We are blessed to celebrate three significant Solemenities or Feasts, including:
Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been a long time favorite devotion of mine. To celebrate Mass for the first time in the church where this Icon is venerated, on the Feast Day, on my 25th anniversary of priesthood, was quite an honor. As you may know, this image depicts the Christ child running and jumping into Our Mother’s arms, at the appearance of two angels bearing the instruments of his future passion and crucifixion. Obviously, Our Lady gave him the consolation and assistance he needed to calm him, as well as the encouragement through his formative years to lovingly fulfill the Father’s will.
This icon appeared in this church in 1467. Its origin is mysterious, and there are numerous hypothesis to that regard. Its artist is unknown. It is a fresco, believed to have come from Albania. However, the fresco appears to not be attached to the wall of the church, the back of the fresco is unknown, as are the elements making up the brilliant colors of the image.
The church was nearly destroyed during WWII, however the image was untouched.
One of the traditions holds that in the early centuries, on this site was a pagan temple to Venus. In the 5th century a church was built, and over the centuries fell into ruin, as the people lost their faith. Then, on the feast of St. Mark, during a city celebration, a cloud appeared over the city, and music could be heard, as this image descended from the sky to find a resting place on the collapsed wall of the Church.
Once the people discovered the image, and the miraculous nature of its appearance, they began to rebuild the church, and their faith soon was restored.
All the members of our group today felt a warm hospitality of the people of the town, and a very warm reception from the priests of the parish. The shrine is staffed by Augustinian priests, who could not have been any more welcoming.
I was quite moved to pray in this chapel, as well as to celebrate Mass here. I look forward to returning here again someday to spend more time in prayer – perhaps for a retreat.
Mary gains her title as Mother of Good Counsel from the passage in the Gospel when Mary asks Jesus to assist the newly married couple when the wine runs out at their wedding reception. Mary tells the servants then regarding her Son, “Do whatever he tells you.”
An interpretation of the image is that Mary and Jesus have just returned from the temple after hearing the sad prophecy of Simeon. Her half-closed eyes indicate that she is in prayer, contemplating the Wisdom of God. The child Jesus, rather than looking out from the picture towards those who gaze upon it, is rather looking to his Mother – as if seeking her Good Counsel.
Of course, one of the titles of Mary is Seat of Wisdom, so who better to Counsel us on the ways of God as we seek to know and follow her Son Jesus?
Knowing that we will spend the entirety of Sunday flying back to Anchorage, we celebrated a Vigil Mass this evening before our final dinner – and what a lovely close to this pilgrimage we have had!
We depart Rome in a few hours – after a very short night’s sleep. Thank all of you for your prayers, and know that we have shared your intentions in all of our Masses – at all of these holy sights. As we have experienced the abiding presence of our Lord and our Lady, we are renewed in faith, and ready once again for the mission of being disciples of the Lord.