First placed in the Church of San Matteo in Rome in 1499, the picture was thought to be lost at one point after Napoleon’s armies sacked that church in 1798. Fortunately, however, it was in the care of the Augustinian fathers until Pope Pius IX ordered that the icon be given to the Redemptorist order at the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome in 1866 for public viewing once again. Since then it has been copied and venerated in churches and homes all over the world.
Note in this picture how Jesus, while safely cradled in his mother’s arms, looks anxiously at St. Gabriel the Archangel, who holds the cross and nails for His Crucifixion. (St. Michael the Archangel, at left, holds the lance, spear, and the vessel of vinegar and gall for our Lord’s Passion as well.) The Blessed Mother looks at us solemnly, perhaps as if in contemplation of her beloved Son’s future Passion and death for our salvation!
Remember that when we pray this novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help, that we are not choosing to worship her over her Divine Son. She is “our Mother on the order of grace,” according to a Vatican II document, and all the graces Mary gives us come directly from our Lord. She is always ready to intercede with Him on our behalf, but never for anything contrary to His wishes.
As long as we approach her as we do Him, with sincerely humble and contrite hearts, we can count on her aid and guidance. Mary’s last spoken words in the Gospels concerned her Son when she said at the wedding feast at Cana “Do whatever he tells You” (John 2:5). If we persevere in our intentions to do Christ’s will for us, we are doing hers as well.