The following are the words shared by Bishop Brendan at the Gathering Eucharist to welcome the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the Diocese of Achonry.
‘Then to the disciple Jesus said ‘This is your mother’.
And from that moment, the disciple made a place for her in his home’
The disciple is you, the disciple is me. John at the foot of the Cross stands for every person, man or woman, who would be a disciple of Jesus. We are all here this evening because we are disciples of Jesus. We are people who as individuals or as a community (be that parish or diocese) we make a place for Mary in our homes and in the home of our hearts. She is our mother, my mother and yours, from the moment we become a disciple. It’s part of the package, as it were.
Our own Irish people referred to Mary invariably as ‘Muire Máthair’. The title is intimate, the most intimate. One of ourselves. Close to us, very close. During the centuries of persecution and poverty for most Catholics, the Rosary, pondering the mysteries of Jesus life death and Resurrection with Mary, became the mainstay of our ancestors’ faith. The sense of Mary’s closeness and presence sustained and carried us through those often harsh and penal times. Just as her presence, standing, at Calvary – and all through his life – sustained Jesus himself. Now, there’s a mystery…
No wonder then that our people took to the devotion of our Lady of Perpetual Succour/Help naturally and readily, when the Redemptorist Fathers introduced the image, the icon we have before us here tonight, in the second half of the 19th century, faithful to the mission entrusted to them by the Holy Father, Blessed Pope Pius IX. It was precisely as one who is with us in all the ups and especially downs of life that Irish people had already taken to the Mother of God.
If I may be personal for a moment. It is thirty years ago today that my own mother died. She was very fond of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. We lived fairly close the Redemptorist Monastery at Esker in Co Galway, where the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is celebrated every Saturday. Once we got a car, and she learned to drive, my mother took to going to the early morning devotions on Saturdays in Esker. She always had people and any troubles there were to bring to Mary. She’d have some of us up and out shortly after six in the mornings. Though we didn’t always thank her then for the early morning call, the memories of those lovely May mornings especially are all golden now. I find it extraordinary that this pilgrimage now coincides with her anniversary. And a call somewhere to be renewed in taking Mary into the home of my own heart – and all our hearts-anew. No helper is more powerful, no friend better. As she stood with Jesus to the end, so she will stand with you or I, with the parish, the diocese, with our beloved, bruised and battered Irish church. Her strong and motherly presence will carry us through these bewildering times. She is the one who will show us the way, the truth and the light…as she does gently and peacefully, clearly and firmly, in the lovely and sacred icon we have come to venerate this evening.
So I’m glad we have the Icon and are included in this 150th Anniversary Pilgrimage, providentially happening in the Year of Mercy. And I thank the Redemptorists and their team who have brought it to us this evening.
‘Our Lady is always close to us’, Pope Francis says, ‘especially when we feel the weight of life with all its problems’.
Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Perpetual Help…pray for us.