Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

CHRONICLES OF FEASTS: Feast of Mary Help of Christians at Panaji

FR LODDY PIRES | MAY 22, 2023, 09:32 PM IST
CHRONICLES OF FEASTS: Feast of Mary Help of Christians at Panaji

Don Bosco’s Madonna is a popular title for Mary Help of Christians. The word Madonna means “Our Lady” and refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ.

In Goa, the Salesians of Don Bosco have the Shrine Of Our Lady of Fatima in Panaji, which also propagates devotion to Our Lady, under the title ‘Help of Christians’. The statue of Mary Help of Christians was brought by the first Salesians, headed by Fr Vinceno Scuderi sdb, to their first chapel at Don Bosco in Panaji in 1946. This statue is now placed in the Shrine at the Don Bosco campus at Panaji.

The Shrine at Don Bosco at Panaji began the Novena to Mary Help of Christians on May 15.

Weekday Masses are in English at 6.30 am and 7.15 am. Sundays Masses are at 6 am and 8 am in Konkani, and 7 am, 9 am in English. Every day, the Solemn Novena Mass with sermon is at 6 pm.

The Feast will be solemnly celebrated on May 24 and there will be an extra Mass at 8 am. The 6 pm Solemn Concelebrated Mass will be followed by a procession on the campus.

People will be aware of the persecutions aimed at the Christian community. Manipur is just one recent example where Churches have been burnt and Christians displaced from their homes and harassed. But Mother Mary sustains these persecuted people and offers them relief and protection. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.

This title ‘Help of Christians’ denotes that Mary is the Mother of difficult times. She is ever ready to help her children in trouble when they invoke her with confidence. Mary is definitely Mother of the human race but when Christians invoke her by choice, it is natural that she remains close to us who love her Son Jesus.


History proves that Mary has always been of assistance to humankind. People run to Marian Shrines and Sanctuaries to seek the assistance of this powerful mother. Mary has appeared to some simple people like St John Bosco in Turin (Italy) and children like St Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, (France), to Sts Jacinta, Francisco, and Sister Lucy at Fatima (Portugal).

St John Chrysostom was the first person to use the title of Mary Help of Christians in the year 345. The devotion became popular in Europe during the pontificate of Pope Pius V and the fights against the Ottoman Empire.

It was later definitely established due to the great appreciation of St John Bosco for this Marian title and the development of his works in several countries since the second half of the 19th century.

The title of Mary Help of Christians is associated with the defence of Christian Europe, North Africa and the Middle East from non-Christian peoples during the Middle Ages. On October 7, 1571, at the naval battle of Lepanto near Greece, the powerful Turkish army was vanquished by the Christian forces that were backed by the unceasing Rosary crusades and Blessed Sacrament processions. Later in 1683, a similar victory was given to the Christians, due to the intervention of the Mother of God.


The Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was instituted by Pope Pius VII. This Pope was arrested by Napoleon I of France on June 5, 1808, and detained a prisoner for three years at Savona, and then at Fontainebleau. In January 1814, after the Battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on March 17, on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the Patroness of Savona. The Pontiff visited many of her sanctuaries on the way and crowned her images.

He entered Rome on May 24, 1814, and was enthusiastically welcomed. The Pope extended the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary (the third Sunday in September) to the Universal Church, When Napoleon was about to march through the Papal States from Naples, Pius VII fled to Savona on March 22, 1815, where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy on May 10.

After the Congress of Vienna and the Battle of Waterloo, the Pope returned to Rome on July 7, 1815. The feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians was then to be celebrated every May 24, the anniversary of the Pope’s first return.

Don Bosco made the title Help of Christians so popular that Mary came to be known as Don Bosco’s Madonna. In Turin, Italy Don Bosco built the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and all the expenses were met miraculously through the intervention of his Madonna. The Salesians have spread the devotion to their numerous establishments to fulfil the words of Don Bosco, “Spread devotion to Mary Help of Christians and you will see what miracles are”.

(The writer is presently Director of the Shrine of Don Bosco at Panaji)

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