By Bianca Iboma
Priests and parishioners of St. Martin De Porres Catholic Church, Ojo, Lagos, recently celebrated the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The event was the second since the church became a full-fledged parish.
Among other activities, the celebration was marked with a nine-day Novena (prayer) to shore up the spiritual lives of the community. The series of activities were attended by various retreat preachers who took the attendees through some soul-lifting spiritual programmes.
Activities marking the day began with Holy Mass celebrated by the Parish Priest of St. Marin De Porres Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Fidelis Okpanachi Enejo.
Speaking on the significance of the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Catholic faith, he said that it represented the triumph of Christ over sin and death. According to him, it was symbolised by the golden background of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which is a sign of the glory of resurrection. He said the royal crowns on the heads of Jesus and Mary also symbolised triumph.
He used the opportunity to charge religious leaders to empower the youths using the word of God. He said that it was necessary for the church to make progress and engage in more prayers, adding that unrelenting efforts needed to be made for the growth of youths.
“If any church fails to impact on her youths, she is jeopardising their future. This should be taken seriously in our localities.
“So many youths are jobless; they are tempted to be involved in social vices because they are not guided and mentored. The church must play its role in this regard in the way Our Mother of Perpetual Help beholds her son.”
In her comments, events planning committee chairperson, Mrs. Celestine Nkem Chidolue, said: “Our Mother of Perpetual Help signifies paying tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary and asking for her assistance.
“The picture of the Blessed Mother with her divine son above has helped to provide strength, comfort and even miracles to the faithful over the past centuries.
“The picture shows Jesus safely cradled in his mother’s arms. The miraculous icon is painted on wood where the image has been honoured and venerated by many popes.”
She appealed to Christians to erase the erroneous believe that Catholics worship Mary: “We pray this Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help but it is not an indication that we worship her. What Catholics do is to honour Mary the Queen of Heaven; we never worship or place her over and above our Lord Jesus Christ, who is her Divine Son.
“All the graces Mary gives us come directly from our Lord, who is always ready to intercede on our behalf, but never for anything contrary to His wishes.
“As the Bible puts it, Jesus says, ‘Mother, Behold your son (Apostle John) and son hold your mother.’ That is the same way Catholics behold Mary because of the role she plays in giving us succour.
“When Catholics approach her with a humble heart, healing, countless miracles are recorded.”
She prayed for Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help to disperse the tension, turbulence and scandals in the church in general and in Nigeria, especially in Ahiara Diocese, Imo State. She also asked the Holy Spirit to bring lasting peace and calm to the Church in accordance to God’s plan and purpose.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, states that: “Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, is a Roman Catholic title ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as represented in a celebrated 15th-century Byzantine icon. The icon has been in Rome since 1499, and is permanently enshrined in the church of St. Alphoso di Ligouri, where the official Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help text is prayed weekly.
“Pope Pius IX in 1965, appointed the Redemptorist priests as both custodians and missionaries of this icon. The image had since then become very popular among Roman Catholics in particular, and has been very much copied and reproduced. Modern reproductions are sometimes displayed in homes, business establishments, and public transportation.
“On 23 June, 1867, the image was granted a canonical coronation and its official recognition of the Marian icon under its present title. The Redemptorist priests are the only religious order currently entrusted by the Pope to protect and propagate a Marian religious work of the art. The feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is, therefore, celebrated on June 27, with novena devotions held every Wednesday.”