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Dear Children of Mary,

This weekend we celebrate Our Lady of Perpetual Help, sometimes called Mother of Perpetual Help. When we think of perpetual, words like constant, ceaseless, nonstop, and even timeless come to mind. Antonyms include spotty, erratic, periodic, or occasional. The sun shines constantly while clouds pass periodically. Similarly, the word help calls to mind aid, guidance, support, assistance, in opposition to hinder, block, prevent and even hurt. Over one hundred years ago, the people of Maple Shade and surrounding areas placed themselves under the patronage of Mary with this title. So designated, the constant aid of our Mother Mary is highlighted. We place ourselves under  the  care  and aid of our patroness this weekend, seeking her constant solicitude.

Mary has many titles and is known by many names. To gain a deeper appreciation, see the Litany of  LoretoGood  Counsel and  Help of Christians are two related titles for our Mother. Even Mary Untier of Knots  shares a kinship, as do all titles that suggest Mary offering assistance. In the grand scheme, our many names and titles for Mary stem from two great branches: (a) Mary as Mother of God, in Greek Theotokos which means God-bearer, (b) and Mary as Auxiliadora (Helper), one who grants aid.

In the beautiful image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help both realities come before us. First Mary cradles the infant Jesus. She is an attentive mother. Careful inspection reveals that Jesus has need of aid. His sandal is falling from his foot. How many times did our mommies tie our shoes! Closer inspection reveals greater need than simply refastening a sandal. Above the heads of Jesus and Mary, two angels appear carrying a cross, the nails, a spear and a crown of thorns. The angels show the weapons of torture for the future crucifixion of our Savior. Jesus reaches for the hand of his mother. Mary’s left hand cradles Jesus’ bottom while the right hand extends to grasp Jesus’ outstretched hands. An icon that can at first seem static takes on new dynamism.

Now attend to the eyes. Jesus’ eyes gaze upon the cross. Mary’s eyes look not down upon Jesus but outwards to us. Mother Mary meets our gaze. Her countenance, perhaps grim or staid, is also constant and full of understanding. Mary appears to see and accept the path that awaits her son.

As your pastor, I can only encourage you to place your trust and confidence in Mother Mary as her son Jesus does. The novena is a great method whenever we have special need of aid. Last week we meditated on the meaning of Jesus asleep on a cushion through the storm at sea. Today we can appreciate more deeply his early training in confidence, supported by the constant loving arms of his Mother.

This is the first time in a long time that we have honored Mary and celebrated our feast day with a special remembrance. I pray this tradition will grow and become part of our parish life, not only because Mother Mary is our patroness and deserves our love and devotion, but also because of the particular title selected for our parish, which reminds us of Mary’s constant assistance.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!

Fr. Joel Wilson