From Father's Desk

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.

In my first year here, I wrote about the significance and presence of Our Lady under this title in my own life. As a deacon in 2008, I traveled to Rome for the first time with my pastor, mentor and friend, Fr. Sig. He had been there more than fifteen times and took me around. We found the original 15th century icon in the Church of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, around the corner from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. She is under the custody of the Redemptorists. A lot like our parish church, the church was warm and welcoming, a prayerful place, with friendly people present. After praying before the sacred image, I bought a poster and eventually had it framed.

People come to me throughout the week with intentions, with sorrows, illness, and joys as well. They share life and ask for prayers. Presently, the image hangs in my dining room, where it inspires and comforts me. She is a simple reminder to offer a “Hail Mary” to lift up the whole parish into the arms of Mary. One of the prayers to our Mother of Perpetual Help includes these words: “I am most grateful for the many graces you have bestowed upon me in the past. I place in you my prayers for my eternal salvation. Accept me as your child and shelter me under your mantle, you who are the mother of mercy.” We can pray those words for ourselves. As your pastor, I offer them not only for myself but for all of us, collectively, as a parish family. I entrust our eternal salvation to Our Lady, beseeching her to accept us as her children, sheltering us all.

What moves me most about the OLPH icon is the way she cradles and comforts the infant Jesus, her hand firmly under his bottom, and her right hand extended to grasp and support his hands, while at the same time, Mary gazes out towards us. Mary looks at us her children while she cares for her first-born son, Jesus. It is that combination of factors that moves me most. She is an attentive mother, to all her children, those of her flesh and her spiritual daughters and sons as well.

As your pastor, once again I 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. Simply gazing at the icon and speaking to Mary from your heart is a wonderful way to confide in our dear Mother.

I wish you a happy and blessed feast day. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us! With love,

Fr. Joel Wilson