Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (14 May 2016)
During my first phase of studies in my formation as a Jesuit, I would go to a parish in Manila called Our Lady of Pentecost most weekends. The name seemed a little odd – after all, we normally associate Pentecost with the the descent of the holy Spirit on the apostles. Where does Our Lady come in? I’m reminded by a stained glass panel behind the altar that’s striking – Our Lady was sitting right in the centre and all focus was on her. She dominated the picture and reminded us that she’s an important part of Pentecost and that she can help focus our bringing of the Lord to others.
The image of Pentecost that most of us might have in our minds is that of disciples rushing from the upper room, restlessly speaking in many languages and in tongues, talking about the Lord to all that they meet. There’s excitement and restlessness with the apostles’ hearts of fire with the love of God and zeal for souls. Fire can be a little dangerous if left unchecked and uncontrolled and the image of our Blessed Mother at the centre of the apostles shows her as a stabilising influence, a focal point for the disciples.
Our Blessed Mother truly is a stabilising influence. We read about how, even when young, she was able to hold her family together. We saw how calm she was when Jesus was ‘lost’ in the temple and can imagine how accepting she might have been when Jesus left for his active ministry. Even as her son was so horrifically treated and crucified, she kept her quiet dignity despite her overwhelming grief. We know that fire needs a firm base for it to be effective and safe. Our Blessed Mother is such a base. Even as we are filled with restless zeal to do many great things for God and others, we remember her calmness and dignity, and are reminded of how we too need to temper our zeal for souls with prayer and contemplation. We remember how she too used prayer as a means of grounding herself in God.
We also see flames as a rallying point – a beacon of sorts that sends a message. The flames of Pentecost remind us that the Holy Spirit infuses us with the power and wilingness to spread God’s word everywhere. These flames need some control and focus. Our devotion to our Blessed Mother can be one such focusing point – a quiet centre of piety and calm that we can retreat to even while we’re busy doing the external work of God. By focusing and calming, we can be more effective ministers of God’s word to others.
Flames are often a rallying point, a beacon to send a message. the flames of pentecost remind us of the holy spirit that infuses us with the power and willingness to spread God’s word everywhere. These flames should not be wild and need some control and focus. Our devotion to our blessed mother is like our own focusing point, a quiet centre of piety and calm that we can retreat to even as we are so busy doing the work of God. Only then can we be effective ministers and bringers of God’s word to others.
So allow us to remember, this Pentecost, the central place of our Blessed Mother as not just the first apostle but as our Mother who calms, focuses and stabilises our faith in this confusing world. A prayer adapted for this weekend:
O Mary, most holy Mother of our Saviour, our Lady of Pentecost, we consecrate ourselves to your maternal love and we consider you the perfect model of praising God, sanctity, and the missionary and evangelising spirit.
On the day of Pentecost, you, together with the apostles, were graced with the indescribable gift of the Holy Spirit. By the effusion of the same Spirit that we received the day we were baptised, help us be constantly faithful to the Lord, proclaiming His word to all the nations.
Our Lady of Pentecost, pray with us and for us. Amen.