Mary's month of May and her title of Help of Christians
The month of May is also home to the feast of Mary Help of Christians, a title included in the Litany of Loreto and made the subject of popular devotion in recent times by St. Don Bosco.
Pope Pius V added this title of Mary to the Litany of Loreto, after the miraculous victory which she wrought over the Moslems at the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Pius VII then instituted the feast of Mary, Help of Christians as a solemn thanksgiving for the protection which she had shown to him and the Church during the time in which he had been imprisoned away from the Vatican for more than five years and also during another period when he was forced to flee from Rome. The pontiff decreed that the date of his triumphant arrival back into Rome after his five year imprisonment should be kept as the feast of Our Lady as Help of Christians. Furthermore, he instituted a proper office of the feast for the recitation of the Divine Office.
Throughout the ages, saints and theologians have consistently written on Mary’s assistance, her mediation, and her intercession. Indeed, these aspects of Mary stem naturally from her role as Mother of God and Co-Redemptrix, as she works to bring souls to a closer union with her Divine Son.
Noting Mary’s role thus, St. Alphonsus de Ligouri writes when commenting on the Salve Regina: “From the time that Mary came into the world, her only thought, after seeking the glory of God, was to succour the miserable. And even then she enjoyed the privilege of obtaining whatever she asked…In fine, it is certain that no creature can obtain so many mercies for us as this tender advocate, who is thus honoured by God, not only as His beloved handmaid, but also as His true Mother.”
Then again, St. Alphonsus writes of the delight which Mary takes in being an advocate to those who call upon her: “Mary takes care of all, even of sinners; indeed she glories in being called in a special manner their advocate…Truly unfortunate should we poor sinners be, had we not this great Advocate, who is so powerful and compassionate, and at the same time, ‘so prudent and wise that the Judge, her Son, cannot condemn the guilty who are defended by her,’ says Richard of Saint Lawrence.”
She is the Queen who comes to the aid of her subjects, sitting near the throne of her Son, in the manner of the Queen Mother. “A throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand.” (1 Kings 2:19) Although, as Pere Neubert notes, Mary is not some Queen who merely obtains favours from the King, or governs in his stead, by “Mary is Queen at the side of Jesus, King.”
As a powerful Queen, therefore, she also intercedes for her children, as evidenced most visibly at the battle of Lepanto.
Pere Neubert writes: “To reign is also to fight for the extension of one’s sawy over all those who, by law, ought to be subject to the ruler’s authority, although in fact, they may have rejected this authority or have not yet been subjected to it…Christ the King must reign over all these peoples and in this work of conquest Mary has her role. Her sovereignty upon earth, while characterized by love, is also militant and conquering. As formerly the shepherds and the Magi di, so today the heretics and pagans will find Jesus with Mary His Mother. Mary must reign that Christ may reign, that the prayer which the Master taught us to repeat each day – adveniat regnum tuum – may be fully realised. Hastening the coming of Mary’s reign brings closer the advent of Christ’s reign.”
To close, is St. Don Bosco’s prayer composed to Mary under the title of Help of Christians
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.