Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
The term Novena is derived from the Latin “novem”, meaning nine. A novena is a series of private or public prayers to obtain special graces, implore favors, or to make petitions. The prayers are given for nine days straight for the intention. The novena is offered as a sacrifice to God. God sees a novena as a sign of devotion especially when the person saying the novena asks for a specific reason. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, many miracles have been attributed to those who attended a Novena of nine Wednesdays at the Basilica.
Devotions in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help are held at the Shrine every Wednesday. The Basilica’s proximity to hospitals and colleges brings many from nearby as well as throughout Greater Boston. Prayers and hymns to Our Lady are offered following the 7:00 AM and 12:10 PM Mass. A 5:30 PM service is also held in the Basilica that features a benediction. A 6:30 PM Mass is offered in Spanish in the Rectory Chapel.
Since 1865, the Redemptorists have spread devotion to Our Lady under the icon and title of Mother of Perpetual Help. According to tradition, the ancient Byzantine icon was stolen from a church in Crete where many miracles had occurred. The image remained in the private possession of a Roman merchant and his family until 1499 when it was publicly displayed in the Church of St. Matthew in Rome between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.
When St. Matthew’s was destroyed in 1789, the icon was rescued and hung in an obscure monastery chapel. In Rome, the Redemptorists were building their new headquarters on the former site of St. Matthew’s. After learning of this connection, the order sought to restore the placement of the icon upon its original veneration site.
The Redemptorists asked Pope Pius IX for permission to move the icon to their new church, San Alfonso. The pope granted his permission, and told the Redemptorists to “make her known throughout the world.” The original icon is still venerated today in the church of St. Alphonsus and can be viewed via a LIVE webcam from Rome, http://www.omphicon.org/iconfeed.html
The striking image portrayed has several symbolic elements that represent the life of Mary and Jesus. These subtle reflections help tell the story that have been shared throughout the centuries. Click on the highlighted areas to learn more about the icon’s meaning.
Greek Initial for St. Michael the Archangel
Michael means who is like God. He is depicted holding the lance and gall-sop of Christ’s Passion
Star on Our Lady's Veil
She is the Star of the Sea who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world – the star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven.
Mary’s mouth is small, symbolizing her few recorded words and the depth of her contemplation.
The color worn by virgins at the time of Christ.
Christ’s Hands turned palms down into His Mother’s indicate that the Graces of Redemption are in her keeping.
Dark Blue Mantle
The color worn by mothers in Palestine. Mary is both Virgin and Mother.
Foot with Falling Sandal
The falling sandal symbolizes Christ’s Divine nature, barely clinging to the earth. His human nature is symbolized in the other Foot to which the sandal is more firmly bound. Christ has two natures – human and Divine – in One Divine Person.
Mary’s Eyes are large for all our troubles. They are turned toward us as always.
Prominently displayed at the top of the icon are the Greek initials for Mother of God.
Greek Initial for St. Gabriel
Gabriel means God is strong. He holds the Cross and nails of the crucifixion.
Greek Initials for “Jesus Christ”
Mary’s Left Hand supports Christ possessively: she is his Mother. It is a comforting hand for everyone who calls on her.
Making Her Known
Mission Church became a notable Marian shrine throughout New England during the golden age of the Novena from 1935–1970. Special buses to the church were arranged to accommodate the crowds of people who would attend the weekly devotion. An estimated 20,000 people were present each Wednesday during the darkness that reigned throughout the second word war.
Cardinal Cushing suggested that the Novena should be broadcasted on the radio, it was carried on WHDH beginning in 1945 and ran for thirty years over the local airwaves.
The Novena entered the world of television in 1984 and for more than twenty five years has been carried into people’s homes in English and Spanish over the CatholicTV Network. Now it is also available on demand via our YouTube channel, BostonsBasilica to share with the world.