Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

   My cousin Anthony, age 51, recently informed me that he doesn't believe in everlasting life. Since he is one of the smartest people I've ever known, his disbelief in Heaven made me perk up and listen.
Did he feel this way because we grew up in a dysfunctional family? Was I a fool for believing? Afterall, someone I hold in the highest regard was saying there's nothing after we die.
  Anthony gave me this explanation:
  "Many people, and maybe you are one of them, need to believe that everything happens for a reason - that everything is part of the grand plan of some benevolent being...and that even the terrible things that befall us, would make sense if we only knew God's plan, which of course, we never will. I understand why people want to believe this and how comforting it would be to think there is a good reason for horrible things - I just don't believe it."
  My cousin continued:
  "I don't take many things on faith. I believe in evolution and I think man created religion and God to control other men - what better way to do that than telling people the meek shall inherit the Earth or your reward will come in the next life? That's how you get folks to behave and keep the 'have-nots' from massacre-ing the 'haves.' If poor people thought that this life was all there is, do you think they'd accept their poverty? I think not."
  Anthony said animals live and die: some live long lives, some get hit by cars as babies, and some get eaten by predators. That we don't have to believe all those early deaths happen for a reason. We accept they're animals and that is their fate. So he asks why can't we accept that we are animals too, and things happen to us just as randomly, good or bad?
  "The fact that our brains are of a higher order, doesn't change what happens when we die as opposed to all other animals, at least not in my mind," he concluded. "And the fact that we can imagine there is a God, doesn't mean there is one."
  Maybe I would have agreed with Anthony many years ago, but as I've said earlier, when I saw the robe and sandals of St. Francis of Assisi, at age 26, that all changed. I know there is everlasting life.
Since Anthony lives in New Hampshire, I felt I should write about the state's patron saint, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
  I didn't realize the significance of it at the time, but when I was just 27-years-old, I wandered into the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, Italy, and my eyes met the amazing icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It is there under the care of the Redemptorist Fathers.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, with a solemn expression, wears the traditional blue veil and mantle. The baby Jesus hugs her.
  Our Lady of Perpetual Help's message is "You can come to me."
  The Byzantine icon is thought to have been painted in the 13th century although the artist is unknown and many historians feel it was made in Crete. To the left, is St. Michael the Archangel, holding the lance and sponge from the Crucifixion, and at right is St. Gabriel the Archangel with a three-bar Cross and nails, respectively.
  The feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is June 27.

  "O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on thee, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary."

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