Our Lady Help of Christians and the Dead-end Street
May 12, 2022 / Written by: Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Our Lady’s mercy is so great, that if Judas Iscariot himself, after having sold Our Lord and on his way to the cursed place where he hanged himself, had maintained hope in her unfathomable mercy, she would have forgiven him.
Had he looked for her and said, “I am not worthy to come near to you, I am not worthy of looking at you, I am not worthy to address you. I am Judas, the unclean...but you are my Mother, have pity on me!” She would have kindly received that man, that son whose name is synonymous with the lowest and most disgusting torpidity to the point that no one utters it without extreme disgust: Judas Iscariot... even him!
Why is this so difficult to bear this in mind? Because we do not see, and in our misery, we often are among those who do not believe because we do not see. We do not doubt, but we forget. We feel so far removed from Our Lady and so exiled that we say: “But is this really so? So many bad things have happened to me and I asked her and was not helped; why should I believe that I am going to be rescued now? She is the Mother of Mercy at times for some, sometimes for me, but sometimes not. How do I know that I will be helped in this coming ordeal? O Mother of Mercy!”
It is in these moments, more than ever, that we must pray: Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis! Help of Christians, pray for us. In the moments when we do not understand, have no idea what the way out of the situation will be, that we must repeat with insistence: Auxilium Christianorum! Auxilium Christianorum! Auxilium Christianorum!
How Beautiful Is the Dead-end Street!
Every situation has a way out. Sometimes we do not see the solution she gives, but she is giving the problem a monumental way out. And when I remember the catastrophes in my life, the story of recoveries, the story of the painful and glorious “dead-end street,” I turn back and wonder: If she allowed me to choose between these dead-end streets or any other route I imagined, which would I have preferred?
I would have replied: “My Mother, if you give me strength, I choose the dead-end street!”
This mysterious dead-end street; the street of the apparent catastrophe, defeat, destruction, and of ultimate victory! How beautiful is the dead-end street because of Our Lady’s sublime wisdom. Why? Because it is Our Lady’s triumphal avenue. She opens up the dead ends. She is the one who turns this monstrous dead-end street into an open avenue. And so we understand how her providence works because it is a true marvel.
Therefore, for this very special reason, we must always repeat: Auxilium Christianorum!
The good in the world are so persecuted, so isolated, often so inwardly tempted and there is so much that goes on within and around us that we feel the enemy’s wrath at all times. How could we not always pray: Auxilium Christianorum? The good are the few who want to show that the victory is hers. Our insufficiency proclaims her victory and sings her glory. How can we not be enthusiastic with the idea that she made the good so few that she might be so greatly glorified?
Historical Precedent: The Battle of Lepanto
The upshot is that this prayer should be on our lips at all times: Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis! You have an example of this shown in the Battle of Lepanto that is so closely linked to today’s feast.1
Here is what happened in the battle of Lepanto: The Catholic fleet was disproportionally small to the Mohammedan fleet. That was already something difficult to understand: Wouldn’t it be more understandable that Our Lady would have assembled a massive, strong and magnificent Catholic fleet to crush the impious followers of Mohamed? Why didn’t she do this?
No, it was a small, and one could almost say it was a rickety fleet. Then the Muslim fleet arrives, forms a half moon and encircles the Catholics. The battle begins. During the battle, the Catholics sustain several setbacks and, at one point, Catholics jump onto the enemy flagship and start attacking!
They have some successes, the Mohammedan fleet escapes. The Muslims themselves do not understand well why they are fleeing. But in chronicles found by the Mohammedans themselves, it is written: The fleet fled because a terrible Lady appeared in the sky and stared at them with such a menacing gaze that they fled.
Now we understand why Our Lady assembled so few Catholics. Wasn’t it good for them to face enormous risks? Wasn’t it good for them to fight like heroes in a more or less desperate situation against an enemy was way stronger? But they never stopped confiding in Our Lady and the result is that she appeared and chased the Muslims away. There is nothing more beautiful!
Now let us turn our glances away from Lepanto and toward the splendors of the Vatican. In a room of the Vatican, a holy pope, Saint Pius V, presides over a meeting of cardinals and the main focus of his attention is on that fleet which, with great diplomatic difficulty, he had managed to assemble.
The bulk of the fleet was made up by Spanish ships which King Philip II had taken too long to send over. Then there were a few ships from the Serene Republic of Venice, and a paltry number of small vessels of the Holy See. The fleet was under the command of Dom John of Austria. The ships of the Holy See were under the command of Prince Colonna and the Pope kept all that in his thoughts.
At one point, without any explanation, the Pope moves away from the meeting of cardinals, leans on a window sill and is seen with a rosary in his hands. He prays the whole chaplet, returns and says: “A great victory has been won by Dom John; the Christian fleet is victorious, the war has been won!” Dom John of Austria fought very hard, he was a great warrior, a hero.
On his grave at the Escorial, one can read his epitaph that contains a phrase by Saint Pius V about him: “Fuit homo missus a Deo cujus nomen erat Joannes” – There was a man sent by God, whose name was John,” precisely what the Gospel says of Saint John the Baptist, applied to Dom John of Austria.
But who was the man who obtained from the Queen of Heaven to descend into the battle and defeat the enemy with her gaze? It was Saint Pius V, who prayed the rosary to Our Lady, Auxilium Christianorum!
So, my dear friends, let us pray Auxilium Christianorum! Auxilium Christianorum! Auxilium Christianorum! in all circumstances of our life, so that when our life is about to end, and we are about to take our last breath, we may say with confidence, Auxilium Christianorum and heaven will soon open up for us!
Our Insufficiency Proclaims the Victory of Our Lady Help of Christians ~ Saint of the Day, Wednesday, May 23, 1984
- 1 The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571, and the Catholic victory was due to devotion to the Rosary, led by the Pope of the time, Saint Pius V, who added the invocation Auxilium Christianorum to the Litany of Our Lady in recognition for the victory. In turn, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians was introduced in the liturgical calendar by decree of Pope Pius VII in 1814 in recognition for his liberation and happy return to Rome after a long and painful captivity in the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte.