“All generations will call me Blessed”
1. Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is certainly one of the most international popular Marian devotions of the Catholic Church. Each week the Perpetual Novena invites thousands of devotees on every continent and in almost every country to participate in the Perpetual Novena, not counting the countless devotees who pray alone or accompany the Novena through the media. It is amazing how this small Icon of eastern Byzantine iconography has spread throughout the world, to the west and to the east, in churches, chapels and the homes of the faithful, to the point of being able to claim that it is the most internationally known representation of Most Blessed Mary.
2. The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is part of two very different contexts. The first is the context of its origin: it is a Byzantine Icon, of secular tradition, and in itself possesses a meaning of its own. It is completely integrated into the celebrations of the Byzantine rite, as part of the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, there is no special devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the tradition of the eastern Church, whether Orthodox or Catholic. The second context is that of popular Piety in the west, where this icon was assimilated 150 years ago, primarily through the perpetual Novena. We can affirm that these two contexts coexist in parallel, without any interaction between the two traditions.
3. Let us begin with two important points in order to try to arrive at some conclusions in our mission as promoters of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help: first, the Icon of Perpetual Help in its original context of Byzantine iconography; second, the Icon in the context of our popular Piety. I believe that this reflection can lead us to some new pastoral proposals that will help us promote this devotion even more, as part of an evangelizing mission to which Pope Francis has strongly urged us: “Let us go, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ! … there’s a hungry crowd out there and Jesus repeats without ceasing: ‘Give them something to eat yourselves’ (Mt 6:37).”
4. Moreover, it is an Icon that can promote a Christian identity between the Byzantine rite and the Roman rite, as part of a process of liturgical renewal of our rite, still far from its full renovation, as proposed by the Second Vatican Council. After all, as John Paul II said, “we cannot breathe as Christians let alone, as Catholics, with only one lung; we must have two lungs, that is, the east and the west.”
5. Thus we are faced with an Icon that in itself does not belong to the Catholic tradition of the Roman Rite, orto western religiosity, as we know it and inherited it with our paintings and devotional images. How was it possible for this Iconto be welcomed in such an amazing way by the devotional world of the west? What process would have had to happen for the mandate of Pius IX to us Redemptorists to have such an international effect and for peoples of different cultures to feel such a strong affection for a typically Byzantine Icon? Or could it be that we have taken an Icon of eastern culture and conferred a new meaning upon it, so that it might penetrate our religious culture?
6. It is important to note that it wasn’t the Redemptorists who took this Icon from the eastern Church in order to use it in our ministry. There is a story, to a certain point inexplicable, which caused the Icon to arrive in Rome and to be entrusted to us. For all that the Icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help has meant for the Christian people, there was certainly a Divine plan behind the events surrounding the original Icon being reserved in our Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome. It is also true that upon assuming the mission entrusted to us by Pius IX, we made the Icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help a missionary portrait, taking it from the quiet rest of the churches and making it accompany us on all our missionary wanderings around the world.
7. In celebrating the 150th anniversary of this wonderful union between our missionary Congregation and the Icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help, we can look to the past with a grateful heart for all the graces Our Lady has obtained for us and the People of God. At the same time, the novenas and other devotions are not enough for our mission to evangelize the world today. There are new challenges for Evangelization both within our Catholic Church as well as in the other Christian churches and in our actual society, which continue to cry out for perpetual help. Maybe it is time to address this phenomenon, which can further enrich the mission we have received to spread this devotion throughout the world, even today. Surely we can contribute, through this Icon, to an integration of Christian living, which will unify the spirituality of popular Piety with the spirituality of the official Liturgy, as a unique way of personal and communal sanctification for the People of God.
8. Some questions may help us probe this issue more deeply:
- What is the intrinsic message of the Perpetual Help Icon, such as it was conceived originally?
- What does this devotion mean as popular Piety in our western tradition?
- What are the spirituality and the evangelizing content we have bestowed on it?
- Would it be possible to integrate devotion to Perpetual Help and the liturgy of the Roman rite, as an example of inculturation of western popular Piety in liturgical celebrations?
II. The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in its original context
9. Currently iconography has spread in the west, partly as an interest in Byzantine art and also partly as the latest fashion in churches and modern environments. In general, these works are always accompanied by theological and catechetical explanations that rarely reflect the traditional meaning of the Icons and their natural context in the life of the eastern Church.
10. Icons are not simply works of art created by competent artists to adorn churches or other settings. They first call attention by their “intense religious expressiveness” that reveals far more than its artistic value. An Icon, “by its very nature, is not only an artistic expression, but also a religious manifestation typical of eastern Orthodox Christianity.” Its authors are necessarily people of deep faith and contemplation, able to create each line of an Icon as if it were a prayer. The Icon possesses certain very precise characteristics of aesthetic composition, which immediately identify it with a higher, sacred reality. One of these is the timelessness of the images, which does not allow one to locate them in time and space. The figures are very much alive, but still seem static, as if they behold us from eternity. They express moderation and nobility, in which the serene faces and the eyes, usually large, because they are intensified by the contemplation of God,are highlighted. Unlike photographic art, iconography is not based so much on perspective, as on the symbolic importance of colors and figures that emerge from a background that is completely flat. And the larger or smaller size of the figures should serve to express their hierarchy and not the distance between them. Colors are essential in this symbolic world, especially the golden hue, and they reflect a light, more celestial than terrestrial, that seems to radiate from within to outside the picture.
11. The Icon itself is normally not the object of devotion or veneration, as are our pictures and images of saints. It is totally integrated into a broader context, as a sacramental reference to the contemplation of the mystery of Christ and the Trinity. It is an invitation to contemplate the History of Salvation in its mystery dimension, that is, as a fulfillment of the salvific plan of God. In order to be considered an Icon, it should be consecrated and introduced into the sacred space. Therefore, its value does not depend so much on art or technique but on the meaning it carries within itself. Thus the Icon becomes a symbol that establishes communication between the earthly and the divine.“Through contemplation of the sacred image the viewer-believer should raise himself above the flawed world that surrounds him to the very real world of the Divinity, thus producing a bond between the viewer and the image that is not only aesthetical but also mystical.” This is why one has the impression that Icons are not the work of human hands, but are like apparitions or visions that come from the heavenly world.
12. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is an iconographic representation of the Theotókos, the Mother of God, in the style of the post-Byzantine school of Crete, between the 15th and 17th centuries. Unlike the Icons that present Mary in a majestic attitude, Our Lady of Perpetual Help bears the same characteristics of serenity, but in a maternal attitude, lovingly holding her son. And while holding him, she presents her Son to whoever is contemplating her. More specifically, Our Lady of Perpetual Help is part of the iconography proper to the Virgin of the Passion, in which the Son glimpses his future sufferings and the serene face of Mary is mixed with something like angst. The child clings to her thumb and one of his sandals is loosened from his foot. The same Archangel Gabriel who announced the Incarnation to her, now with the Archangel Michael shows the Child the instruments of the Passion.
13. A fundamental dimension of Icons is their liturgical contextualization, which confers on them a high degree of spiritual communication so explicit that it dispenses with the need for any type of explanation. As “an integral part of the liturgical action, the Icon almost becomes a visible epiphany of the mystery celebrated. This is why it is unthinkable to imagine, in the churches of the Byzantine tradition, any liturgical structure without the presence of the Icon.” This is not a functional presence, to adorn the liturgy and which could eventually be dispensable. It is not an aesthetical or catechetical instrument. The liturgy is its specific space where it fully expresses its being an image of the Reign of God, making word and image interact in the same liturgical action, as a divine revelation for human salvation.Beginning with its consecration, the Icon is integrated into the celebration as an effective sign of God’s presence. “The Orthodox tradition is well aware of the various levels in which a ‘real presence’ of Christ operates through the three poles around which the liturgical celebration revolves: Word, Eucharist and Image.”
14. Within an apophatic concept of theology, in which no human idea or word is able to define the divine, the Icon appears as a symbol, which introduces the Ineffable, the Undefinable and the Unapproachable. For this reason one does not define or explain the Icon, but simply contemplates it, allowing a glimpse of Something beyond itself. Thus, Icon and Word create the “Divine Liturgy,” as the Byzantine liturgy is called. The celebration as a whole becomes a contemplation of a greater mystery than anything that can be seen or heard. At the same time, it is through the Divine Liturgy that God manifests his voluntary descent toward humankind and pours out his mercy on those who contemplate the Icon with humility, to such an extent that the incorporeal is incarnated, the invisible allows itself to be seen, the untouchable becomes touchable and the timeless enters into time and human history.
15. One can say that the entire Byzantine liturgy is an Icon of the mystery of Salvation in its eschatological dimension. The liturgical celebration on earth is like an “iconograph”of the heavenly Liturgy of the saints and angels in heaven. One is a model or form (type) of the other (antitype). In both, Jesus is the main celebrant. And both are doxological, that is, they intersect in the Doxology, the song of praise to God, sung on earth as well as in heaven, synthesizing the ultimate purpose of the Liturgy and of human life. Here is the communion of saints celebrated sacramentally by the Divine Liturgy.
16. Within this theological-liturgical concept is situated the Iconostasis, as the proper place of Icons within the architectonic space of the eastern churches. They are positioned in such a way as to indicate the passage between the earthly and the divine. Analogous to the presbytery of western rite churches, the Iconostasis creates a separation between people and celebrants. However, this is not so much a division of hierarchical role between people and clergy, as a vision of the Liturgy that is a path leading from the here and now into the realm of the eternal and transcendent, which is beyond human perception. On the Iconostasis are the images of Jesus and Mary, of the Prophets and Patriarchs, of the Angels and Saints, as though indicating to the Christian the way they themselves have already traveled. They are, at the same time, witnesses and intercessors so that all Christians might achieve that which they have already achieved. Thus, Iconostasis represents the place of vision and transfiguration,because it allows a glimpse of the ineffable presence of God, which nothing and no one can define or contain.
17. The Icon of the Theotókos, the Mother of God, stands out on the Iconostasis, right next to the Christ Pantocrátor, and is often rendered in a way very similar to the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, being fully integrated into the liturgical action. When participating in the Eucharistic celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, one can notice the numerous times in which the Mother of God is remembered. Her Icon is greeted and venerated immediately in the opening rites. The entrance of the Book of the Gospels ends with a hymn to the Mother of God. And within the anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer), immediately after the Consecration and the epiclesis, the celebrant, at the exact moment when the curtain of the Iconostasis opens, offers up a prayer of praise addressed directly to Our Lady. Finally, after communion, the priest, when remembering the Lord’s Resurrection, recites at one point: “And you, all pure Mother of God, be exalted in the Resurrection of Him to whom you gave birth!” All this presence of the Mother of God, as the direct object of prayers and hymns, is something that the Roman rite does not permit, because its liturgical prayers and especially its Eucharistic Prayers are directed always to God the Father and, in rare moments, to Jesus Christ. Mary and all the other saints are remembered too, but as models and intercessors, never as interlocutors.
18. The beautiful composition named Akathist is a Marian liturgical hymn of the Byzantine tradition, dating back to the fifth century. It is a masterpiece of poetry and Marian theology. In it, Mary is sung in the events of the Incarnation and contemplated in her essential relationship with the divine Word, with whom she formsone unique salvific reality. From Him she receives grace and light, with Him she cooperates in favor of Redemption, because she is the Theotókos, the Mother of God. This hymn is sung officially in the liturgy of the “Akathist Saturday,” the 5th Saturday of Lent, but its verses are repeated in many other celebrations.Because of the special place of Mary in salvation history, there is also a special corresponding place in the Liturgy. This is why the tradition of the eastern rite need not resort to Marian devotions. Mary is completely present in every liturgical celebration, both through image as well as by word and rites.
19. This rapid overview of the iconographic tradition of the eastern rite and the place of most Blessed Mary in their liturgical celebrations move us to review how we deal pastorally with our beloved Icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Is it not true that we almost always allow ourselves to be carried away by our pastoral pragmatism, without taking into account all the wonder that springs from the serene and maternal gaze of this Icon?
III. Popular Piety, the context of devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help
20. Once we definitively assumed responsibility for the mission to make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world, we Redemptorists contextualized the Byzantine Icon in the world of popular western Piety, since the Roman Liturgy till this day does not allow greater integration between acts of piety and liturgical celebrations. This explains the international proliferation of the Perpetual Novena and even the attempts to westernize the original Icon, as we find in the Spanish adaptation of the Icon and in the production of images of Perpetual Help. However and thanks be to God, copies of the original Icon in our Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome still predominate and it is that representation that finds greater echo in the hearts of the faithful
21. Therefore, to understand and discern the more or less valid meaning of this devotion, it will be wise to review the meaning of popular Piety and its place in the thought of the Church. It has not been easy for popular Piety to gain citizenship in the Roman Church. This still exists in the present mentality, primarily among the clergy, who consider popular piety to be an uneducated practice of the faith, sometimes mixed with superstition, which ought to evolve to the point of being supplanted by an evangelization seen as an understanding of the faith and the liturgy. If by chance some Redemptorist identifies with such ideas regarding acts of piety, it is worth recalling the warning of Pope Francis: “Whoever loves the faithful people of God, cannot see these actions solely as a natural pursuit of the divine; they are a manifestation of theological life stimulated by the action of the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).”
22. In reflecting on popular Piety today, I think we should make the distinction between popular Piety and popular religiosity, as proposed in the Document “Directory on popular Piety and Liturgy,”from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on 12/17/2001. It is a distinction that has its raison d’etre, because it portrays two quite distinct types of religious attitude. In fact,the Document defines religiosity as that human attitude, of a universal and generalized character, which manifests a religious fear, a need for protection and respect before the beings of the other world, whatever they may be. It does not necessarily include the Christian faith and in it prayer is almost always an exchange of petitions and promises, which in themselves do not guarantee a consistent life ethic.
23. Catholic popular Piety, by contrast, is always contextualized within the Christian faith. Paul VI already affirmed in Evangelii Nuntiandi that popular piety is a “real treasure of God’s people,” and “manifests a thirst for God which only the simple and poor can know; making them capable of acts of generosity and even heroic sacrifices, when it is a question of manifesting belief. It involves an acute awareness of the profound attributes of God: fatherhood, providence, loving and constant presence. It engenders interior attitude rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sense of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion.”  A pious person is always imbued with charity, is sensitive to what is just or unjust, possesses a moral consciousness far beyond that which is simply lawful, tries to be honest and sincere, and finally, reveals that his/her life is under the gaze of the merciful Father, in the contemplation of the cross of his Son and under the protection of the Blessed Mother.
1. The historical dichotomy between Liturgy and popular Piety
24. The origin of our popular Piety is found in the gradual marginalization of the people from active participation in the official liturgy. It can be said that this phenomenon began in the fourth century and grew throughout our western history upto the end of the last century. We know that Jesus had caused a profound transformation in the way to pray personally and communally. He had come to inaugurate a new time and so had never quite fit into the official Jewish cult. He had taught his disciples a life of piety grounded in the interior dialogue with the Father and the place of God’s presence was the community gathered in his name (Mt 18:19-20).
25. It took a while for the first Jewish Christians to liberate themselves from the temple and synagogues, because in celebrating the weekly “breaking of the bread” they did not realize they were inaugurating the one true Christian worship. It is very clear, however, that “in the apostolic and post-apostolic era one finds a deep fusion between the cultic expressions that today we call, respectively, Liturgy and popular piety.” Both corresponded “harmoniously in the celebration of the one mystery of Christ, considered unitarily and in the support of the supernatural and ethical life of the disciples of the Lord.”
26. The liturgical families that were being formed in the west enjoyed relative flexibility to adapt to the customs of different peoples until the sixth century, when the dichotomy between clerical liturgy and popular devotions was accentuated. From that time on, “the liturgy reflects the symbolic view of the world and the hierarchical and sacred notion of the world,”besides assimilating the ceremonials of the courts of the kings. Latin became the communication barrier, which prevented popular participation in liturgical acts. The Eucharistic celebration ended up being reduced to a clerical action, only attended by the people or a sacrifice of atonement for the souls in purgatory, in which Holy Communion was a rare prize. Unfortunately this practice endured, with few changes, until the Second Vatican Council, already in the twentieth century.
27. This is the moment when the Holy Spirit, far from abandoning the People of God, ledit along the paths of popular Piety. By the seventh century, since it had become inevitable “the celebrative dualism…. parallel to the liturgy, celebrated in Latin, developed a popular piety that was communitarian, expressing itself in the vernacular.” The liturgical books and Latin were inaccessible to the people who created their devotions, their symbols, their rites, in short, their cultic way of communicating with the divine. Distanced from God’s Word and the right to actively participate, the people discovered their devotional compensations. Instead of the 150 psalms of the monks there arose the 150 Hail Marys of the rosary. The church bells made the “Angelus” echo, sanctifying the hours of the day. Since the clerical ministers had become a separate caste, the people found in their saints, especially Most Holy Mary, the intermediaries who would listen to their needs and intercede for them. Feasts, novenas, processions and pilgrimages were integral parts of that “popular liturgy,” which dispensed with ordained ministers. Medals, scapulars, pictures and sacred paintings become sacramental symbols available to all.
28. While “official worship” was turned into clerical spectacle or law of the Church, which made presence obligatory, popular Piety was expressed in popular language and symbols and was rich in gratitude, confidence, spontaneity and generosity. Affective feelings spoke louder than canonical obligation and orthodox texts. While the Liturgy expressed the inaccessibility of the sacred and did not integrate the needs of people’s real lives, popular Piety clung to the humanity of Jesus, his birth, his suffering, his heart full of love, which has motivated thousands of people along the path of holiness. It was the space where one could present to the Lord the vicissitudes of personal and family history, as well as the great events in the history of social groups and peoples. And it happened that the sacraments themselves, like the Eucharist, fed the people more as devotion than as sacramental participation, which had become almost impossible. Many more people flocked to processions, worship and benedictions of the Blessed Sacrament than Sunday Mass. To this day we continue to feel the consequences of this story: participation in the liturgy sometimes is reduced to a minimum while devotions are practiced even at the cost of sacrifice.
29. Here is something of the history of the involution of the Liturgy of the Roman Rite, through which other Catholic liturgical families did not pass, such as those of the east, at least regarding the disconnection between liturgical celebration, piety and participation by the people. From Jesus’ way, so characteristic and unique, of being, living and praying with his disciples, which culminated around a table at the Last Supper, whose initial rite was a washing of the feet, until you reach the “official worship” of the Roman Liturgy, which from the Middle Ages to the Second Vatican Council, maintained the people only as a passive presence of the celebrative act or as payers of offerings, there is an involution that has nothing to do with Jesus’ way of being. Even if it would save the essence of the sacramental act, as the communication of divine grace, the meaning of the assembly gathered around the risen Lord, to praise, to thank and to petition together would be completely lost. Instead, the Roman Liturgy became a means of hierarchical clerical affirmation, which to this day remains an attractive temptation in the life of the Church.
30. It is true that the Second Vatican Council inaugurated an historical process of profound renewal of the Roman Liturgy, restoring the living, conscious and active participation of the community in the Paschal Mystery as the center of the whole liturgical celebration. It is also true that we are still far from the goals proposed by the Council and there have been painful setbacks in this historic process, especially with respect to a real inculturation of the Liturgy. However, this kind of reflection is not part of the purpose of this meeting. We will limit ourselves to the question of popular Piety, to better contextualize the devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help and reassess the spiritual and evangelizing value of this 150 year old tradition.
2. The new ecclesial citizenship of popular Piety
31. The Aparecida Document (AD), produced by CELAM V [The Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean] nos. 258-265, reinforces all the positive things that have already been said about popular Piety and confers on it a new citizenship, which positively surprises us. In characterizing popular Piety as “a place of encounter with Jesus Christ,” the bishops practically confer on this expression of Christian faith the value of a sacrament: “popular piety is a legitimate way of living the faith, a way to feel part of the Church and a way of being missionaries…” (AD 264). Its legitimacy is recognized, to the point of being called spirituality or popular mysticism, capable of leading one to an authentic experience of God: “Popular piety contains and expresses a strong sense of transcendence, a spontaneous ability to depend on God and a true experience of theological love. It is also an expression of supernatural wisdom, because the wisdom of love is not directly dependent upon the illustration of the mind, but on the internal action of grace. Therefore, we call it popular spirituality. In other words, a Christian spirituality, being a personal encounter with the Lord, integrates very much the corporeal, the sensible, the symbolic and the more concrete needs of people. It is a spirituality embodied in the culture of the simple people, and for this reason is no less spiritual, but rather is another way.” (AD 263). Finally, popular Piety is an inculturation of the Christian faith in the life of people: “It is true that the faith which was incarnated in the culture can be deepened and penetrate ever more into the way of life of our people. But this can only happen if we positively value what the Holy Spirit has already sown.” Popular Piety is the “essential starting point for getting people’s faith to mature and become more fruitful.” Therefore, the missionary disciple must be “sensitive to it, knowing how to perceive its interior dimensions and undeniable values.” (AD 262).
32. Definitely, popular Piety is in no way a “secondary form of Christian life,” nor a phase to be overcome in the experience of faith. This “would be to forget the primacy of the action of the Holy Spirit and the gratuitous initiative of God’s love.” Rather, it should become a demonstrably valid path for growth in holiness. “When we say that it is necessary to evangelize it or purify it, we do not mean that it is deprived of evangelical wealth. We simply want all members of the faithful people, recognizing the witness of Mary and also the saints, to seek to imitate them more each day. Thus they will seek more direct contact with the Bible and greater participation in the sacraments. They will come to enjoy the Sunday celebration of Eucharist and will live ever better the service of solidary love. By this path it will be possible to profit even more from the rich potential for holiness and social justice that popular mysticism contains.” (AD 262).
33. As in the Liturgy, so also in popular Piety there should be a constant process of Evangelization, that always approximates Jesus’ way of being and acting in relation to the Father and his proposal for the Reign of God. But,rarely does one speak of the negative dimension of popular Piety. Certainly, in the dimension of human religiosity we often encounter a field open to superstition, magic, syncretism, spiritual individualism and the lack of systematic formation, besides the disconnection with community participation and with moral integrity at all levels. However, in relation to popular Piety, the possible shortcomings have more to do with personal limitations, with the official marginalization and with the disintegration of the Liturgy. And it is primarily the divorce between Liturgy and popular Piety that enables the creation of shortcomings both in liturgical acts as well as in acts of piety.
34. We should consider popular Piety as the more favorable anthropological pole for the action of the Spirit of Jesus in the transformation of a human being. Therefore, if the sacramental action, celebrated in the Liturgy, does not move toward an encounter with an interior piety, already called forth and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, it becomes ineffective. When both are experienced in parallel, as two distinct realities, without seeking a concrete integration that unites them in a single celebration, we are not being faithful to Jesus, for whom what mattered most was not the “official cult” or the pious customs, but rather, the experience of meeting the Father and the fraternity among his disciples. Therefore, the first purpose of sacramental action is to further enhance the experience of piety, even to the experience of complete union between a human being and God. Only in this way does a creature arrive at perfect conformity to the Will of the Father and undertake in earnest the mission of the Kingdom of His beloved Son. When will we get to the point of having this gospel reality clearly visualized in all our liturgical celebrations and acts of piety?
3. Popular Piety as evangelizer of our people
35. Going through the history of the Church, it is impressive to verify the evangelizing power of popular Piety, by which the Holy Spirit has never ceased to act for the sanctification of the people. Even when some generations were victims of spiritual abandonment, of pastoral manipulation and of secularist and atheistic ideologies, the practices of devotion continued to exist and to resist. A sanctuary/shrine, a venerated image, a devotion learned in childhood, a medal fondly guarded, and finally, in all Christian countries there are stories of lived spiritual experience as admirable as they are often unexpected. In our Latin American continent and the Caribbean, in almost all countries there exists some title proper to Mary, as principal patroness and which is always linked to the unfolding historical development of each country.
36. As better known examples, it is enough to contemplate the history and current reality of the two major Marian shrines: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil. It is not possible to think of Catholic people in these two countries, without the amazing phenomenon of pilgrimages, which blossomed, are maintained and keep growing thanks to popular Piety, bringing in crowds of pilgrims and confirming them in their Catholic identity. In Guadalupe, “this ‘eruption’ of God through the Virgin and the ministry of Juan Diego, will bear its fruits and prolong its effects over time. It reached not only the indigenous people, who converted to the new faith, but also to the Spanish colonizers themselves, and then to the Creoles and mestizos who, in those lands, embraced the commitment of living the Good News of the Kingdom of God in their lives.” In Aparecida, there were three simple fishermen who, frightened by the authorities and appealing to divine protection,drew from the river the small black statue of the Immaculate Conception. They began, on the margins of official worship, a family prayer before that image, which attracted more families, and then pilgrims, and has now become the largest religious pilgrimage movement in Brazil. It is in the context of these shrines/sanctuaries that evangelization continues in a continuous and privileged way.
37. Speaking of the inculturation of the Gospel, Pope Francis says: “Here popular piety, the true expression of spontaneous missionary activity of the People of God gains importance. This is a reality in permanent development, whose protagonist is the Holy Spirit.” And he makes to us this very serious exhortation: “Let us neither stifle nor presume to control this missionary force!” And he goes on to say: “In popular piety, being the fruit of the Gospel inculturated, there is an underlying, actively evangelizing force that we cannot underestimate: it would be ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, we are called to encourage and strengthen it in order to enrich the process of inculturation, a never completely finished reality. The expressions of popular piety have much to teach us and, for those who know how to read them, they are a theological place to which we should pay attention especially when we think about the new evangelization.”
38. It will be impossible to make a commitment to a new Evangelization, in which the people are in fact co-responsible protagonists, without substantially integrating the popular piety of each human group and of each region. As Redemptorist Missionaries, could not our greater or lesser fidelity to popular Piety have been the exact cause of the continuity or the failure of our missionary work? Whenever we tried to “modernize” the simple people, in a clerical way, cheapening or marginalizing the religious expressions they possessed, the pastoral result always ended up limited to elite groups, which did not last for very many generations.
4. Popular Piety as an historical path to holiness
39. The purpose of revelation through and in Jesus is the sanctification of the human being. The value of everything that comes after Jesus depends on the degree to which it achieves this goal: Church, liturgy, canons and rubrics, theology, devotions, etc., are only valuable if they sanctify, that is, if they lead to a deeper experience of God, such as Jesus lived and proposed. Now, when we contemplate the lives of our saints, it impresses us that they are characterized not so much by liturgical celebrations, as much as by devotions and pious acts. In our Congregation, it is enough to cite our founder, St. Alphonsus, with everything he experienced personally and produced in writings, songs, paintings, etc., for popular Piety. In St. Clement, St. Gerard and all our saints and beatified, and even the venerable confreres with whom we live, the mark of holiness is always revealed through piety. It is the rosary, devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, affection for Our Lady, the Way of the Cross and other acts of piety that impress us in the lives of all these people. Indeed, the experience of popular Piety has led many people to a profound experience of meeting the Lord, to a spiritual intimacy that makes us envious, to a holiness of life that we find in many simple people, not only from the rural areas, but also in the big cities.
40. On the other hand, the witness of a holy life that results only from participation in sacramental, liturgical acts, either by the person who presides over them or by those who receive themis not so evident or so generalized. Despite the pastoral insistence on preparation courses, pastoral directories, etc., the ultimate goal, which is sanctification, does not follow as directly as it should. The multiplication of Masses, some still motivated more by paid intentions than the needs of living communities, the obligation to receive certain sacraments, such as baptism, marriage, and other rites, have not very clearly caused the experience of an encounter with the Lord and the sanctification of life. Might not the defect be exactly in the disassociation between popular Piety and the Roman Liturgy? When one talks about the inculturation of the Liturgy, before considering the cultural diversity of peoples and of human groups, certainly the primary and privileged place where the Roman Liturgy should inculturate itself would be precisely in popular Piety. Oh would that this should come to happen in such a way that both might converge and be integrated, so that Liturgy would offer the actualization of the paschal and sanctifying action of the Risen Lord and popular Piety would represent the open, festive and confident welcome of this divine intervention, by the action of the Holy Spirit. Thus, popular Piety would be the prepared soil, where the sacramental seeds would produce a hundredfold, and all would be celebrated with gusto, piety and full participation in one and the same celebration.
41. However, beyond the limitations of the Church’s sacramental action, popular Piety extends the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit to all human beings who express, in their own way and according to their culture the implicit following of Jesus, practicing his Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12), welcoming the little ones, the poor and the wounded like good Samaritans (Mt 25:31-46) and practicing justice and charity toward the needy and the poor, who are Christ. We know that the better part of humanity neither knows nor participates in the sacraments of the Catholic Church, but does practice this evangelical Piety in its relationship with God and with its neighbor and certainly ends up walking a path of authentic sanctification. Behold the mystery of universal salvation, beyond all cultural and religious differences, which has always existed in the world. After all, the Spirit blows where it will(Jn 3:8) and Piety is its most direct and primordial expression.
IV. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, an Icon in popular Piety
42. We were and still are popular Missionaries. We have a charism that has been maintained through our 281 years of existence. Our identification with popular Piety is innate to our charism, a question of faithfulness to St. Alphonsus’ way of evangelizing. However, Byzantine iconography is not so natural to us, with the certain exception of the confreres of the eastern Byzantine rite. To what extent does the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which was entrusted to us about 130 years after the founding of our Congregation, identify itself with the charism we have inherited?
1. The Icon and plentiful Redemption
43. The first aspect that gets our attention is the title itself by which we invoke her: Perpetual Help. It is not a title bound to a location (such as Aparecida, Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, etc.), nor to a privilege or accolade of Mary (like Assumption, Mystical Rose, etc.), nor to the Passion event, as would be the original characterization of the Icon. It is an invocation that identifies the maternal attitude of Mary in relation to her Son and to all of us. It is a universal title in relation to time as well as space, whenever or wherever someone is found in need or in danger. She is truly our Mother of Perpetual Help, always attentive to us when she hears us repeating Psalm 130: “From the deep abyss I call to you, Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” And we can observe that she presents her little son to us, telling us with her gaze: “With Him is plentiful redemption!”
44. Thus, it is interesting to contemplate the Icon,keeping in mind the motto of the Congregation: Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio, and remembering the reference points that synthesize our missionary spirituality: Incarnation, Passion, Eucharist, Mary. We notice that there is a remarkable coincidence, almost as if the Icon had been created for us or that we had been created to take responsibility for the revelation that this Icon brings us. As if it were a synthesis of St. Alphonsus’ Christology and Mariology, the “Virgin of the Passion” visualizes plentiful Redemption exactly. The boy in the arms of Mary represents the mystery of the Incarnation in all that this mystery possesses of the divine and the human, as an expression of tenderness, of fragility, of closeness and of total surrender for us. An Incarnation that is the kenosis of love of the divine Word upon assuming human nature, with its history of sin and pain. We note the frightened expression of the Child Jesus upon entering more deeply into the reality of human history, which would lead him to death on the cross, the supreme moment of his Incarnation. And Mary looks serenely at us, as if to say: “Behold to whatpoint the love of my Son arrived in order to accomplish plentiful redemption.”
45. The Icon of Perpetual Help makes us contemplate the mystery of Redemption exactly as St. Alphonsus expressed it in his writings on the Incarnation and Passion, in which the birth, life, passion and death of Jesus accomplish an incarnational redemption and a redemptive incarnation. Thus, that frightened boy in the arms of his Mother is already accomplishing our Redemption, to the extent that he is incarnate in the existence of a human being, from birth to death. Therefore, St. Alphonsus invited us to sing this verse in his composition “Behold beyond the stars”: “To die for me, my God, is your yearning! And what other love will you carry in your heart? O Mary, my guide: If I do not know how to love Jesus, to you I call: Come,love him for me, who loves him so little.” Incarnation and Redemption flow into the Eucharist, the paschal sacrament that gives continuity to the presence of the risen Christ in the midst of his people.
46. In the Icon, the mystery of the Resurrection is expressed through the colors, full of light and life. Even though it represents the prediction of the passion and death, it makes us contemplate all this as a victory already won, both by the serene faces of Jesus and Mary and by the vividness of the colors. The gold that serves as a background and also imbues the other colors, symbolizes the light of eternal glory for those who have already conquered evil and death. It is an eschatological vision of plentiful redemption, in which Mary is always ready to offer us all that her Son accomplished for us, as a reality that comes from the transcendent and projects itself again in our time and before us. It is perfectly compatible to sing or read the texts of St. Alphonsus before this Icon.
47. The Mariology of the Icon offers us at a glance all that St. Alphonsus left us as the presence and action of Our Lady in the mystery of plentiful Redemption. She is inseparable from the Son and all her greatness lies in her mission to constantly offer us that Son as our only Redeemer. Her left hand holds him and at the same time hands him over. At the center of the Icon are the hands of the child who clings to the right hand of the Mother. In this gesture is visualized the whole mission of Mary in the Church through the centuries: hands that always help, in the same way as she helped her Son, from birth to the cross. This confident intimacy between Mother and Son gives us the measure of our confidence and of our devotion to Our Lady, which could never be less than that of Jesus.
48. For all these reasons, we might also name the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help the Icon of Plentiful Redemption. With her Son in her arms, which expresses at the same time both the Incarnation and the Passion, Mary gives us our plentiful redemption again and again. All our missionary kerygma can be contemplated in this Icon. Before being an object of devotion, it offers us a revelation, which should first evoke in us a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, and then a confident plea that plentiful redemption will continue to be poured out on us and our world. This is why Mary is our perpetual help, the mediator of all graces. All the other petitions we are accustomed to present in our Novenas should come later, as though integrated into the greatest grace that Mary offers us, that is, her very own Son.
49. This quite evident relationship between the motto of our Congregation and the iconographic message of the Mother of Perpetual Help presents a challenge for our mission of continuing to spread devotion to her. There is still much to be done in order for this Icon to be known. In fact, in popular Piety the images are a reference in themselves, almost always invoked not as intercessors but as an immediate source of miracles and graces. To date we have treated this Byzantine Icon as a beautiful portrait of popular Piety. And, as we do with our beloved images, in 1867 she was solemnly crowned, almost damaging the original Icon. However, the challenge we can take on today is to enrich this tradition, prioritizing that which this Icon signifies in itself, which is not so much an image to be honored as a divine message to be welcomed. In this message of Redemption Mary presents herself as a perpetual help, the mediator of the Son, the Mother of God. The sacramentality of the Icon depends on this direct link to the facts of the story of redemption, which is linked directly to listening to the Word of God. The Icon is a visualization of the Word of God, which always invites contemplation, as a remembrance of all that happened and an eschatological promise-hope of all that will happen. This is what ought to be very explicit in our preaching, as a stable kerygmatic starting point in the perpetual Novenas and in the missionary Novenas we celebrate as extraordinary preaching in other parishes and communities, where the perpetual Novena is not celebrated.
50. Finally, the connection between the Icon and plentiful Redemption alerts us to the essential dimension of evangelization entrusted to us, according to Constitution 5, and which should also be accomplished through this devotion. The help that the Mother of God offers her children is directed to the spirit and to the body, to the individual and to the social group, that is, in their spiritual and also materials needs. Therefore, the devotion will be complete when, along with the acts of Marian piety, initiatives of fraternal charity and of social solidarity are promoted as expressions of Mary’s perpetual help.
2. The perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
51. There are certainly many conclusions that could be drawn from the reflections we’ve made so far. Let us consider just the perpetual Novena, which has become an international devotional practice. If in fact we are concerned about“preaching the Gospel ever anew”, we must overcome all temptation to automatically repeat the same celebrations, which is always more comfortable. The new Evangelization requires creativity and courage, beyond “renewed hope and renewed hearts”.The perpetual Novena is a place for Evangelization, in which our primary collaborator is the One we call the Star of the new Evangelization. As Pope Francis says: “There is a Marian style in the evangelizing activity of the Church. Because whenever we look at Mary, we go back to believing in the revolutionary power of tenderness and affection.”
52. First, we must always be well aware that the Novena is essentially popular Piety. It belongs to the people and should be celebrated by the people. It is a place where the people have the right to express their joys, worries and sorrows before the Mother. Whatever is ritualized will have to respect the right to emotion, to spontaneous expression and the incorporation of contemporary facts of human life. And it is crucial to maintain and conserve the awareness that in popular Piety it is fitting that the people bethe protagonists at all times. For this reason it is natural that the celebration of the Novena beled by a team of lay people and even certain lay people should be prepared to preside at the celebrations. The clergy, and we Redemptorists even more, should never steal or limit this opportunity for participation by the people, won centuries ago. Our role is to participate, encourage and help, always evangelizing.
53. The Icon of Our Lady should be the object of special attention in every Novena, the focal point of the entire celebration. Through adornment, lighting or procession, the celebration must somehow, in the end,call everyone’s attention to contemplate the Icon, as a revealed message that is never exhausted and always new. A small contemplative prayer, like a verse from the Akathist hymn, could become a refrain or responsorial, an invitation to praise the Mother of God and contemplate the mystery she presents to us in her Icon.
54. Respect for the participation of the people is expressed in the texts of the Novenas, which are different according to different places. It is important that the texts be elaborated in such a way that most of the text is recited by the community and not by the celebrant and assistants. For this reason too, they should not change constantly, once people get used to the responses. This facilitates their participation. Finally, the greater part of the text of the Novena should be prayerful, that is, a loving dialogue of children with the Mother of Perpetual Help, avoiding too much exhortation, catechesis and counsel.
55. The Icon naturally leads us to announce the Word of God. It refers to announcing the Joy of the Gospel. I cannot not stress enough the reading and the meditation of the four Gospels – firstly, because they contain the explicit proposal of discipleship of Jesus, – and secondly, because they reveal the fulfillment of Plentiful Redemption. It is from the Gospels, as expressions of faith in Jesus (witnessed by the first communities even unto martyrdom) that should emerge a new call for a commitment to social justice directly linked to how Jesus was and acted in relation to all poor and marginalized of his time.
56. In every Novena should be always a moment of evangelization, through a homily or a catechesis. In many places it is customary to simply read the Gospel of the day, which is not always appropriate, since the weekly Lectionary for Ordinary Time is a continuous reading of one of the Evangelists. For this reason, a catechetical program with appropriate readings for each theme would be better: for example, on the seven sacraments, on the virtues, on the parables of the Kingdom, etc., or following a more systematic catechesis. Perhaps in Proper Times like Christmas and Easter the Gospels proposed by the Liturgy of the Word of the day could be used.
57. Symbolic gestures like a kiss, a touch, the laying on of hands, the messages written to Our Lady, etc., are another fundamental aspect of the Novena. They make up part of popular sacramentality, or rather, the emotional contact of a human being with the divine and of the divine with a human being. They express affection and respect, and communicate blessing and grace. We must value them and not just tolerate them, integrating them into the celebratory moment.
58. The Blessings of water, pictures, images, medals and other religious objects should appear as an extension of the Novena, inasmuch as they carry beyond the celebratory milieu something of that which was shared within the celebration. This is why it is a moment to be better appreciated and the formulas of the blessings themselves should make reference to this sense of memento and blessing that one takes home and shares with others.
59. When the perpetual Novena ends with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, it would be very good if this rite were perceived as the moment in which Mary hands over to us her greatest gift, Jesus, our Redeemer. Or rather, the Novena should never be a sequence of parallel moments, but an encounter with Mary that always leads us to her Son. This can be signified by putting her picture near the Blessed Sacrament, so that one perceives that the boy in her arm is the same Lord present in the consecrated Host.
60. Finally, the fact that the perpetual Novena is an international devotion, it would be appropriate to think of some symbol that creates its own recognition throughout the world, beyond medals and other such objects. Perhaps a small prayer to the Mother of Perpetual Help that would be known and prayed in all communities? Or perhaps as a sung acclamation, as a small refrain or mantra, with an international flavor that could be sung in all communities? Moreover, being that the perpetual Novena is a devotion promoted mainly by the Redemptorists, it offers us a precious moment in which we should always raise a prayer to our dear Mother for our Vocations, both for new candidates as well as for the perseverance and fidelity to the missionary charism of those who have already made their profession.
3. The perpetual Novena and the Liturgy
61. Communion within the Novena: The integration of popular Piety and Liturgy is a road yet to be traveled for our Roman rite. Sometimes both are close to each other,in a parallel, but never integrated way. In the past our Eucharistic liturgy arrived at such an alienation of the people’s participation that it did not allow the communion of the faithful,so as not to disturb the celebration! Here was the reason for communion outside Mass, which was and is normally granted to the sick and the imprisoned. In the present rite, the moment of Eucharistic communion is always within the Eucharistic celebration, as an act that is integrated into the fraternal communion of the community present, in communion with the Word of God proclaimed and in communion with Jesus Christ who renews his sacrificial offering to the Father during the Eucharistic Prayer. Therefore, the ideal would be to arrive at a complete integration between Novena and Mass, creating a distinct celebration that unites the Icon, the Word of God and the liturgical prayers. However, until we can get to this point, it cannot be said that it is such a huge contradiction to distribute communion during the Novena. However, it would be very good if this moment could be integrated into the rhythm of the Novena through the elaboration of appropriate prayers that would lead to it. It would be as if Mary who, starting from the contemplation of her Icon,once again hands over her Son to us as our Redeemer, and that is the greatest grace she can give us.
62. The Novena within the celebration of Mass: In many churches, the Novena begins with songs and prayers directed to Our Lady, moves on to the Liturgy of the Word with a homily followed by the rite of the Mass until Communion, and then closes with the proper blessings of the Novena, including Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. This combining of the perpetual Novena with the Mass, more than integration, creates a sequence of parallel moments, in which a point of convergence is not easily perceived. The first consideration is to question the reason for this attempt at combination: would it be a demand of the people and their piety or a typically clerical proposal? There is no doubt that it would be better if it were avoided until there is clearer inculturation of popular Piety in western Liturgy. However, since we are popular missionaries, with a certain prophetic charism, which drives us beyond that which is legally established, and dreaming of a future marriage between popular Piety and Roman liturgy, we can allow ourselves some flexibility and creativity, even if causing revulsion in some liturgists. Even so, it would be desirable to create, both in the rites as well as the texts, a minimum of consistency, which would express integration and not just combination.
63. In this sense, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom might serve as an inspiration, teaching us to integrate the Icon into the whole celebration. In our sacramentology, the levels of the Lord’s real presence are manifested in the Community gathered, in the Word proclaimed and in the sacramental Rite celebrated. Would it not be a case of also redeeming the eastern tradition, which unites the Icon to the Word and confers upon it a sacramentality as a sign of the presence of the Lord? But that should make us revise the entire structure of the celebration: the enthronement of the Icon, its placement in the celebrative space, the references of the texts and of the rites should accept the Icon in its original meaning, as a celebration of plentiful redemption represented by it in a very explicit way. It is evident that all this would require an appropriate time, which cannot be found in novenas that begin every half-hour. A well celebrated Novena is better than a hasty Liturgy.
64. All these considerations invite us to drink from the two sources for ongoing evangelizing [popular Piety and Liturgy], making the Mother of Perpetual Help known around the world, always as the Mother of our Most Holy Redeemer. We inherited a Byzantine icon, which bears in itself a specific message of Christian revelation and integrates seamlessly into the celebrations of the Divine Liturgy. The Icon legitimizes and also challenges us, because it bears within itself much more than we have ever done in these 150 years. And we also inherited a popular devotion, especially the perpetual Novena, which identifies us totally with the tradition of popular Piety in the west. However, as a goal of evangelization, there is still a way to go, in which one of the important goals will be to increasingly shorten the distance between popular Piety and the Liturgy. As popular Piety, it should continue to be a devotion of and for the people, as a privileged place, where human life can manifest itself in all its moments and dimensions. Like the Liturgy, the Icon should be welcomed as a kerygma of plentiful Redemption that the Risen Lord continues to offer human beings through the mediation of his and our Blessed Mother. And our celebrations must one day be the meeting point between popular Piety and Liturgy, which, through the Mother of Perpetual Help, unifies the Life of Jesus through the people with the life of the people in Jesus.
65. The words of John Paul II, that the Church must breathe with both lungs, the east and the west, forming one body only, should provoke us as missionaries of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Before anything else, it should provoke in us a deep joy and gratitude, because, without really noticing, we have walked in this direction in order to obey the command of Pope Pius IX: “Make her known throughout the world!” No other representation of Our Lady is as international as our Icon, and accepted in such a way that each of her communities appropriates it as if it were theirs alone. We have helped fulfill Mary’s prediction when she sang: “All generations will call me blessed!” At the same time, we Redemptorists have adopted an Icon of the eastern Church as though it were a property characteristic of our Congregation. Surely, God had his plans when making this wonderful meeting take place, a history that does not end with these 150 years. We must continue to be prophetsof plentiful redemption, joining the legacy of our popular Piety with the ancient heritage of the eastern Church. On the one hand we always have a people crying for help, for redemption and liberation. On the other hand we have an Icon that represents the response to these requests and, through the hands of Mary, Mother of God, plentiful redemptionis offered to all. In the arms of the Mother of Perpetual Help is the hope already realized, which should fill us with missionary zeal, and be celebrated with profound piety in the Novena, in the Liturgy and in all possible ways.
“Mother of Perpetual Help, at your feet let me enjoy the ineffable sweetness that flows from that abyss of love that is your gaze!
Virgin and Mother Mary, You who, moved by the Spirit, welcomed the Word of life in the depths of your humble faith, totally surrendered to the Eternal, help us to say our “yes”before the urgent need, more paramount than ever, to make the Good News of Jesus resound.
You, full of the presence of Christ,carried joy to John the Baptist, making him rejoice in his mother’s womb. You, quivering with joy, have sung the marvels of the Lord.
You who remained firm before the Cross with unwavering faith, and received the joyful consolation of the resurrection, gathered the disciples to await the Spirit in order that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now the new ardor of a people who have risen to bring to all the Gospel of life that conquers death. Give us a holy boldness to seek new ways so that the gift of beauty that does not fade will reach all.
You, Virgin of listening and of contemplation, Mother of love, wife of the eternal nuptials intercede for the Church, of which you are the most pure icon, so that she never obstructs nor frustrates her passion for inaugurating the Kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization, help us to shine with the witness of communion, of service, of an ardent and generous faith, of justice for and love of the poor, so that the joy of the Gospel might reach to the ends of the earth and no outer limit be deprived of its light.
Mother of the living Gospel, source of joy for the little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia!
Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium)
1. DE VILLALOBOS, MARIA LUISA, Introducción al mundo de los iconos, PS Editorial, Madrid.
2. TAGLIAFERRI, ROBERTO, Liturgia e Immagine, Ed. Messaggero di Padova 2009.
3. CONTRERAS MOLINA, FRANCISCO, La Virgen del Perpetuo Socorro, Editorial Perpetuo Socorro, Madrid 2006.
4. FERRERO, FABRICIANO, Santa María del Perpetuo Socorro, Editorial Perpetuo Socorro, un Icono de la Santa Madre de Dios, Virgen de la Pasión, con el presagio de la Pasión gloriosa de Cristo, Madrid 1994
5. SAN ROMANO IL MELÒDE, Inno Akatisto in onore della Madre di Dio, a cura di Romolo Sbrocchi, Associazione Editoriale Cattolica, Vigodarzere PD, 2011.
6. PIERGIORGIO GIANAZZA, Iniziazione all’icona, in Rivista Liturgica 96/2 (2009), pp. 282-304.
7. VVAA: ANÁMNESIS 1, A Liturgia, momento histórico da salvação, Edições Paulinas 1987.
8. VVAA: ANÁMNESIS 2, Panorama histórico geral da Liturgia, Edições Paulinas 1987.
9. CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Città del Vaticano 2002
10. CELAM, V CONFERENCIA, DOCUMENTO DE APARECIDA, 2007.
11. POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, 24/11/2013.
12. PONTIFÍCIA COMISIÓN PARA AMÉRICA LATINA, La Piedad Popular en el proceso de Evangelización de América Latina, Actas de la Plenaria, (Popular Piety in the process of Evangelization of Latin America, Proceedings of the plenary session of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, April 5-11, 2011], Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2011.
13. CELAM – ITEPAL, REVISTA MEDELLIN vol. 35, n. 138
14. PHASE, Revista de Pastoral Litúrgica, n. 134, La Piedad popular y la Liturgia, Barcelona 2003.
15. JORGE SEIBOLD, Dios habita en la ciudad, aportes de Aparecida para una nueva pastoral urbana en América Latina y Caribe [Goddwells in the city, contributions from Aparecida for a new urban ministry in Latin America and the Caribbean], in Revista CIAS, year LVI, 568-569, September-October 2007
16. MONS. JOAN CARRERA, De la religiosidad popular a un cristianismo popular, en Religiosidad popular y Santuarios, Dossiers CPL, 64, Centre de Pastoral Litúrgica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 14-18
Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49.
John Paul II, Allocutio Lutetiae Parisiorum ad Christianos fratres a Sede Apostolica seiunctos habita, May 31, 1980: AAS 72 (1980) 704.
De Villalobos, Maria Luisa, inIntroducción al mundo de los iconos[Introduction to theworld of icons], PS Editorial, Madrid, p. 9.
De Villalobos, op. cit., p. 10.
Cf. Piergiorgio Gianazza, Iniziazione all’icona [Initiation to the Icon], in Rivista Liturgica 96/2 (2009), pp. 282-304.
De Villalobos, op. cit., p. 12-13.
The color symbolism in the Icon of Perpetual Help: golden-yellow: light, glory, splendor, divinity; blue: human nature, loyalty, truth; red: divine nature, life and divine love, sacrifice; green: hope, resurrection, a mixture of the divine and human; brown: ground, sadness, humility, poverty.
Piovano Alberto, Celebrare con le immagini [Celebrate with images], p. 246, in Liturgia e Immagine,edited by Roberto Tagliaferri, Ed. Messaggero di Padova 2009.
Piovano Alberto, op. supra cit., p. 264.
“O Mother of God, fountain of mercy, make us worthy of your compassion. Turn your gaze upon us, your sinful people. Show us as always your power. Placing our hope in you, we greet you: Hail!, as once Gabriel, the prince of Angels did greet you.”
“O admirable protector of Christians and our mediator with the Creator, despise not any petitions of us, sinners, but make haste to help us like the good Mother you are,for we call upon you with faith: pray for us, to God, you who always defend those who venerate you.”
 Here is the prayer: “It is truly right and just that we bless you, O blessed Mother of God. You, more venerable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim; you gave birth to the Word of God, preserving intact the glory of your virginity. We glorify you, O Mother of our God!”
 Here is verse 24 of the Akathist: “O Mother worthy of all praise, who gave birth to the Word, the holiest of the saints, deign to accept this our song! Preserve us from all misfortune! Preserve from future condemnation all of us who cry to Thee: Alleluia!”
EvangeliiGaudium, n. 125.
 Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (DPPL), nn. 9-10, Document 12 of EdiçõesPaulinas, São Paulo.
Paul VI, EvangeliiNuntiandi, n. 48.
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (DPPL),Paulinas, 2nd Ed. 2009, n. 23.
 DPPL, n. 28.
 DPPL, n. 29.
Cf. Pope Francis, A alegria de Evangelizar[The Joy of Evangelizing], nos. 122-126; A Piedade Popular no processo de Evangelização da América Latina[Popular Piety in the process of Evangelization of Latin America], Proceedings of the plenary session of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, April 5-11, 2011.
Jorge Seibold, Dios habitaen la ciudad, aportes de Aparecida para unanueva pastoral urbanaenAmérica Latina y Caribe [God dwells in the city, contributions from Aparecida for a new urban ministry in Latin America and the Caribbean], in Revista CIAS, year LVI, nos. 568-569, September-October 2007, p. 411.
Evangelii Gaudium, n. 122.
Evangelii Gaudium, n. 124.
Evangelii Gaudium, n. 126.
Evangelii Gaudium, 288
Fr. J. Ulysses da Silva, C.Ss.R. (Provinceof São Paolo)
Campo Grande, Brazil, May, 2014