Marian Devotions

Mary, Help of Christians May 24

Page 34 in "Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church"

Catherine Fournier and Peter Fournier

About the Feast

This feast has a recent modern origin, though it stems from the same roots of turmoil, trial, and thanksgiving as have many other titles and feasts of our Lady. 

In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France, kidnapped and imprisoned Pope Pius VII. He intended to force the Pope to sign a treaty that would grant Napoleon all power over both Church and State in France and all her conquered territories. 

From his jail cell, the Pope sent messages to all the Church, calling on the faithful to pray the Rosary for his safe release. The Holy Father also vowed to God that he would institute a special feast in honor of Mary when he returned to Rome and the Vatican. 

The eventual collapse of Napoleon's empire forced him to release the Pope; and on May 24, 1814, Pius VII returned to Rome in a joyful and triumphant procession. In thanksgiving, he instituted the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, in 1815. The feast was added to the calendar of the Papal States, and it was celebrated in other places also, but it is not a feast listed on the calendar of the universal Church. 

Patroness of Australia

Only six years later, in 1821, the first Catholic chaplain in Australia, a Father J. J. Therry, dedicated his new parish church to Saint Mary, Help of Christians. The Catholic exiles and settlers there had been praying to Mary, Help of Christians, to send them a priest. 

When the first provincial synod of the Church in Australia was held, in 1844, the archbishop of Sydney, the new bishops of Adelaide and Hobart, and approximately half the pioneer priests in the country placed the Church in Australia under the patronage of Our Lady, Help of Christians. The Vatican confirmed this decision in 1852. 

The Salesians

Saint John Bosco's love and veneration of Mary, especially under her title "Help of Christians", began early in his life. When he was born, his mother consecrated him to our Lady. When he began his studies for the priesthood, she instructed her son to honor our Blessed Mother and to bring all his difficulties to her. And when he was ordained as a priest, she asked him to take Mary as his Queen. 

As a priest, John Bosco took note of the desperate condition of street children in Turin. Despite strong opposition, including attempts on his life by those who wanted to exploit the children as cheap labor, he founded homes and schools for the children. 

These schools were the basis of the religious society founded by Saint John Bosco, the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (S.S.F .S.). Some time later, the name of the society was changed to Salesians of Don Bosco, or Salesians for short. Salesian priests today continue to work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Christians, and of Saint Francis de Sales.

When poor, abandoned girls began to come to his homes for boys, Father John Bosco founded the Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice (F. M.A.), with the help of Saint Mary Mazzarello, to care for them. In English, this offshoot religious institute is called Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. 

Perhaps Saint John Bosco's continued devotion to Mary was inspired in part by seeing so vividly the need for a helpful Mother for the children in his care. With his love for Mary and for his fellow man, he would have clearly,seen the need for such a Mother for all of us. "The help of God and of Mary will not fail you. ...I recommend devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, and frequent Holy Communion"—these were the words of Saint John Bosco on his deathbed. 

Observing the Feast

The title "Mary, Help of Christians" reminds us of our Lady's constant love for us, her assistance to us, and her call to follow her Son, who said: "Love one another as I have loved you." Charitable service is a perfect way to be a help to each other, as our Lady is a help and comfort to us. 

Call a family meeting and ask each other what you might do as a family to help others in need. Sponsor a child in a Third World country? Donate food to a food bank and time to a shelter? Bring all your unused clothing and toys to a charitable organization? 

As part of your family dinner or evening prayers on this feast day (aftera few days of preparation), consecrate your family home to Our Lady, Help of Christians, and then enjoy these traditional Australian treats. 

Consecration of the Home to Our Lady, Help of Christians

Most holy Virgin Mary, appointed by God to be the Help of Christians, we choose you as the Mother and protectress of our home. Favor us with your powerful protection. Preserve our home from fire, flood, lightning, storm, earthquake, thieves, vandals, and every other danger. Bless us, protect us, defend us, keep as your own all who dwell in this home: protect them from all accidents and misfortunes, and obtain for them the grace of avoiding sin. Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us. Amen. 

Recipe: Lamingtons

This Australian tea-time or dessert recipe was reportedly developed in the Queensland Government House kitchen and named in honor of Lady Lamington, wife of the Governor of Queensland, between 1896 and 1901. They are a bit messy but fun to make and eat. 



  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup cake flour (or all-purpose flour) 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup hot milk 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 


  • 2 cups icing sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or almond extract 
  • warm water 
  • 2 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) 


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square cake pan; then line the bottom with waxed or parchment paper. 

Crack the eggs into a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer for about one minute. Slowly add the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and pale. Set aside. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir or sift them together well. Set aside. 

Heat the milk and the butter just to the boiling point. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, while beating at low speed. Add the vanilla, then the flour mixture a small amount at a time, mixing until just blended. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan. Cut the cake into 2-inch squares, and let them sit for a few hours to dry out. 

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa together in a medium bowl. Melt the butter, and add the lemon or almond extract to it. Stir the sugar and cocoa mixture into the butter, and beat well till smooth. Add warm water as needed to bring the icing to a thick, stiff liquid, runny enough to coat the top of the cake pieces but stiff enough not to drip off. 

Put the shredded coconut into a shallow tray or bowl. After. icing each lamington, dip the top into the coconut while the icing is still moist. Let dry on a wire rack. 


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