During this past week we have celebrated the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians. Under this title Our Lady is the Patron of Australia.
The Feast Day to Mary Help of Christians has been celebrated in Australia since 1844 when Australia became the first country in the world to have Mary Help of Christians as Patron. But the history of the Feast dates back to about 30 years earlier than that.
Napoleon Bonaparte had jailed Pope Pius VI who died in jail. When Pope Pius VII was elected, he too was jailed by Bonaparte, who kept him prisoner at Fontainebleau. The Holy Father vowed to God that if he were restored to the Roman See he would institute a special feast in honour of Mary. The military did eventually force Bonaparte to release the Pope on 24th May 1814 and twelve months later the Pope decreed that the Feast of Mary Help of Christians to be kept on 24th May.
The infant church in Australia had a special reason for turning to Mary. No priests were sent to the Colony in the early days and Mass was not allowed except for one brief year until 1820. It was largely the Rosary in those early days that kept the faith alive. St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia’s first church, was dedicated in her honour by the Irish pioneer priest, Fr Therry, who arrived in Sydney in 1820.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us. My God bless you all, Fr Denis