It’s fitting that the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Rome holds the sacred icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
St. Alphonsus wrote The Glories of Mary, one of the most used books of devotion to the Virgin Mary. In Rome, the church that houses his tomb, is a beautiful chapel that holds the icon that is said to be a copy of the original painted by the Gospel writer, St. Luke. Countless novenas have been said to Our Lady of Perpetual Help by the lay faithful over the centuries.
St. Alphonsus, who founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – better known as The Redemptorists, always had a devotion to Our Lady. Born in Naples, Italy, he came from a noble but pious family. When he was 18, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members cared for the sick. His teenage life was marked by extraordinary accomplishments. At 16, he passed the bar exam to become a lawyer and began practicing law when he was 19. After losing a high-profile court case, he began searching for something more meaningful. He found it in the priesthood and a desire to preach to the poor.
Alphonsus adopted a style of ministry to “mission among the people,” as the Redemptorist Order website states. The charism of the order is one of priests and brothers coming to an area to preach, living in community with the people there, and letting the poor know they will not be abandoned. St. Alphonsus wrote more than 100 books in his lifetime, but it is his preaching on prayer that became a hallmark of his order. Every mission the Redemptorists made began with teachings on prayer.
“I will keep on saying it as long as I live, that our whole salvation depends on prayer…. for if you pray, your salvation will be secure,” said St. Alphonsus. His order’s website also reports that he always began and ended his letters with the words “Long Live Jesus and Mary.”
"Long live Jesus and Mary."
St. Alphonsus’ deep devotion to Our Lady is well known. He was sick much of his life, and to help him in his sufferings he would pray the Litany of Our Lady followed by The Rosary. On July 31, 1787 his last spoken words were, “Give me Our Lady.” A picture of Mary was placed in his hands. The next day at noon he died at the age of 91.
His devotion to the Virgin Mary and firm grasp on her image make it apparent why the Redemptorist Order was given one of the most famous paintings of Our Lady for safekeeping. While it is not the same picture St. Alphonsus held as he was dying, it is still a lasting tribute to his legacy and his dependence on the intercession of the Mother of God.