“Mother dear, oh pray for me

And never cease thy care;

Till in heaven eternally

Thy love and bliss I share.”

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are familiar with this chorus from the hymn to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 70 parishes offer weekly novenas to Our Lady under that title --- up from the 20 of 65 years ago which, according to the first archdiocesan directory, offered that service. 

Altogether, a large majority of parishes today --- 220 of the 288 in the five pastoral regions --- offer some form of weekly devotions. Those include the novena to the Miraculous Medal and St. Anthony, as well as various other prayers. And 23 parishes offer either perpetual or daily Eucharistic Adoration. 

These ongoing devotions have added significance with the approach of Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) and the season of Lent, a popular time for increased spiritual practice, including devotions. The “Day of Ashes” signifies for many both humility and mortality, similar to the message inherent in the Marian icon.

The popular image of Our Mother (or Our Lady) of Perpetual Help has a colorful history, having for centuries been revered as an icon of hope and inspiration. The picture is a product of Byzantine art, although some church legends date it to the first century as the work of St. Luke the Evangelist. But in its present form, it is at least 500 years old, painted in tempera on hard nut wood and only 17 by 21 inches in size (although the picture may date back another 1,000 years to Constantinople). 

The image depicts Mary wearing a dress of dark red, representing the Passion of Jesus with a blue mantle signifying her virginity and a cloaked veil for her pure modesty. On the left side is Saint Michael the Archangel, carrying the lance and sponge of the crucifixion; on the right is Saint Gabriel the Archangel, carrying a three-bar cross (used by popes) and nails. Mary looks toward the faithful, pointing at her son, Jesus, who appears frightened by the instruments of crucifixion and is shown with a fallen sandal. 

The earliest written account of public veneration places it in the church of San Matteo in Rome in 1499. Pope Pius IX chose the church of St. Alphonse in 1866 to display the image under the guidance of the Redemptorist Order with his Apostolic Blessing. (Pope Pius, who also defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, served the longest term of any pope: 32 years.)

The ancient icon has been venerated among many cultures, known under several titles in different languages, and is now the national patron saint of Haiti. Countless miracles, healings and conversions are attributed to Mary by those who pray to her as “Our Mother of Perpetual Help,” and millions of copies of the picture can be seen around the world, as well as here in the archdiocese where 70 parishes weekly intercede for her help. 

Perpetual Help novenas in Los Angeles parishes are celebrated at the following parishes (listed by region):

Santa Barbara: St. Joseph, Carpinteria; Mary Star of the Sea, Oxnard; St. Louis de Montfort, Santa Maria; St. Rose of Lima, Simi Valley.

San Fernando: Holy Trinity, St. Bernard and St. Ignatius of Loyola, all Los Angeles; St. Finbar, Burbank; Our Lady of the Valley, Canoga Park; Our Lady of Grace and St. Cyril, Encino; Holy Family, Glendale; St. Bede the Venerable, La Canada; Sacred Heart, Lancaster; St. Charles Borromeo, North Hollywood; Our Lady of Lourdes, Northridge; St. Mary, Palmdale; St. Genevieve, Panorama City; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Santa Clarita; St. Didacus, Sylmar; Our Lady of Lourdes, Tujunga; St. Bridget of Sweden, Van Nuys; St. Joseph the Worker, Winnetka.

San Gabriel: All Saints, Los Angeles; Annunciation, Arcadia; St. John the Baptist, Baldwin Park; Sacred Heart and St. Louise de Marillac, Covina; Nativity, El Monte; St. Joseph and St. Louis of France, La Puente; Immaculate Conception, Monrovia; St. Benedict, Montebello; St. Stephen, Monterey Park; Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pasadena; St. Madeleine, Pomona; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rowland Heights; St. Anthony, San Gabriel; St. Martha, Valinda; St. Lorenzo Ruiz, Walnut.

Our Lady of the Angels: Our Lady of Loretto, St. Basil, St. Bernadette, St. Brendan, St. Columban, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gerard Majella, St. Jerome, St. Kevin and St. Teresa of Avila, all Los Angeles; St. Augustine, Culver City; St. John Chrysostom, Inglewood;

San Pedro: St. Aloysius Gonzaga, L.A.; St. Bernard, Bellflower; St. Philomena, Carson; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Downey; St. Anthony of Padua, Gardena; St. Pancratius, Lakewood; Our Lady of Refuge, St. Anthony, St. Joseph and St. Maria Goretti, Long Beach; St. Linus, Norwalk; Holy Trinity, Mary Star of the Sea and St. Peter, San Pedro; St. Bruno, St. Gregory the Great and St. Mary of the Assumption, Whittier; SS. Peter and Paul, Wilmington,.

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