BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge said it was Mary who understood the “suffering of her children like no one else can” during his homily at the re-dedication Mass of Australia to the patroness Our Lady Help of Christians from St Stephen’s Cathedral on May 25.
“We look to her because she is the one who always stands beneath the cross of Jesus,” Archbishop Coleridge said at the livestreamed Mass this morning.
“She is the one whose love never fails – not even on the dark mountain
“And as we look to her in this moment of crisis, the crisis of COVID-19, the pandemic, this crucifixion that the human family is knowing, we understand that she is always there beside us.
“Most of the others run away from Jesus, but there she is at the foot of the cross and there she stands forever.”
The re-dedication was a renewal of Australia’s entrustment to the protection and guidance of Our Lady Help of Christians to see through the pandemic as Brisbane Catholics shivered through an early start to their first COVID-19 winter.
The state of the church was a reminder of the early Australian Church, too, where a strong devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians developed.
In the early Australian Church, Mass was rare and early settlers had to go without – so they prayed the Rosary.
Coronavirus restrictions had left Australian Catholics in a similar way, where Mass had to be cancelled over health concerns.
Archbishop Coleridge listed a number of historical incidents where popes and holy people looked to the intercession of Our Lady Help of Christians.
“The title itself goes back at least until the Fourth Century, where it is used certainly by the great Bishop of Constantinople Saint John Chrysostom,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“It had another lease of life altogether much later in history in the 16th Century when there were the great struggles between Christian Europe and the … forces from the east; and this came to the climax of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which was really the turning of the tide in that struggle.
“There were many including the pope of the time who thought that the Christian victory was to be attributed to the intercession of the Mother of Christ, to Mary, and one of the titles under which she was invoked at that time was ‘Help of Christians’.
“If we move further ahead in history it was in 1815 that Pope Pius VII decided to establish a feast in Rome of Our Lady Help of Christians.
“This was because in Napoleon had taken the pope prisoner – dragged him off to France – and eventually by 1815, Pope Pius VII re-entered Rome triumphantly and again attributed his liberation and his return to Rome to the Mother of Christ under the title of Mary, Help of Christians.”
He said it was around that time that Irish priest and pioneer of the Church in Australia, Fr John Therry was ordained a priest.
“And when he came to build his church, the little Church in Sydney where it all began, he called it Mary Help of Christians,” he said.
“That little church became the grand Cathedral of St Mary’s, Sydney, the mother Church of the Australian Catholic people, and that church, that Cathedral, which is known as St Mary’s is in fact Mary, Help of Christians.
“And in 1844 at the first Synod of Bishops in Australia, the bishops decided to name Mary Help of Christians as the patron of this land, and that decision was confirmed by the first plenary council in Australia in 1885.”
As Plenary Council 2020 was postponed, the Australian bishops once again looked to Mary Help of Christians to come to the aid of “her children”.
“So, we look to her as mother; the mother of all peoples,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“She who understands the suffering of her children as no one else can, and she who has power to reach into that suffering and to intercede for those whom she loves.
“At the end of Mass we will entrust once again to her, Mary Help of Christians, Australia praying through her to her Son the risen Lord that out of all the darkness he will bring light out of all the death.
“Even out of death, he will bring life.”