Our Lady of Providence
This title of Mary has roots in Scripture. It is often attributed to Mary’s intervention at the wedding in Cana. Christ’s first public miracle was occasioned in part by the intercession of his mother. She helped through her foresight and concern to avoid an embarrassing situation for the newlywed couple. Our Lady of Providence is sometimes also identified as Queen of the Home.
Among the master artists of the sixteenth century, Italy produced one Scipione Pulzone (1550-1588) who, because of the excellence of his works, has been styled by connoisseurs the “Roman Van Dyke.” Born at Gaeta, he is commonly known as “Gaetano.” Surpassing in fame his Crucifixion in the Vallicella, his Assumption in the church of San Sylvester on Mt. Cavallo, and his other works in the Palais Borghese and the gallery of Florence is his now-immortal Mater Divinae Providentiae. In 1664, this exquisite painting fell providentially into the hands of the Barnabite Fathers in charge of the church of San Carlo a Catinari in Rome, who thereupon erected a humble shrine. Soon all Romans came to visit it and were rewarded with extraordinary favours. Grateful pilgrims left votive tablets which today are so many historical pages proving the intercessory power of the Mother of God. In 1774, His Holiness Benedict XIV established the Confraternity of Our Lady of Providence. Endowed in succession with many privileges by Pius VII, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, and Pius XI, the Confraternity spread from Italy to Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey, China, South America, Mexico, the Isles of Crete and Malta. Tourists to Puerto Rico may see, over the main altar of the cathedral of San Juan, the statue of Our Lady of Providence, the Patroness of the Island.
The history of the cult of Our Lady of Providence in the United States may fittingly be epitomized in the words, “Our Lady’s Jubilee-year Gift to America.” To the ordinary reader, it may seem a mere chance that the Rt. Rev. Mgr. A. J. Rawlinson, D.D., then chaplain of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, should glance upon a painting over an archway in the Catholic University of America where, in 1925, he stopped en route to Rome. He learned that the original of the picture he so greatly admired, Mater Divinae Providentiae, by Gaetano, was the property of the Barnabite Fathers at the church of San Carlo in Rome.
While in Rome, Monsignor Rawlinson obtained from the Barnabites the history and the original documents and literature of the devotion to Our Lady of Providence. Enriched with these credentials, he returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. There, at his request, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Chartrand, D.D., erected the Confraternity of Our Lady of Providence. The devotion rapidly made its appeal. Gaetano’s lovely Madonna gazing lovingly upon her two-year-old Son has so won the hearts of American mothers that, by popular assent, Our Lady of Providence was lovingly addressed “Queen of the Home.” Her image was enshrined over the fireplace of thousands of homes throughout the land. And out of sheer love for Our Lady, teachers, through the medium of instruction, song, and program, inspire their pupils to carry to their homes the message of this “new-old” devotion. Whole parishes have been enrolled in the Confraternity.
The reader’s attention is called to a touching detail peculiar to Gaetano’s Madonna: the Child’s fingers confidingly clasping those of Its Mother. The Barnabites interpret this pose to be a symbol of the sacred source of the power of the Mother of God. The Child seems to say, “Mother dear, I place in thy hands the authority to act in My name. From My infinite treasure-house do thou provide good things to all who implore thy aid.” Hence her title.
Prayer to Our Lady of Providence
Let us ask Our Lady of Providence, Mary most holy, who is the refuge of sinners, the consolation of the afflicted, and the help of Christians, to assist us in all our necessities.