Our Lady of Prompt Succor

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Our Lady of Prompt Succor

DURING the French Revolution of the late 18th century, priests and religious were persecuted and often had to go into hiding in order to administer the Sacraments and keep their vocation and apostolates. This is what happened with the Ursuline nuns of the Convent of Pont-Saint-Esprit. One of the nuns, Agathe Gensoul, who could no longer use her religious name, Mother St. Michel, still lived her vocation, starting a school with another Ursuline, Sophie Ricard. Agathe had a cousin who was an Ursuline also, but who lived in America, in New Orleans, which had been at that time under Spanish domain, but had been taken back by the French. Fearing French persecution, the Spanish Ursulines there went back to Spain, which left the convent in need of more nuns.

So Agathe or Mother St. Michel, applied to the bishop for the transfer to New Orleans, who refused her request because of the trouble in France. He told her that the Pope would have to approve her move. He, however was under house arrest. The situation was near impossible. But this did not discourage Agathe, who immediately wrote a letter to Pope Pius VII, but after three months, she was still without means to send it.

One day, while praying before a statue of Mary, she was inspired with this prayer:

“O Most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain a prompt and favorable answer to my letter, I promise to have you honored in New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”

She not only found a way to send the letter a few days later, but the Pontiff replied within a month! He granted his permission, blessing her new undertaking, which surprised the bishop who asked to bless the statue that Mother St. Michel had carved to take with her to New Orleans.

The statue was enshrined in the Ursuline convent there on December 30,1810. Two years later, another miracle would be attributed to the Virgin under this title. A terrible fire ravaged the city in 1812, and the wind was rapidly driving it in the direction of the convent of the Ursulines. One of the nuns, Sister St. Anthony, placed a small replica of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in her window that faced the approaching fire, while Mother St. Michel prayed aloud, asking Our Lady for help. Immediately the wind changed direction of the flames.

Mary’s help has been sought from the shrine ever since, both in time of war [the Battle of New Orleans] and during the threat of hurricanes, a persistent peril on the Gulf Coast.

Saint Paul

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Saint Paul

the First Hermit
(229-342)

Saint Paul was born in Upper Egypt in about the year 229, and became an orphan at the age of fifteen. He was very rich and highly educated. Fearing lest the tortures of a terrible persecution might endanger his Christian perseverance, he retired into a remote village. But his pagan brother-in-law denounced him, and Saint Paul, rather than remain where his faith was in danger, entered the barren desert, trusting that God would supply his wants. And his confidence was rewarded; for on the spot to which Providence led him he found the fruit of a palm-tree for food, its leaves for clothing, and the water of a spring for drink.

His first plan was to return to the world when the persecution was over; but tasting great delights in prayer and penance, he remained for the rest of his life, ninety years, in penance, prayer and contemplation.

God revealed his existence to Saint Anthony, who sought him for three days. Seeing a thirsty she-wolf run through an opening in the rocks, Anthony followed her to look for water and found Paul. They knew each other at once, and praised God together. While Saint Anthony was visiting him, a raven brought them a loaf of bread, and Saint Paul said, See how good God is! For sixty years this bird has brought me half a loaf each day; now at your coming, Christ has doubled the provision for His servants.

The two religious passed the night in prayer, then at dawn Paul told Anthony that he was about to die, and asked to be buried in the cloak given to Anthony by Saint Athanasius. He asked him this to show that he was dying in communion with Saint Athanasius, the invincible defender of the Faith against the Arian heresy. Anthony hastened back to fetch it, and when he was returning to Paul he saw his co-hermit rising to heaven in glory. He found his dead body kneeling as in prayer, and saw two lions come and dig his grave. Saint Paul, The Patriarch of Hermits, died in his one hundred and thirteenth year.

Reflection. Never shall we trust in ourselves without being deceived, but we shall never repent of having trusted in God, for He cannot fail those who depend upon Him.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Lives of the Desert Fathers, their Spiritual Doctrine and Monastic Discipline, by Fr. Michel-Ange Marin (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1991)

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

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Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Doctor of the Church
(301-368)

Saint Hilary was a native of Poitiers in Aquitaine. Born and educated a pagan, it was not until near middle age that he embraced Christianity, moved to that step primarily by the idea of God presented to him in the Holy Scriptures. He soon converted his wife and daughter, and separated himself rigidly from all non-Catholic company, fearing the influence of error, rampant in a number of false philosophies and heresies, for himself and his family.

He entered Holy Orders with the consent of his very virtuous wife, and separated from his family as was required of the clergy. He later wrote a very famous letter to his dearly-loved daughter, encouraging her to adopt a consecrated life. She followed this counsel and died, still young, a holy death.

In 353 Saint Hilary was chosen bishop of his native city. Arianism, under the protection of the Emperor Constantius, was then at the heights of its exaltation, and Saint Hilary found himself called upon to support the orthodox cause in several Gallic councils, in which Arian bishops formed an overwhelming majority. He was in consequence accused to the emperor, who banished him to Phrygia. He spent his more than three years of exile in composing his great works on the Trinity.

In 359 he attended the Council of Seleucia, in which Arians, semi-Arians, and Catholics contended for the mastery. He never ceased his combat against the errors of the enemies of the Divinity of Christ. With the deputies of the council he went to Constantinople, and there so dismayed the heads of the Arian party that they prevailed upon the emperor to let him return to Gaul. He traversed Gaul, Italy and Illyria, preaching wherever he went, disconcerting the heretics and procuring the triumph of orthodoxy. He wrote a famous treatise on the Synods. After some eight years of missionary travel he returned to Poitiers, where he died in peace in 368.

Reflection. Like Saint Hilary, nearly every Christian has always lived amid unbelievers and heretics. We are called to a lifelong contest, and shall succeed in the measure we combine abhorrence of error with compassion for its victims.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).