There are a number of amazing collisions in the liturgical calendar this weekend.
Sunday May 24th is Pentecost, and the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians.
In a dim room were a bunch of terrified Jews whose leader had been gruesomely and publicly tortured and killed. They were meeting to pray and discuss these things on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. This was the special day which, 50 days after their escape from Egypt, God gave to Moses on the mountain amidst fire and smoke, the 10 commandments. With them were the Mother of their leader and the only one of their number who had publicly stayed with him during his last agony.
Then, the sound of a rushing wind, the vision of tongues of fire, and the inner, mysterious knowledge and power to do things they couldn’t do before. They rushed out onto the street. They spoke languages they had never learnt before. People thought they were drunk. They spoke about the amazing gifts of God.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke beautifully about how this feast of Pentecost is significant to us here in Australia:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). We have seen this promise fulfilled! On the day of Pentecost, as we heard in the first reading, the Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, sent the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. In the power of that Spirit, Peter and the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth…Here in Australia, this “great south land of the Holy Spirit”, all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power…Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within.
We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father….The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.
How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give?
One of the original explorers of Australia, the Portuguese mariner Pedro Fernandez de Queiros, coined the term, “La Australia del Espiritu Santo” (The Southland of the Holy Spirit)
The following account is from the actual Feast of Pentecost, May 1606 and describes the naming of Australia, despite De Queiros landing on an island in Vanuatu.*
Describes the celebration of the feast of the eve and the day of Pentecost, and the taking possession in the names of the Catholic Church, and of His Majesty.
On that night all three vessels displayed many lights, and they sent off many rockets and fire-wheels. All the artillery was fired off; and when the natives heard the noise and the echoes resounding over hills and valleys, they raised great shouts. We sounded drums, rang the bells, had music and dancing, and had other forms of rejoicing, in which the men showed great pleasure. The Captain said to all: “Gentlemen, this is the eve of my long-desired day, for which there should be no empty hand nor person for whom the appointed good things are not welcome, and as much more as the part he takes may deserve.”
It was not quite dawn when …they landed near the launch with four small pieces to be used in a fort. Presently, with joyous diligence a booth made of branches was set up on the beach, surrounded by stakes, to serve as a fort in case of necessity. Within, the monks arranged a clean and well-ordered altar under a canopy. This was the first church, and was named by the Captain “Our Lady of Loreto.” Everything having been arranged as well as the time would allow, it was reported to the Captain, and presently he left the ship with the rest of the people…
Presently the Captain came out and went down on his knees, saying: “To God alone be the honour and the glory.” Then, putting his hand on the ground, he kissed it, and said: “O Land! sought for so long, intended to be found by many, and so desired by me!”
Then the Admiral came out with a cross made of the orange wood of the country, which the Captain had caused to be made. Our Father Commissary, with his five monks, all bare-footed, kneeling on the beach, received it in their arms, saying with great tenderness: “I adore thee, O Holy Cross, for the Author of our life, made flesh, died on thee for me, so great a sinner, and for the whole human race.” Raising it and singing the “Lignum,” with the people in procession, we arrived at the door of the church; and there, on a pedestal which had been placed for the purpose, the Captain planted our cross, and ordered that the people should come round, and that the secretary should read, as in a loud voice he did read, the following documents:—
Raising of the Cross.
Be witnesses the heavens and the earth, and the sea with all its inhabitants, and those who are present, that I, the Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in these parts which up to the present time have been unknown, raise and plant in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the eternal Father, and of the Holy Virgin Mary, true God and man, this sign of the Holy Cross, on which His most holy body was crucified, and where He gave His life as a ransom for the whole human race…In the same place, and at the same time, the six following possessions were read, which our people heard with joy and gladness, the eyes of many filling with tears… I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in the name of the most Holy Trinity, take possession of all the islands and lands that I have newly discovered, and desire to discover, as far as the South Pole…I take possession of all these, the said lands, in the name of Jesus Christ, saviour of all men, how unknown soever they may be, and in the name of His mother the most Holy Virgin Mother of Loreto, and in the name of St. Peter and St. Paul, and of all the holy apostles and disciples, and in the name of the universal Vicar of Christ, the Roman Pontiff, and in the name of the whole Catholic Church, and of all those pious, just, and holy things that have a right in such possession; which I do with joy and to the end that to all the natives, in all the said lands, the holy and sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly…Finally, I take possession of this bay, named the Bay of St. Philip and St. James, and of its port named Santa Cruz, and of the site on which is to be founded the city of New Jerusalem, in latitude 15° 10′, and of all the lands which I sighted and am going to sight, and of all this region of the south as far as the Pole, which from this time shall be called Australia del Espiritu Santo, with all its dependencies and belongings…The reading being finished, all cried with loud voices: “Long live the King of Spain, Don Philip III., our Lord!” Then we entered the church to give due thanks to God….They said three Masses, and the fourth, which was sung, was by our Father Commissary. All the people took the sacrament very fervently…at a certain signal that was given to the ships, whose mast-head banners displayed the royal arms, and at the sides the two columns and the plus ultra, with the streamers fluttering, fired off all their guns with full charges; the soldiers discharged muskets and arquebuses, and the gunners sent off rockets and fire-wheels. In the middle of all this noise, all shouted with almost infinite joy, and many times: “Long live the Faith of Christ!” And with this the celebration of the festival came to an end. Source
Also on this day we have the traditional day for the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians.
How fantastic to have these days fall together, for Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, really does and did help Christians. The first ones on the feast of Pentecost in particular, and all those since then, whether they acknowledge her or not.
Why does she have this title?
Did you know it was first officially recorded in the year 345? Βοετεια (Boeteia:Greek the Helper) was one of the first titles ever given to Mary. The Title is an ancient one but has been particularly associated with a decisive battle against the Ottoman (Muslim) Empire at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
The date of May 24th for this feast has its roots in the triumphant return to Rome on 24th May, 1814, of Servant of God Pope Pius VII who had been imprisoned by Napoleon. Some interesting facts about Pius VII: he spearheaded moves to end slavery, he denounced Freemasonry, his cause for canonisation was instigated by Pope Benedict XVI, and he attributed his freedom from prison to Our Lady, Help of Christians.
I love this Feast in her honour. She is the Patroness of Australia. Here she is standing on our country:
She is also a special patron to my husband and I, who for many years have prayed 3 Hail Mary’s together invoking her title, and who now end our St Louis De Montfort Consecration on this Feast each year.
This title was also brought prominence by St John Bosco who had a special vision of the role she would play in the plan of God. He strongly advocated for Eucharistic Adoration and Devotion to Our Lady, Help of Christians. There is so much history and depth to this feast.
*There is debate about whether it was Vanuatu or perhaps the town of Gladstone on the Eastern side of Australia. Cardinan Moran of Sydney even wrote a book about the theory of De Queiros landing in Gladstone, Queensland.