NEXT TIME YOU’RE IN CHICAGO
Any trip to Chicago should include a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at St. Michael’s church in Old Town. The altar to Our Mother, directly to the right of the main altar, is one of four side altars that grace the church. The Icon at St. Michael’s is one of the first four copies of the original Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help sent to the United States in the 1800s. It survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, when parishioners rescued it in advance of the flames and took it farther north. While the interior of the church was destroyed in the fire, the walls remained standing and the icon returned when the church was re-opened in 1873.
The original icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, enshrined at the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, was entrusted to the Redemptorists in 1866 by Pope Pius IX. Pope Pius asked that the icon be cared for by to Redemptorists and that they make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world. The move to the Church of Saint Alphonsus in Rome was one of many moves for the original icon, which is believed to have been created in Crete by an unknown artist.
Icons have been called windows to the sacred. When one stands before an icon, the viewer is looking through a window to the heavenly world of the mystery. Our Mother of Perpetual Help is the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary as represented in this celebrated 15th-century Byzantine icon. The icon originated from the Keras Kardiotissas Monastery and has been in Rome since 1499.
The Redemptorist Congregation of priest and brothers are the only religious order currently entrusted by the Holy See to protect and propagate a Marian religious work of art.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church iconography, the image is known as the ”Virgin Theotokos of the Passion” due to the instruments of the Passion of Jesus Christ present on the image.
On June 23, 1867, Pope Pius IX granted the image its Canonical Coronation along with its present title. The feast day of the image is celebrated on June 27, with novena devotions held weekly. Under Pope Pius XII’s Pontificate, the image was designated as the national Patroness of the Republic of Haiti and Almoradi, Spain. In addition, Pope John Paul II issued a canonical coronation for a similar image in Jaworzno, Poland in June, 1999.