In this age of immediate gratification, our phones are updated, information is received, and goods and services are delivered, quickly, if not instantly. In the blink of an eye, our physical needs are met. We forget, however, that God can meet our spiritual and physical needs quickly – in an instant, if he wishes to. He often does so through the prayers and intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Today, January 8, we honor Mary under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, or “Quick Help,” and, as we remember instances of her speedy and miraculous intercession, we are reminded to call on her in our times of need.
The title dates back to 1727, when a devotion to “Notre Dame de Prompt Secours” spread among the Ursuline Sisters and the people of New Orleans, who invoked her for protection and assistance. In 1812, facing a horrific fire which was consuming the city of New Orleans, the Ursuline nuns, in a desperate act of faith, placed a small, gold statue of Our Lady in the window of their convent facing the fire and pleaded, “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us or we are lost!” Suddenly, the wind changed direction and the convent was miraculously saved.
Three years later, during the Battle of New Orleans, in which the Americans were greatly outnumbered by the British, these same nuns stormed heaven for a victory. They received word during Mass on the morning of January 8, 1815, that the American troops, under the leadership of General Andrew Jackson, had managed an astounding defeat over the British. Once again, the quick answer to prayer was credited to the Blessed Virgin, under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. To thank Our Lady, the nuns promised to celebrate a Mass on the anniversary of the victory, January 8, a tradition which continues today.
Because of the miraculous intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, she has been declared the patroness of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. The crowning of the miraculous statue was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1874. Pilgrims visit the exquisite statue today in New Orleans at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on State Street.
These stories of long ago can serve to inspire and encourage us to seek the powerful and speedy help of Mary in all of our needs and petitions. She is still the same vigilant mother interceding for her children with Jesus and obtaining timely answers to our prayers, if only we call out to her in faith and trust as the Ursuline nuns did years ago. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, she is still today invoked as “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” As she assented to her role in God’s Plan at the Annunciation and faithfully fulfilled her purpose standing by the Cross, she continues her mission today. “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 969)
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us!