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THE NEW ST. JOSEPH'S CHURCH
St. Joseph's Church, 1846
Shortly after his arrival at Rochester Father Bayer began preparations to build the new St. Joseph's Church on Franklin Street; but the trouble created by the dissidents delayed the work, so that it was not until August 15, 1843, that the corner-stone was laid by the Rev. Father Alexander, Superior of the Redemptorists in the United States, who also delivered the German sermon, Father O'Reilly preaching in English. Owing to the diminished congregation and the poverty of the people, the construction proceeded slowly; but finally, on July 26, 1846, the church was dedicated by the Rev. Father Czackert, Father Alexander's successor. The preacher on the occasion was the Rev. John B. Hespelein, C. SS. R. At the time of the dedication only the exterior was finished. It is built of Lockport stone, measures one hundred and twenty-five by sixty-five feet, with two side chapels, forty by twenty feet, and cost $32,000.00.
Father Alexander, who became pastor on Jan. 30, 1849, decorated and furnished the interior of the church. He also enlarged it by removing the rear wall of the central nave and building the present spacious sanctuary. He took down the walls that separated the side chapels from the body of the church, added sanctuaries to these chapels, and built galleries on three sides of the church, thus bringing the seating capacity up to about 1000.
"ONE HEART AND ONE SOUL"
With the flight of years the hard feeling between St. Joseph's and St. Peter's Parishes softened; and on Easter Tuesday, April 18, 1854, a banquet was held in St. Joseph's Hall in token of the complete reconciliation between the two parishes. The five Catholic German men's societies of Rochester sat down to table with representatives of the four societies of Buffalo as witnesses of the entente cordiale. Under the unifying force of the same faith, race and language, and under the mighty spell of Christian charity, the two parishes, formerly estranged, became again "one heart and one soul." (13) The spirit of harmony, cooperation and solidarity was in the air; and it is interesting to note that on this happy occasion, when the men from Buffalo met the men from Rochester, the first fruitful suggestion was made to form the great Central Verein. However, it was not until 1855 that this militant Catholic body of men was formally organized in St. Alphonsus' Hall, Baltimore.
THE MARCH OF PROGRESS
As originally constructed the church was devoid of a tower, lack of funds preventing its erection; but when in April, 1857, a mortgage of $7000.00 was liquidated, the way was clear and the following July work was begun. When the church was built, the front was carried up to a height of seventy-five feet, and a base for the tower was laid. This structure was of wood, ninety-eight feet high, and painted in imitation of Lockport stone, in order to conform in appearance to the church proper. Thus the extreme height of the tower from the ground was one hundred and seventy-three feet; and in view of the fact that the edifice itself stood on high ground, the addition of the tower gave it an imposing and commanding appearance.
The official records of St. Joseph's for 1858 say:
"In 1854 there were four hundred vacant seats in the church; to-day they are all rented and two hundred more are needed, so great is the number of applicants for sittings."
This need was later supplied by installing additional pews in the side chapels and in the gallery of the church.
From the standpoint of population the parish reached its zenith in 1865, when it numbered 6327 souls; 4332 within the city limits and 1995 beyond. At that time seven priests were attached to the church, whereas in 1855 there were only four.
In 1868 an episcopal see was created at Rochester, with the Most Rev. Bernard McQuaid, former President of Seton Hall College, New Jersey, as the first Bishop. At that time there were in the new diocese thirty-nine priests, of whom nearly one-fifth were Redemptorists. On the very day the Bishop took possession of his see, July 16, immediately after his installation at St. Patrick's Church, his cathedral, he went in solemn procession to St. Joseph's, where he addressed a large crowd of parishioners, assuring them that he would prove himself Bishop of his whole flock regardless of nationality. On August 2 following he celebrated his first Solemn Pontifical Mass in St. Joseph's, and preached an eloquent sermon on St. Alphonsus de' Liguori, the illustrious Founder of the Redemptorists, whose feast occurs on that day. On Christmas morning, 1868, after presiding at midnight Mass in Our Lady of Victory's, the French church, the prelate pontificated in St. Joseph's at four o'clock.
In 1878, on the occasion of episcopal visitation of the church, His Lordship left on record the following testimonial:
"On the feast of Whit-Monday the formal visitation of St. Joseph's, Rochester, was held by the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Rochester, who takes this occasion to record his very great satisfaction with everything connected with the church and with divine worship, and to say that the spiritual affairs of the parish give promise of future care and preservation of the souls belonging to it, as in the past they have given great comfort and consolation to the Bishop. With God's best blessing invoked on Priests and Congregation, the Bishop subscribes this testimony, this tenth day of June, 1878.
+ Bernard, Bishop of Rochester."
Almost every year some new beauty was added to the church, the House of God and the Gate of Heaven, the crowning beauty being the erection of the new stone tower in 1909. On the occasion of the silver jubilee of priesthood of the Rev. William Kessel, Rector of St. Joseph's, September 22, 1908, a check for $12,000.00, the ""Tower Fund," was presented to him by the parishioners; and on June 2, 1909, work was begun. About five months later the tower was finished. It is one hundred and seventy-six feet six inches high and is surmounted by a copper-gilt cross seven feet high. With the completion of the tower, the church became a sermon in stone, the theme of which is "Te, Joseph, celebrent agmina Caelitum." "May the Heavenly Hosts acclaim thee, Joseph,"
"CHOSEN OUT OF THOUSANDS" (14)
One of the most beautiful passages in the Holy Gospel is that which describes the call of the Apostles by the lakeside. The morning light had broken bright and clear over the shifting and shimmering waters of the Lake of Genesareth, when Our Divine Lord, like a vision of glory, appeared on the glistening shore and called His Apostles to the sublime task of following in His footsteps; and in the simple words of the Evangelist St. Luke, "leaving all things, they followed him." (15) In substance and in main outline that touching scene has been repeated more than a hundred times over in the lives of the sons and the daughters of St. Joseph's. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit these chosen souls clearly saw that all that this world can give its votaries: wealth, honors, fame, glory and power, when viewed in the light of Faith and weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, is only tawdry tinsel, gilded nothingness and the baseless fabric of a dream. With the seraphic St. Francis of Assisi, they cried out "My God and my All;" and leaving all things they followed Him who alone can satisfy all the cravings and aspirations of the human heart.
The roll of honor comprises thirty-seven priests: seven diocesan, one Jesuit, one Marist, two Passionists and twenty-six Redemptorists; seventeen Brothers: three of the Congregation of the Holy Cross; four of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and ten Brothers of Mary; one hundred and twenty-one Sisters: one Franciscan, one Little Sister of the Poor, one Sister of Mercy; one Visitandine, two Sisters of the Sacred Heart; two of Charity, two of Notre Dame de Namur; three of the Good Shepherd; nine of St. Joseph, and ninety-nine School Sisters of Notre Dame.
The dean of the priests is the Rev. Edward M. Weigel, C. SS. R., well known to all the old parishioners, eighty-five years old, sixty-one years ordained and still active.
A great many of these priests and religious have gone into eternity, and let us trust that they enjoy forever the Beatific Vision; those that still survive are doing God's work nobly in their appointed spheres, and may Our Blessed Mother of Perpetual Help guide their steps by day and hallow their dreams by night!
STRONG FAITH AMID FAILING NUMBERS
Although in recent years the number of souls in the parish has dwindled to about one fourth of what it was when St. Joseph's was in its glorious prime, still the light of that "faith once delivered to the Saints" (16) burns brightly in the souls of those who remain. This was abundantly proved at the time of the last mission, May 18-June 1, 1930. There were then only about 1840 souls in the parish, yet the number of confessions was 1661. Assuming that during the mission the confessions of people of the parish only were heard, which is the general rule, the percentage of those who made the mission was slightly over ninety, which is an unusually high figure, and suggests the large crowd that turned out at Jericho in the olden days, when they heard that "Jesus of Nazareth was passing by." (17)
As regards the dwindling population of the parish, let us ask: "Is there any parish in the country, a hundred years old, whose numerical strength has not greatly declined in the last twenty-five or even ten years?" Go through our big cities, and you will find, almost on all sides, that parishes which twenty-five years ago had a very large population, have now only a slender number. Yet many of these churches are still frequented by great crowds of the faithful from far and near. No matter how small the number of parishioners may be, if a church is conveniently located and has zealous priests ready to sacrifice themselves night and day for the salvation of souls, its fame will go out as "on the wings of the winds;" (18) and hundreds, perhaps thousands, will flock to it, even as the multitudes followed Jesus "from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan." (19) They will come to the midday Mass during Lent, as we see them doing at St. Joseph's. They will throng around the confessionals, as they have done here for years, to lay at the feet of the priest their burden of sin and sorrow and to hear the blessed words of absolution. With a haste born of love, they will approach the altar rail, breathing the beautiful prayer: "O Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." They will listen with rapt attention while the Ambassador of Christ delivers the message of salvation, as did his Divine Master in the immortal Sermon on the Mount.
In view of the ceaseless expansion of industry and the constant changes in economic conditions, it is to be expected that whole sections of our cities, once entirely residential, should eventually be given over to business and commerce, so that people will be forced to move to other localities; but as long as they are not thereby lost to the Church, there is no cause for general regret. On the contrary there may be cause for rejoicing, because if they settle down in new parishes, they will bring with them the spirit of strong faith and deep piety which they acquired in the grand old churches that in former days were like beacon-lights pointing out the way to the eternal kingdom of Him who is the "Ancient of Days," (20) and the "Desire of the Everlasting Hills." (21)
What of the future of St. Joseph's Church? God granting, it will continue to be to the faithful of Rochester, what it has been in the past, "a pillar of the cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night," (22) guiding them safely through their weary wanderings in the desert of this life, until at last, all dangers past, they enter the Promised Land, where their joy no man shall take from them.
On this historic occasion the Fathers of St. Joseph's are happy to give public testimony of their profound respect and lofty admiration for their illustrious Ordinary, His Most Reverend Excellency, Archbishop-Bishop Mooney; and to assure him that it shall be their constant aim heartily to second all his efforts for the good of the whole diocese. They are deeply grateful to him for the courtesy and kindness shown to them in the past, and to-day it is to them a pleasure and a privilege to reaffirm their whole-souled loyalty to the distinguished prelate who guides the destinies of the Diocese of Rochester.
St. Joseph's School
With the Redemptorists parochial schools have always been "the whole law and the prophets," (Matt. XXII, 40) especially in countries like ours where our ho1y Religion is not taught in the public schools.
In the life of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, the Illustrious Propagator and Second Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, we read that when he and the Rev. Thaddeus Huebl began their labors in Warsaw, Poland, in February, 1787, their first work was to establish a free school for German children. (23)
As the pioneer Redemptorists in this country inherited the spirit of this Saint, with them the founding of parochial schools was a matter of paramount importance. In several places, especially in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they established the school even before they built the church, because under the circumstances they considered it even more important, and because they knew that when parents see their children provided with a Catholic school, they will, as a rule, more willingly contribute to the erection of a church. Almost on the day of his arrival in Rochester, Father Frost gave thought to the school question. In his Relations he says:
"I visited the church which the Germans had bought and fitted up for services. … The building was small, but large enough for the congregation at the time. … There was a good basement. This I had turned into living rooms for myself and a school room."
In the fall of 1836 he opened the first parochial school in Rochester, taught by Louis Kenning, a postulant lay brother. In 1838 it had fifty pupils. On September 30, 1839, a Miss Donald took charge, remaining until 1841, when she was succeeded by the Redemptorist Brother Aloysius Schuh, who served until the end of 1844. When the new church was opened, in 1846, the old one was devoted entirely to school purposes; and the number of pupils then rose to one hundred and fifty. In 1848, when the building on Ely Street was conveyed to the Most Rev. Bishop Timon, to be used as a church for the French Catholics, St. Joseph's School was transferred to the basement of the church on Franklin Street, where Father Alexander fitted up two large rooms beneath the sanctuary and the sacristy. At that time there were two hundred and twenty pupils, still taught by lay teachers, because it was not yet possible to procure the services of religious of teaching Orders.
In 1851 Father Alexander bought two triangular lots adjoining the church property, on which he erected a three-story-and-basement building, two floors of which were used as a school, the top floor serving as a parish hall. The construction was finished in the summer of 1852, and at the beginning of the school term there were two hundred and seventy-eight pupils on the register.
On October 15, 1854, the School Sisters of Notre Dame took charge of the girls' department, but two laymen continued to conduct the boys'. In both departments there were then four hundred and sixty-one children. In 1859 St. Joseph's became by far the largest of the four parochial schools in the city, with seven hundred and fifty pupils: three hundred boys and four hundred and fifty girls.
In August, 1861, the Brothers of Mary from Dayton, Ohio, assumed charge of the boys' school; and the next year eight hundred and forty children were enrolled in both departments. The result was that a separate school was built for the boys and opened on November 17, 1862. In 1866 there were 1058 pupils in the five classes of boys and the four of girls. This was the highest number ever reached.
In the course of years, when new German parishes were formed in Rochester, the number of pupils in St. Joseph's naturally declined, so that in 1881 there were only five hundred and ninety-six. In 1889 the boys' school was torn down, their classrooms having been transferred to the girls' school; and on the site of the former building the present St. Joseph's School and Hall was erected.
This building, which cost $46,650.00 was solemnly blessed by Bishop McQuaid on April 7, 1890. It is a brick structure, two stories high with a large and commodious basement, and contains eight classrooms, all on the main floor. In September of that year the registration was four hundred and thirty. Nine years later, 1899, it dropped to three hundred and twenty-nine: one hundred and sixty-six boys and one hundred and sixty-three girls. At that time the School Sisters of Notre Dame succeeded the Marian Brothers in charge of the boys' department.
In September, 1904, the Rev. William Kessel, Rector, established the Commercial Class, two rooms on the top floor of the former girls' school building being devoted to the purpose. This institution began with nineteen pupils and the course included Bookkeeping, Stenography, Typewriting, Commercial Law, English, Composition, Spelling and Penmanship. The tuition fee is fifty dollars annually. Year by year the number of graduates of the Commercial Class increased until, in 1930, it reached the high mark of ninety-nine. In 1935 a second year was added to the course. Up to date the total number of graduates has been 1746. The business men of the city have a high regard for the standard of scholarship in the Commercial Department, and before the unemployment situation arose, most of the pupils secured positions even before their graduation.
In 1919 the class average of the graduates of the Grammar School in the Regents' Examination was ninety-three percent. In 1929, when there were twenty-five graduates, seventeen received over ninety percent in this examination, and the first four won scholarships. In 1931 a boy and a girl won a prize donated by the Most Rev. Bishop O'Hern in an essay contest, and most of the boy graduates were placed on the roll of honor in the Aquinas High School. Although the Grammar School now numbers only about two hundred pupils, the high standard of education is still maintained, with the strongest emphasis, of course, on solid religious training.
It is a pleasure and a duty to render unstinted thanks and praise to the Sisters of Notre Dame, who for the past eighty-two years have conducted the school with such outstanding ability and unswerving fidelity. Without doubt, to them is due in no small measure the strong spirit of faith which characterizes the people of the parish, and we feel confident that all their pupils who are still living, join with us to-day in paying them this just need of appreciation. In their regard the beautiful and consoling words of the Prophet Daniel find fitting application:
"But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that instruct many to justice, as stars to all eternity." (24)
ST. JOSEPH'S ORPHAN ASYLUM
Side by side with parochial schools, the Redemptorists have always ranked Catholic orphan asylums as a necessary safeguard of the faith and morals of unfortunate children bereaved of their parents. Again we read as follows in the life of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer:
"A number of neglected children received and cared for in the house, formed the nucleus of a small orphan asylum located next to the school for the poor. Hofbauer named this institution the 'Child Jesus Asylum,' the usual name given to institutions of this kind in those days. Some of these children had been wofully neglected and when picked up from the streets, were grimy, unkempt, and covered with vermin. Hofbauer did not hesitate to wash, comb, and cleanse these little waifs with his own hands,—'not an easy task,' as he would add with a smile, when relating these events in after years." (25)
Taught by so great a master the Fathers in this country in the early days founded orphan asylums in the following eight cities: New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit. Some of these institutions came into being as the direct result of the cholera epidemics in the middle of the last century, which left so many children orphans.
In 1861 the people of St. Joseph's took the first step toward establishing an asylum by organizing an Orphan Society, whose members contributed ten cents a month. On February 2, 1862, a meeting of the men of the parish was held by order of Bishop Timon, with a view to building a general orphan asylum for the children of Rochester and its environs. Hitherto the girls found shelter in St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum; while the boys were sent either to a home at Lancaster, or to Lime Stone Hill, near Buffalo. All these children were maintained and supported by the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society of Rochester, which provided for St. Patrick's Orphan Asylum. However, the German Catholics, preferring to have an asylum of their own, did not fully second the Bishop's project.
On April 23, 1863, the "St. Joseph's German Catholic Orphan Asylum Society of Rochester and Monroe County, "was incorporated by a special act of the State legislature. The church advanced a loan of $7000.00 to this Society for the purchase of a piece of property known as the "Orphans' Farm," on which to build an asylum for the German children. By means of a Fair held in January, 1865, the Society was enabled to pay off $3200.00 on this loan. In September of that year they began preparations for another Fair to be held during the Christmas holidays, not realizing at the time that they were violating a statute of the diocese, enacted in 1862, which prohibited the holding of fairs, picnics, excursions and similar social affairs for the benefit of any church, asylum, or any other charitable purpose, without the previous permission of the Bishop, who was also to determine the time. His Lordship forbade the fair that had been planned, but granted permission for one to be held toward the end of April, 1866, "for the erection of a new church on the site called the "Orphans' Farm."
As the result of this decision the Society abandoned the idea of building an asylum on the ground originally acquired for this purpose; and after the new Church of the Most Holy Redeemer was erected there, they auctioned off in lots the remaining land, and decided to build the asylum on Andrews Street, back of St. Joseph's Church, on the site bought in 1863 for a new Sisters' convent by the Rev. Lawrence Holzer, Rector. On June 25, 1866, a building was begun, which should serve alike for this purpose and as a home for the orphans of the parish. On January 12, 1867, it was blessed and at once occupied by the Sisters and the orphans, five girls.
When this building proved inadequate, the Redemptorists, who were joint owners of the land with the parish, gave the Society, with the permission of Bishop McQuaid, a ninety-nine year lease of the property under certain conditions; and on June 17, 1874, a new brick structure was begun. In 1876, when the asylum was in financial straits, the Rev. Thaddeus Anwander, Rector, took up a house-to-house collection which amounted to $1500.00. In 1882 the building was enlarged by the addition of an east wing, and in 1897 by a west wing. The appointments of the asylum are complete, and even the casual visitor is at once struck by the immaculate cleanliness of the house, which reflects the careful training given to the orphans.
The asylum now receives Catholic children of any nationality. The total number of orphans who have found a home there since its establishment is nine hundred and eighty-five; the present number is seventy-eight: fifty-five boys and twenty-three girls. It is supported by the monthly dues of the members of the Society, twenty-five cents; by the contributions of its patrons and friends, and by the allowances which the city pays for the orphans whom it commits. The Rector of St. Joseph's is ex-officio a member of the Board of Directors. On its intellectual side the asylum is conducted with that thoroughness and efficiency for which the School Sisters of Notre Dame are so well known. In 1931 a former orphan boy led his class at Aquinas High School.
It is altogether fitting and proper to voice here our sincere thanks to those devoted religious who for the past seventy years have labored so unselfishly for the orphans. These loyal Sisters have done a work most dear to the Heart of Our Divine Saviour, and on the Day of Judgment they will hear from His own lips these blessed words: "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me." (26)
THE MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
For the past seventy years one of the principal aims of the Redemptorists the world over has been to propagate devotion to the ever Blessed Mother of God under the title of "Mother of Perpetual Help." This devotion is externalized by a miraculous picture, which was solemnly restored to public veneration, April 26, 1866, in St. Alphonsus' Church, Rome, the mother church of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
This wonderful image was executed probably in the fourteenth century on the Island of Crete by Andrea Rico, a Greek artist. About 1497 it was stolen by a certain merchant who a year later brought it to Rome. When he was dying he asked the friend who had cared for him in his illness, to confide the picture to some church after his death, but this man's wife obstinately refused to part with it; and after despising three admonitions of Our Blessed Lady to fulfil his obligation, he was suddenly stricken with disease and died. Finally the Holy Virgin appeared to the perverse woman's little daughter, and calling herself "Holy Mary of Perpetual Help, " bade her tell her mother to give the picture to St. Matthew's Church, situated between St. Mary Major's and St. John Lateran's. At last she heeded the warning, and sent for the Augustinian Friars who had charge of St. Matthew's. There on March 27, 1499, the renowned image was solemnly enthroned. During the next three centuries pilgrims came from all parts of Rome and the vicinity to pay homage to it, and through its instrumentality so many favors were granted and so many prodigies wrought that it was called the "very miraculous image."
Sad to say, on June 3, 1798, when the French army invaded Rome, St. Matthew's Church was destroyed; and the Augustinian monks brought the picture first to the monastery of St. Eusebius; then, in 1819, to that of Santa Maria in Posterula, where it remained in their private chapel, buried in complete obscurity, its marvelous history utterly forgotten. However, on December 11, 1865, Pope Pius IX ordered it to be transferred to the Redemptorist Church in Rome, which was built in 1854-1855 between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran, and therefore in the very place where the Mother of Perpetual herself had said that she wished to be honored.
This famous picture is about twenty-one by sixteen inches and a half on a golden background of some species of nutwood, and is painted in water colors. The Blessed Mother is represented in a standing posture in half figure, holding on her left arm the Divine Child. Her complexion is dark, her face oval-shaped; her eyes are deep blue, with finely arched eyebrows; her nose is delicate, her mouth small and her fingers are long and slender-in one word she is the ideal type of Oriental beauty. Her countenance expresses royal majesty and profound sorrow, the latter impression being created by her half-closed eyes suggestive of falling tears. She is clothed in a red tunic decorated with simple ornaments at the neck and the wrists. The coiffure holding in her hair has a somewhat greenish tint, to which a few lines of ceruse are added. Her mantle is bluish purple, or hyacinthine, with green lining, and is doubled at the shoulders. In order to convey the idea of plaits or folds, it is streaked with lines of gold at the borders and in other places. The same is true of the mantle of Jesus. A golden star with rays shines out on Our Lady's forehead, and an artistically elaborated aureole or nimbus surrounds her head, which is slightly bent forward and inclined a little to the right toward her Son.
The Holy Child is represented with brown hair and His features reveal the winsome graces of tender years. He is clad in a green tunic with long flowing sleeves, which is encircled at the waist by a red sash, and is partly covered by a large dark-brown cloak. His garments, like those of His Holy Mother, are ornamented with gold. By deft strokes the artist has depicted the natural folds in the Infant's cloak. The Sign of the Cross may be seen in the nimbus round His Head, which is turned toward the left, as He attentively considers an object which we shall presently describe. His Body is so artfully bent toward His Mother's that the two appear as if blended in the outlines of one figure. His two hands are joined in His Mother's right hand, while His legs are crossed. The sandal on His right foot has become loosened and is suspended by a single strap.
On each side, above the figures of Jesus and Mary, is an angel. On the left the Archangel Gabriel in an attitude of adoration, with hands reverently veiled in his cloak, presents the Cross and the nails of the Passion. On the right the Archangel Michael offers in the same manner the cup of gall, behind which branch out the lance and the spear surmounted by a sponge. Toward the top of the picture appear certain Greek letters, abbreviations of the words "Mother of God." Near the halo of the Divine Infant one reads, also in Greek, the first and the last letters of the sacred name "Jesus Christ." Over the angel on the right, one beholds the contracted form of the name "Archangel Michael;" over the angel on the left, the short form for the name "Archangel Gabriel." The latter wears a tunic, a mantle and a veil of red. St. Michael's tunic also is red, but his mantle and veil are green. The wings of both archangels are green streaked with gold.
Like all truly religious works of art, the picture of the Mother of Perpetual Help conveys to the devout observer a lesson of deep meaning. The key to the entire artistic conception is found in the singular attitude of the Divine Child. From the very beginning of His human existence, Our Lord was always tormented by the thought of the bitter Passion that awaited Him. "My sorrow is ever before me." (27) His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where His soul was sorrowful even unto death, was only one manifestation of the anguish that constantly afflicted Him.
The artist wishes to represent the sorrowful scenes of Gethsemane as transpiring during the Infancy of Jesus. In Gethsemane Christ saw a most vivid portrayal of His approaching Passion, while an angel appeared to Him, encouraging Him to drink the bitter chalice of suffering even to the very last dregs. Likewise in our picture the Divine Infant Jesus is grievously afflicted on beholding the cruel instruments of the Passion presented to His gaze by the two archangels, who at the same time endeavor to comfort Him by their sympathetic and reverential demeanor. In Gethsemane Our Blessed Lord, overpowered by deadly fear and anguish that caused His Precious Blood to ooze from His pores and trickle down upon the ground, sought consolation from His Apostles. In our picture the Infant Saviour, terrified by the same appalling vision, takes refuge in the arms of His Blessed Mother; and as He contemplates the instruments of the Passion, He presses closely to her bosom, grasping her hand in both His tiny hands as if to implore her help. In the suddenness and rapidity of His movements, the right foot crosses under the left, and one of His sandals becomes loosened, but remains suspended by its strap. His Blessed Mother realizes the cause of this sudden outburst of fear, because the prophecy of Holy Simeon in the Temple has unveiled to her eyes the terrible Passion that her Son must endure. And so she clasps Him to her bosom and with tender compassion bends over Him as if to protect Him. However, her gaze is centered not on her Child, as we might expect, but on the beholder, that is on us, whose Mother she became at the foot of the Cross. Thus are verified the words of the "Hail, Holy Queen," "turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us." She is even more concerned about the needs of us poor sinners than about the sufferings of her Son. This is in accordance with what St. Anselm and St. Antoninus teach, namely, that the love of the Blessed Mother for us is so great that if executioners had been wanting, she herself would have crucified her Son in obedience to the will of Our Heavenly Father, who had decreed that He should die for our salvation. (28)
The image portrays the Blessed Virgin in her twofold capacity, as Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the redeemed. On the one hand her exalted dignity as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and earth, is signified by her Child, whom she presses to her bosom, and by her rich garments, the halo round her head, and the gorgeous background of gold. On the other hand, the instruments of the Passion, and the sorrow and compassion depicted on her countenance, proclaim her as the Co-Redemptrix of mankind, sharing in the sufferings of her Son for us, always abounding in maternal solicitude for our salvation, and therefore truly the Mother of Perpetual Help.
In July, 1873, a copy touched to the original in St. Alphonsus' Church, Rome, was exposed for the veneration of the faithful in St. Joseph's. Its setting was naturally the chapel of our Biessed Lady, which was suitably decorated for its reception. From the very beginning the faithful showed true devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help by making frequent visits to her sacred image and by giving many offerings for Masses in her honor.
On June 22, 1879, the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and of St. Alphonsus was canonically erected in St. Joseph's. It was first organized in 1871 in St. Alphonsus' Church, Rome, as a confraternity for the purpose of promoting devotion to her under the patronage of St. Alphonsus, the Illustrious Founder of the Redemptorists and Doctor of the Church, who wrote a golden book in honor of the Mother of God, entitled "The Glories of Mary," which, translated into very many modern languages, is read and admired in practically every quarter of the globe. On March 31, 1876, Pope Pius IX raised this confraternity to the dignity of an archconfraternity, that is, he conferred on it the right to affiliate into one vast society all the confraternities in the whole world. When first introduced into St. Joseph's, it had about 1000 members, now it numbers about 29,500.
In June, 1927, the Wednesday afternoon devotions in honor of the Mother of Perpetual Help were begun in the church, with one exercise at 3:00 P. M. At present there are six exercises as follows: at 8:30 A. M., 12:15, 2:15, 4:00, 5:30 and 8:00 P. M. After each exercise the picture is presented to the people for veneration, and at five of the exercises a short sermon is preached and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament given. The combined average attendance is between 4500 and 5000, though at one exercise in 1933 as many as 1273 were present. There is a continuous novena of Wednesdays, and special novenas are conducted before the Feasts of the Immaculate Conception, of the Annunciation, of the Mother of Perpetual Help, and of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lady.
In return for the devotion shown to her in St. Joseph's, she has lavished blessings on the faithful. The Fathers have on record written testimony of thousands of favors said to have been received, both spiritual and temporal.
Since the picture of the Mother of Perpetual Help was first enthroned in St. Joseph's, sixty-three years have passed; yet the devotion to her is far more verdant and vigorous to-day than ever before. With the passing hours its roots are striking deeper and deeper into the hearts of the faithful, and its branches are spreading farther and wider, affording, "as a fair olive tree in the plains," (29) beneficent shelter and protection to ever increasing multitudes of the footsore, weary and oppressed. With aching and breaking hearts her devout clients kneel before her picture, and confide their woes and sorrows to her who has never been invoked in vain; and from her bright throne in Heaven she fills their souls with peace and joy until their year is one perpetual May. When storm clouds lower and darkness encircles them, when thunder rolls and lightning flashes, when their frail bark is the sport and prey of the blustering winds and tumultuous waves, when all seems hopeless and lost, her radiant smile pierces the thickest gloom, and the Mother of Perpetual Help stills the raging storm, as did her Divine Son in the olden days on the Lake of Genesareth. By the bright light that beams from her pure eyes, she leads her faithful children safely onward, past rocks and shoals and dangerous whirlpools, and conducts them at last into the calm and placid haven of life eternal, where the winds die away, the clouds break and vanish, and the Sun of Justice shines down gloriously on them forever and for aye.
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