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Dedicating Saturday in honour of Mary is an ancient custom. It is based on a legendary account that Jesus appeared to Mary on the Saturday, the day after his death. He did so to reward her for her steadfast faith in his divinity, a faith that did not waver under the Cross. The great theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries, Sts Bernard, Thomas and Bonaventure explained the dedication of Saturdays to pointing to the time of Christ's rest in the grave. Everyone else abandoned Christ; only Mary continued to believe. This was her day!
Praying at the Novena
When we pray the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we are not choosing to worship her over her Divine Son. She is "our mother on the order of grace", according the Vatican II document, and all the graces Mary gives us come directly from our Lord. She is always ready to intecede with Him on our behalf, but never for anything contrary to His wishes.
In the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary in asking for her assistance. The icon of the Blessed Mother with her Divine Son has been a source of inspiration for many faithful throughout the centuries. Note in this icon how Jesus, while safely cradled in his mother's arms, looks anxiously at St. Gabriel the Archangel, who holds the cross and nails for His Crucifixion. St. Michael the Archangel, at left, holds the lance, spear, and the vessel of vinegar and gall for our Lord's Passion. The Blessed Mother looks at us solemnly, perhaps as if in contemplation of her Son's future Passion and death for our salvation!
Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help
She is "our mother on the order of grace" Vatican II document
The Novena, which has its roots in the Latin word "novem" meaning nine, refers to a series of nine days of prayers and devotions. In the Church's tradition, the Holy Spirit descended on the Virgin Mary and Apostles after nine days of waiting and prayer. From this the Church too understood the faithful's need for such meaningful and human expressions of prayer. It is to receive graces and is centred on yearning, hopeful mourning and thanksgiving.
The Novena of prayers from which we have the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help follows closely in the tradition of turning to Saints and the Blessed Virgin with hopes of recovering from poor health. Here is where pledges, prayers of confidence and perseverance are made in the hope of drawing closer to God, in imitating the virtues of the Blessed Mother and Saints.