Devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title ‘Our Lady of Help’ or ‘Our Lady of Succor’, began at the start of the 14th Century in the Church of Saint Augustine in Palermo, Sicily. Fr. Nicola Bruno, theologian, preacher and prior of the friary there, having suffered continually from unbearable pains in his side, invoked the Blessed Virgin for relief as he prayed before her image in the church. That night the Virgin of that same image appeared to him announcing his healing. From this event the painting came to be known as ‘Our Lady of Help’ and devotion spread, not only locally, but throughout the Order, especially in Italy, Spain and Latin America. This memorial has been celebrated in the Order with its own liturgy since 1804.
The many titles by which Mary is invoked particularly as a helper of the Christian people – Our Lady of Help, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (also originally an Augustinian devotion) – reflect the faithful’s confidence in Mary, chosen by God as the special instrument through which the Savior, our Ultimate Help, would come into the world.