A Day of Thanksgiving
June 27 is a special day during which we can especially celebrate a great source of consolation for so many. The annual feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help enables us to reflect on our veneration of our beloved icon.
On this feast day, let us express our gratitude to her. Sometimes we can forget to follow Mary’s example of praising God for the many blessings we have been given. Whenever we receive a blessing from Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we should be quick to give sincere thanks to her.
Years ago, a holy woman religious told me to pray for things by giving thanks to God before we receive a favor. She called it “reverse thanksgiving.” I have found this to be a helpful practice in my life, because we can get in the habit of asking but forgetting to be thankful.
Giving thanks is a good way to help us remember to examine our lives. We are often encouraged to do this when we go on retreat. When we spend time reflecting on our life, we often remember many situations in which we received countless blessings.
We can better remember our blessings when we pray silently with Our Mother of Perpetual Help by simply gazing at the icon. One of the main teachings of the icon is that the look of Mary in the icon is one of pondering. We know that she kept—treasured, remembered—all things in her heart.
The practice of engaging in the prayer of silent gazing before the icon leads us deeper into the presence of the holy. This method of silent gazing is an excellent way to pray to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The method may be new to some of you. To assist people in practicing the prayer of gazing, I have written a pamphlet on how to pray the icon called Under the Gaze of Mary: 30 days of Prayer (see how to order at left).
In our celebration of her feast, I suggest we resolve to pray the icon in a space of silence. Let all concerns and petitions fade into the background during our devotion. Mary already knows your anxieties. Resting in the silence of the icon will open your heart to wonders of the miraculous energy of the icon. In our silence, we should thank Mary for the many ways she helps us. This gratitude will open us even more to God’s blessings.
What do our eyes behold when we gaze upon the image in the icon? We encounter her tender gaze toward us. We are drawn into the Child she holds in her arms. In her concern for us, she presents the redeeming love of Jesus for us to embrace.
Mary is ever ready to help us. As we pray the icon, we are drawn into the mystery of God through the elements that our eyes behold. The icon is a mirror into which we see ourselves before this great mystery of Jesus.