“Every one of us has a Prompt Succour story!” So began a sermon on the Feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succour, commemorating 203 years since she saved America at the Battle of New Orleans. The National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succour in uptown New Orleans hosted the yearly anniversary Mass in thanksgiving the afternoon of January 8, 2018. Franciscan Fr. Albert Haase spoke in the presence of Archbishop Gregory Aymond and other bishops, priests, the Ursuline sisters and a full congregation.
Father Haase related his own Prompt Succour story from his time as a missionary in China. It was Christmas 1994 and he was visiting the village of Donglu. Fr. Hasse, far from his home, was suffering from depression. He assisted at the morning Mass in the church of this mostly Catholic village. The pastor of the parish invited him to the rectory for breakfast afterward. The conversation began with the Chinese pastor asking where his visitor was from. Father Haase simply replied, “New Orleans, in America.” The hosting priest gave a look of surprise, then rushed to retrieve something. He pulled out a worn prayer card with Our Lady of Prompt Succour prominently displayed. Father Haase was shocked to see this Louisiana devotion all the way in central China. He asked the pastor, “Do you know the title of Our Lady in this picture?” The pastor immediately replied with the name in Chinese: “Our Lady of the Quick Help.”
Years before while still a seminarian, this Chinese priest had met a priest from Louisiana who gave him prayer cards of Our Lady of Prompt Succour. Since the communist takeover of China, the Catholics had been the targets of persecution. In 1966, the Cultural Revolution began, which was especially brutal toward faithful Catholics. This priest was arrested with his bishop during what he called “the terror.” They were forced to clean the streets for long hours every day over a period of ten years. The communists even tried to force his bishop to take a wife. When the bishop would not comply, he disappeared.
At the end of each day of harassment and hard labour, the priest would take out the prayer card and beg Our Lady for the grace to hold out for just one more day. Our Lady heard his prayer, and she came with the quick help he needed to persevere and remain faithful.
Father Haase listened with rapt attention. As he gazed at the old prayer card of Our Lady of Prompt Succour, the depression he had been suffering for some time totally vanished. Concluding his story at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succour in New Orleans so many years later, he proclaimed, “Our Lady of Prompt Succour made it the best Christmas ever.”
Our Lady is still granting quick help to her advocates, even in central China in the most dire of circumstances. As the faithful Catholic Chinese continue to face persecution and betrayal, may Our Lady of Prompt Succour hasten to grant the grace of perseverance.
(Since this article was written, the Vatican has concluded an ill-conceived agreement with communist China which affords the Chinese government the capacity to appoint Catholic Bishops and intervene in Church affairs. The terms of the agreement remain secret. Meanwhile the persecution of Catholics, as well as other Christians, and the ongoing demolition of Churches is a horrendous indictment of this agreement. Renowned Hong Kong Cardinal Zen is scathing about the Vatican’s naiveté and misplaced trust in the Communist Party of China, whose policy of “Sinicization” and synthesising socialism with religion, is laying waste to Chinese Catholicism)
By Ben Broussard