INVISIBLE TOUCH – Our Lady Of Sheshan — Mary, Help of Christian – Celebrated in Mainland China and Macau

Pedro Daniel Oliveira*

The veneration of Our Lady of Sheshan was held in Mainland China on May 24. It was also celebrated in the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Macau, under the title Mary, Help of Christians. O CLARIM remembers the Day of Prayer for the Church in China started in 2007 by the then Pope Benedict XVI, the role of Don Bosco spreading this Marian devotion worldwide and the miracle of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

During the weekly General Audience in Rome on Wednesday morning, May 23, Pope Francis wished the Catholics of China “fraternity, concord and reconciliation, in full communion with the Successor of Peter.” The Holy Father also invited the crowd to “be spiritually united to all the Catholic faithful living in China.”

“Let us pray for them the Virgin Mary, so that they may live the faith with generosity and serenity, and so that they know how to accomplish concrete gestures of fraternity, concord and reconciliation, in full communion with the Successor of Peter,” he said.

His remarks were made on the eve of the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, venerated in Sheshan Shrine, at the Basilica of Shanghai, in Mainland China. Since 2007, at the initiative of the then Pope Benedict XVI, May 24 marks the Day of Prayer for the Church in China with a letter addressed to the Chinese Catholics.

In his letter, he called them to join him in prayer to strengthen unity, to love and pray for the persecutors, and to receive the fraternal solidarity and solicitude of the churches of the whole world.

Moreover, he mentioned that Our Lady of Sheshan encourages the commitment of those in China, amidst their daily struggles, to seek, hope and love, and never fear to speak of Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus. Benedict XVI also asked the Virgin to help Chinese Catholics to always be trustworthy witnesses of this love, remaining united to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Over the years, Chinese authorities have kept a close eye on the Sheshan basilica in Shanghai, fearing many faithful can join the celebration on-site. The religious worship has spread to other parts of Mainland China, with prayers within the Catholic communities.

In Macau, the community of Our Lady of Fatima Parish celebrated the feast of Virgin Mary Help of Christians, with a Mass dedicated to the Catholic Church in China, at 7:10 AM.

In the same place in the evening, after an introduction on the Church in China, a special prayer was offered with three intentions for the unity of Christians in Mainland China, for the suffering of persecuted Chinese faithful and for the conversion of non-believers.

The celebration ended with the Blessed Sacrament in procession, followed by a moment of silence and adoration after it entered in the Church, with a prayer honoring Our Lady of Sheshan, patroness of the Diocese of Shanghai.

Speaking to O CLARIM, Our Lady of Fatima Parish Priest José Ángel Castellanos said the celebration of Virgin Mary Help of Christians is of great importance for Catholics in Macau, allowing them to “feel and be aware of prayer, especially for the Church in China, and for the universal Church.”

As for Our Lady of Sheshan, he pointed out “the Virgin’s maternal concern for all Chinese,” adding “she shows her concern for the salvation of all humans, and for peace in China and in the world.”

Salesian connection

The Catholic Church was experiencing many difficulties in the 19th century, at the time of Don Bosco, founder of the Salesian congregation, said former Yuet Wah College Supervisor Fr Francis Hung.

“Our founder propagated this devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians throughout the world [by establishing the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in 1872],” he said, adding that, in 1852 Don Bosco had a church built in Turin, Italy, dedicated to the Virgin Mary Help of Christians.

“In those difficult moments that the Church was going through, it was necessary for Our Lady to help safeguard the Christian faith, as it had happened in Lepanto, Vienna, Savona and Rome,” he stressed.

Battle of Lepanto (Box)

The belief in Our Lady became crucial on October 7, 1571. It was the day the battle of Lepanto which unfolded in the Sea of Greece. The Holy Alliance fleet, arranged by Pope Pius V and led by Admiral John of Austria, battled against the Muslim forces, who threatened to invade Europe and subdue it to the Ottoman Empire. After receiving the Holy Eucharist, the Christian soldiers set out to battle, invoking the name of Mary, Help of Christians. They emerged victorious after three hours, in a battle that became crucial to stem the Ottoman threat.

* with ZENIT