“Every one of us has a Prompt Succor story!” So began a sermon on the Feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, commemorating 203 years since she saved America at the Battle of New Orleans. The National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor 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 Succor 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 Succor 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 Succor. 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 labor, 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 Succor, the depression he had been suffering for some time totally vanished. Concluding his story at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans so many years later, he proclaimed, “Our Lady of Prompt Succor 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 Succor hasten to grant the grace of perseverance.