In Louisiana, American TFP friends and volunteers enjoy a constant schedule of visiting speakers and regional activities. Increasingly popular in the past few years are the pilgrimages to the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans and other locations of our forgotten Catholic heritage. The February 10th pilgrimage gathered together over 80 people from the region.
During the November, December and February pilgrimages, families from as far away as three hours from New Orleans converge in convoys on Chalmette battlefield. Here they watch a 30-minute movie, The Battle of New Orleans and tour the battle museum. This battle was one of the miracles of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. A picnic lunch under Louisiana giant oak trees, alongside the Mississippi River, follows the grim reflections on the harsh realities of war and God’s unending mercy. While adults enjoy their conversations, the children relish their imaginary roles of soldiers, generals or doctors.
Driving through Old New Orleans, the pilgrims pass the monument of St. Joan of Arc in the French Market, followed by the sight of the Cathedral of St. Louis the Crusader-King. A slow drive down the mansion-lined St. Charles Avenue brings them past the Academy of the Sacred Heart – where a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stretches out His hands to the passersby – established by St. Phillipine Duchesnes. Soon after, they arrive at the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor is patroness of Louisiana and New Orleans. The large number of miracles under this invocation is sure proof of the prompt willingness of Our Heavenly Mother to lovingly help all her spiritual children. The statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor came to New Orleans with an Ursuline nun who was escaping the French Revolution. Many Americans do not realize that during the French Revolution, in the name of “Liberté,” Catholic nuns were sentenced to die at the guillotine for refusing to “free themselves of their vows”. As one victim of the guillotine said: “Oh, Liberty! How many crimes committed in your name!” Even today, “freedom of choice” continues to have in abortion a deadly meaning.
Soon after Our Lady of Prompt Succor arrived to New Orleans, miracles began to happen. In the War of 1812, the British troops – recently victorious over Napoleon – invaded the fledgling United States. General Andrew Jackson asked the Ursuline Nuns to pray for a victory, since his mixed-bag militia of 2,000 men was no match for the 8,000 battled-hardened professionals marching on New Orleans. In the early hours of January 8th, 1815, a bloody battle took place that saved New Orleans and America: only six Americans died, while over 2,000 British casualties covered the battlefield. The British Navy picked up the shaken remnants of one of the toughest armies on earth, and there was peace.
Every year since, a solemn Te Deum Mass is celebrated on January 8th in thanksgiving for the victory that saved New Orleans from the danger of destruction, harm to its women, and British anti-Catholic laws. Celebrated annually by the Archbishop of New Orleans before Our Lady of Prompt Succor, this is perhaps the only votive Mass of its kind in America.
Before praying for all the intentions brought to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the pilgrims hear Sr. Angela recount the history and miracles of Our Lady. After the Rosary follows an explanation of the Shrine’s collection of First Class relics, then a tour of the Ursuline Sisters’ Museum.
New Orleans has been favored by Divine Providence with many saints. The pilgrims conclude the day’s pilgrimage by visiting the orphanage built by Mother Cabrini on Esplanade Avenue. In this imposing turn-of-the-century mansion is St. Francis Xavier Cabrini’s furnished bedroom with many articles that belonged to her. Even the checkbook used by the first American-citizen saint is on her desk. The chapel, the courtyard overlooked by the orphaned girls’ classrooms, the heavy hallway doors, all convey another world quality of peace and serenity. Indeed, a saint lived here.
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