My friend Nicholas, a New Orleans native currently studying in Europe commented that Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the patroness and protectress of New Orleans. The national shrine of OL of Prompt Succor is in the Ursuline Convent and girls school.
Miracles have been obtained by Our Lady of Prompt Succor in the past, including the great New Orleans fire, and so we turn to Our Lady again to protect her chilren in the valley of tears.
Prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, you are after Jesus our only hope. O Most Holy Virgin, whose merits have raised you high above angel choirs to the very throne of the Eternal and whose foot crushed the head of the infernal serpent, you are strong against the enemies of our salvation. O Mother of God, you are our Mediatrix most kind and loving. Hasten, then, to our help, and as you did once save your beloved City from ravaging flames and our Country from an alien foe, do now have pity on our misery, and obtain for us the graces we beg of you. Deliver us from the wiles of Satan, assist us in the many trials which beset our path in this valley of tears, and be to us truly Our Lady of Prompt Succor now and especially at the hour of our death. Amen.
A little History on Our Lady of Prompt Succor:
That this statue should have a link to the Miraculous Medal is not surprising in that its history involves France and once again the horrible Revolution. The convent was founded in 1727 and had set about educating the children of European colonists as well as local slaves and Indians. They were the first nuns to arrive in what is now the United States and they founded the oldest school for girls in America. In 1800, when Louisiana was ceded back to France, the good Ursuline sisters were afraid that the horrors of the French Revolution would spread to America. The territory of Louisiana was bouncing between English, French, and American hands, and the nuns, knowing what had happened to their sister nuns in Europe, certainly didn't want to see the French take permanent control. The pope himself, Pius VII, would soon be under arrest in Rome, a captive of Napoleon.
Most of the nuns fled to Havana, Cuba, but seven of the Ursuline sisters remained, and when Louisiana passed into the control of the United States, they anxiously sent President Jefferson a letter asking if their property rights would be honored by the new government. The response from Jefferson is still kept at the convent. "I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institutions by the former governments of Louisiana," wrote the President. "The principles of the Constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority ... Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it."
It was a historic statement but it didn't quite end the Ursulines' worries. There were other problems. They were short staffed. The work was overwhelming. And things got nearly desperate when a mainstay of the community, Mother St. Xavier Farjon, died in 1810. That caused another nun, Sister St. Andre Madier, to appeal to a cousin of hers back in France. The cousin was named Mother St. Michel Gensoul. Sister Andre asked her to come to the U.S. and help the struggling Ursulines.
Mother St. Michel had escaped the deadly wrath of the French Revolution and had much work to do in her own land. France was a mess. Religious communities were under the duress of Napoleon. But Mother St. Michel also realized that the Ursulines in the United States might cease to exist without her help. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she went to Bishop Fournier of Montpelier and requested leave.
One can imagine the bishop's reaction. He needed Mother St. Michel where she was. He couldn't afford to lose another nun. So many had died during the revolution or fled. "The Pope alone can give this authorization," he told Mother St. Michel. "The Pope alone!"
That was tantamount to a refusal, for it was virtually impossible at that time to communicate with the Pope, who was under arrest. Not only was he in the distant city of Rome and not only was mail far less than what it is in our day, but Pius VII had been cut off from the world by Napoleon's men, who held him in custody as they waited to transport him to Fontainebleau. We don't need too much history here. We need only know that the Pope's jailers had received strict instructions not to allow communication. Thus, writing to him was at best a waste of time, an act of folly.
But that didn't stop Mother St Michel. She knew the Virgin Mary and she knew that if it was God's will, Our Blessed Mother could do anything. With that trust did Mother St. Michel pen a letter to the pontiff on December 15, 1808, setting forth the reason why she wanted to aid her sister nuns in America. "Most Holy Father," she wrote, "I appeal to your apostolic tribunal. I am ready to submit to your decision. Speak. Faith teaches me that you are the voice of the Lord. I await your orders. From your holiness, `Go' or `Stay' will be the same to me."
When no opportunity arose for getting the letter out of France, Mother St. Michel prayed before a statue of the Blessed Virgin. "O Most Holy Virgin Mary," she said, "if you obtain a prompt and favorable answer to my letter, I promise to have you honored in New Orleans under the title of `Our Lady of Prompt Succor'."
Previously Mary had been known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succor. There was an ancient and miraculous painting under that title on the island of Crete. Like Our Lady of Good Counsel, this image was moved to Rome during the Turkish invasions. There its great and quick powers were noted when a paralyzed man was immediately healed after the image passed near his home in procession. Countless other miracles were attributed to the image. It was also known as "Our Lady of Never-Failing Help" and "Our Lady of Ever-Enduring Succor." Like the later statue, it shows Mary holding her Child, both crowned, both looking in different directions, the Madonna styled in the Byzantine fashion and gazing at those who looked upon her.
But now there was a new title, a new twist on the ancient name, and a new series of miracles. Soon after her prayer Mother St. Michel's letter finally left Montpelier. The date was March 19, 1809. And somehow it got to the Pope, who despite the dire need for nuns in France granted Mother St. Michel's request. Just over a month after the letter was sent--on April 28--Pius had a cardinal send Mother St. Michel a letter saying, "Madame, I am charged by Our Holy Father, Pope Pius VII, to answer in his name. His Holiness cannot do otherwise than approve of the esteem and attachment you have fostered for the religious state... His Holiness approves of your placing yourself at the head of your religious aspirants, to serve as their guide during the long and difficult voyage you are about to undertake."
The prayers had worked and they had been astonishingly prompt. Mother St. Michel ordered a statue carved, and Bishop Fournier, overwhelmed by the miracle, requested the honor of blessing it.
The statue of "Our Lady of Prompt Succor" arrived in Louisiana with Mother St. Michel in 1810.
And nearly immediately there were two momentous miracles.
The first occurred in 1812, when a terrible fire erupted in New Orleans, devastating what we now call the French Quarter. That was where the convent was at the time (it has since moved to another part of town). The fire was a true holocaust and, propelled by the wind, was heading right for the Ursuline convent.
That was when one of the nuns placed a small statue of the Virgin on a window facing the fire and Mother St. Michel again began to implore the Virgin. "Our Lady of Prompt Succor, we are lost unless you hasten to our aid!"
It is said that the wind instantly shifted, driving the fire away.
The Ursuline convent was one of the few buildings spared destruction!
Such events show us that nothing is beyond the reach of prayer, no problem, no disaster. Three years after the hellish fire, in 1815, yet more trouble haunted New Orleans during the war between the American and British. By this time Louisiana was a part of the United States, but England was looking to confiscate the former territory. The British arrived near New Orleans on the plains of Chalmette to square off against Andrew Jackson, the famous American general.
This too was an amazing and well-documented miracle. For there was no way the Americans could win. The British had 15,000 troops. The American force was 6,000. It looked like the Americans--and the city of New Orleans--were doomed.
The night of January 7 the Ursuline sisters went before the Blessed Sacrament and stayed there through the night. Others joined them in the chapel, praying and weeping before the holy statue. On the morning of January 8 the vicar general offered Mass at the main altar, above which the statue had been placed. The prayers were said in special earnest, for the thundering of cannons had been heard by all in the chapel.
At Communion time--at the very moment of the Eucharist--a courier rushed into the chapel to inform all present that the British had been miraculously defeated. They had been confused by a fog and had wandered into a swamp, in full view of the waiting Americans, who fired upon them from unseen positions.