Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the name of a statue created about two hundred years ago as the result of a nun’s answered prayers. Devotion to the Virgin Mary under this title is extremely strong in the city of New Orleans, where the statue’s shrine is. She is invoked for a quick and favorable response by all those in need, and it is common practice for her devotees to recite the prayer, “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to help us!” for protection against hurricanes, which frequently threaten that part of the United States.
The French Ursuline nuns, a religious order devoted to the education of young girls, first arrived in New Orleans in 1727. They created several schools with the help of nuns from Spain. In 1800 Louisiana reverted back to French control, and the Spanish nuns fled, fearing the anti-clericalism of the French government. Severely lacking in staff, the Mother superior wrote to her cousin in France for more nuns to join them. At that time, the French government made life extremely difficult for religious orders. Mother Saint Michel Gensoul, the recipient of the letter, was discouraged by her bishop from leaving France. The order was shorthanded, and he felt he could not afford to lose any teachers to the New World. He gave her permission to write to the pope to formally request this transfer and agreed to abide by whatever decision she received. Because he was then a prisoner of Napoleon, it seemed unlikely that the pope would even see her letter, much less grant her request.
As she sent her letter, Mother Saint Michel prayed to the Virgin, “O most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I promise to have you honored at New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”
Much to everyone’s amazement, she received a favorable ruling from the pope in just six weeks’ time. In gratitude, she commissioned the statue Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and in 1810 brought it with her to New Orleans, where it was placed in the convent’s chapel.
During the Battle of New Orleans, the citizens of the city became truly aware of the intercessionary powers of this aspect of Mary. Louisiana had been purchased from France by the United States in 1803, but during the War of 1812 the young nation and Britain fought a second war that lasted about two years. During the last weeks of 184, the British threatened to attack and loot New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson led a smaller force of several thousand troops, mostly militiamen and volunteers, against a much larger army of experienced regular British soldiers; the people feared total defeat and destruction. By January 1815 the British army was sailing into the port and the citizens on land mobilized as best they could to defend their city. The bishop of Louisiana directed the clergy to hold public services in all Catholic churches to pray for God’s protection. The Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation at the Ursuline convent on Chartres Street was filled with praying women and children. On January 7 they prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor for the entire night. The mother superior of the Ursulines made a vow to have a mass of thanksgiving sung every year if the Americans were victorious. As Mass was being said on January 8 for General Jackson and his troops, it was interrupted by a courier who shouted, “Victory is ours!” The battle had lasted only twenty-five minutes and there was little loss of life for the Americans.
The mostly Roman Catholic population of New Orleans were not the only ones who credited Our lady of Prompt Succor for help with the victory. Andrew Jackson himself insisted that the victory was a “signal interposition of heaven.” In gratitude, he went out of his way to visit the Ursuline nuns at their convent and thank them for their prayer, “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to help us!”
Today, this original statue has been placed above the high alter in the shrine on State Street in New Orleans. Devotees from all over the United States visit it and it is a familiar stopping point for most citizens of New Orleans.
Excerpted from the book: “Visions of Mary” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua.
Short Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor
O Mary, Mother of God, who amid the tribulations of the world, watches over us and over the Church of Thy Son, be to us and to the Church, truly, Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Make haste to help us in all our necessities, that in this fleeting life Thou mayest be our succor, and obtain for us (here ask the particular favor you desire).
Help us to gain life everlasting through the merits of Jesus, Thy Son, Our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. (Three times)