The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians ) originated in the sixteenth century. In 1576 two litanies were published that were used at Lorreto. One of these (“Aliae litaniae B.M.V.”) is identical with the litany of Loreto, and was approved by Clement VIII in 1601. It is now used throughout the entire Church.
According to the Roman Breviary, Pius V inserted the invocation in the Litany of Loreto after the battle of Lepanto. It is possible that the warriors returning from the Battle of Lepanto (on 7th Oct. 1571, visited the sanctuary of Loreto, and saluted the Holy Virgin there for the first time with this new title.
The history of the feastday dates back to the 1800’s.
Napoleon Bonaparte had jailed Pius VI who died in jail. When Pope Pius VII was elected he too was jailed by Bonaparte, who kept him prisoner The Holy Father vowed to God that if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special feast in honour of Mary. The military eventually forced Bonaparte to release the Pope and on 24 May 1814, Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later the Pope decreed that the feast of Mary Help of Christians be kept on 24 May.
The feast day of Mary Help of Christians has been celebrated in Australia since 1844. The infant church in Australia had a special reason for turning to Mary. No priests were sent to the colony in its early days and Mass was not allowed except for one brief year until 1820. It was largely the Rosary in those early days that kept the faith alive. Catholic Australia remained faithful to Mary and was the first nation to choose her under the title Help of Christians, as principal Patroness.
When Australia became the first country to have Mary Help of Christians as Patroness, it became the first country to have a mother-cathedral under the same title.
Let us ask our dear Mother – the Help of all Christians – who with the help of that most powerful weapon, the Holy Rosary, saved Europe from the enemy at Lepanto in 1571; in Vienna in 1683; in 1716 in Peterwardsein in Hungary; in 1955 in Austria against the communists; in 1966 in Brazil and in 1975 in Portugal where communist rule was averted.
We turn to her now under her most powerful titles, amongst them being – Mother of Salvation, Our Lady Help of Christians, and Our Lady Queen of the Rosary – to lead us in this battle against the enemy which confronts the whole world .