Since the 50s of the last century, in the Augustinian Recollect communities we recited a daily Our Father “for our missions and missionaries in China.” In his letter to the Chinese Church in May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that throughout the Church Chinese Catholics will be prayed for every May 24. That is the day on which the liturgical memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians, venerated in the shrine of Sheshan, in Shanghai, is celebrated.
On Sunday 21, at the end of the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis remembered the date and invited everyone to “raise our gaze to Mary our Mother”:
“On May 24 we will all spiritually unite the faithful Catholics in China for the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary” Help of Christians “, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. To Chinese Catholics, I say: let us raise our gaze to Mary our Mother, so that she may help us to discern the will of God on the concrete path of the Church in China and sustain us in the reception of her project of love with generosity. Mary encourages us to offer our personal contribution to communion among believers and to the harmony of the whole society. Let us not forget to give testimony of faith by prayer and by love, remaining open in encounter and dialogue, always.
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”, the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously cooperated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!