About Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Our Patroness
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Our Patroness by Marie LaHaye
History books do not record Mary’s role in protecting New Orleans in the battle fought there in 1815. For Catholics of that city, however, it is a well-remembered fact; and yearly on January 8, the anniversary of what is called the Battle of New Orleans, a mass of Thanksgiving is offered.
The War of 1812 was over, the treaty of peace having been signed on December 24, 1814, by the British and American commissioners, but word had not yet reached America. The plan of the British army was to win the Mississippi Valley, and their force of nearly 10,0000 was advancing toward New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson, who had been fighting in Alabama, rushed to the defense of the city. With cotton bales for fortifications, the greatly outnumbered, untrained Americans awaited the British.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the battle, the women of the city fled to the Ursuline Convent chapel, where, with the nuns, they spent the night in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. There was great fear that Jackson’s brave little band would be defeated, and the city destroyed. The nuns, through their superior, promised to have a Mass offered annually on January 8 in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s intercession.
On the morning of January 8, the Vicar-General celebrated Mass on the main altar, above which the statue had been placed. Before the end of Mass, a messenger arrived to announce the end of the battle and defeat the British. The Battle had lasted less than 20 minutes!
In the annals of the Ursulines, we read that General Jackson went in person to the convent to thank the nuns for their prayers. According to the Ursulines, this was the second time that Our Lady of Prompt Succor had interceded for New Orleans. In 1812, when a fire was ravaging the city, and the wind was driving the flames toward Ursuline Convent and the nearby buildings, one of the sisters, before fleeing the cloister, placed a small statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on a window sill facing the fire. At the same time, another sister prayed aloud: “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to our help or we are lost.” Scarcely has she uttered the last word when the wind changed direction and the convent and environs were saved. Witnesses attested to this fact.
The Ursulines had come to New Orleans in 1727 under the auspices of King Louis XV of France to teach the children of the colonists and to nurse the sick in a hospital. The statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor was brought from France by one of the sisters. In fact, it was this holy nun, Mother St. Michel, who had given Mary this title when she had received a speedy answer to her prayers. Before coming to New Orleans, she had the special statue made, and she promised Our Lady to have her honored in New Orleans under that title.
Pope Pius V authorized the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor as well as the singing of the yearly Mass of Thanksgiving on January 8. In 1894, Pope Leo XIII issued a decree granting the “Solemn Coronation of the Miraculous Statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, exposed to public veneration in the chapel of the Ursuline Convent, New Orleans.”
With the approval of the Holy See, the bishops of the diocese of Louisiana, in June 1928, chose Our Lady of Prompt Succor as patroness of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and designated January 15 as the patronal feast. The statue is venerated in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, 2635 State Street, New Orleans, LA 70118 where countless favors have been reported.