This Thursday, October 27, is the Dedication of the Basilica of Our Lady, Help of Christians, the immense and stunning basilica that was built by St. John Bosco during the years of 1863 to 1868. In the year 1844, he had a vision-dream where the Blessed Virgin Mary displayed for St. John Bosco a massive church and said,
“This is my house; from it my glory shines forth. You will understand everything when, with your material eyes, you will see in actual fact what you now see with the eyes of your mind.”
In 1863, some nineteen years after his vision-dream, Don Bosco began the process of building the basilica. In another vision, the Blessed Virgin Mary told Don Bosco where the basilica should be built in Turin – on the site where Saint Adventer Solutor and Saint Octavious were martyred. Both men fought as soldiers in the fourth century under the Roman Emperor, Maximianus.
After the foundation of the church was laid, Don Bosco set out to pay the contractor fully aware that he didn’t have that much money. When the contractor received only 8 pennies, he was in shock since he should have been paid with many gold coins. After witnessing the face of the contractor, Don Bosco smiled and said to the man, “the Madonna will see to the payment of her church. I am just the instrument, the cashier. You will see.”
As Don Bosco promised, Our Lady came through with the financial support needed to build her church. Many devout individuals and some very generous supporters donated most of the money necessary for the church. The rest of the money often came in small amounts from people who were granted prayers after asking the Blessed Virgin Mary for intercessions.
Although the basilica is filled with many breathtaking monuments, the most impressive one is the painting above the main altar (see below). Our Lady, Help of Christians is in the center, surrounded by God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the Gospel writers.
Even though there was strong resistance to naming the building in honor of Our Lady, Help of Christians, St. John Bosco finally was able to convince those forces to name the church so. He knew that Our Lady’s help under this title would come in need again, not only in Italy, but for the entire world, just as she had at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 and in Vienna on September 12, 1683.
On June 9, 1868, the immense basilica was dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians. The festivities for dedication lasted nine days. On each day, a Bishop preached while another participated at the festival. The devotion grew so quickly to Our Lady, Help of Christians, that in 1911, Pope St. Pius X elevated the church to a basilica, and thus it became known as – The Basilica of Our Lady, Help of Christians.
The relics of the two aforementioned martyrs are held in the basilica as is the remains, the uncorrupted body of St. John Bosco. There are also 6000 relics from a variety of saints in the crypt of the basilica. I was blessed in the year 2000, the Jubilee Year, to visit the basilica in Turin, Italy, as part of the World Youth Day pilgrimage to Rome.
The Marian Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians is celebrated on May 24, you can read about it by clicking on the link.
To visit the National Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady, Help of Christians here in the USA, please click here.
Our Lady, Help of Christians…Pray for Us.