Letter-Stories In Honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Part 7.


At the close of the 1914–18 war, a very wealthy family lived outside a large town in northern New South Wales. The father had made, in a few years, a huge fortune. He had foreseen before the declaration of war, that there would be a great demand for good horses. He bought horses throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and the Army bought them from him; hence his great wealth. They were a Catholic family and very united to each other. The homestead was set in magnificent surroundings and the mother was the great “personage” of the home. They had one great sorrow, the youngest boy, then aged 15 years, took epileptic fits. In these fits he blasphemed and used violent and obscene language. When at peace he had an angelic face, but in fits he looked like a demon and acted like one.
One afternoon the mother of the home told the family that the Monsignor of the Parish-a great priest and a great friend of the family was bringing a holy missioner to “bless the boy.” They were coming to afternoon tea.
The family were all present and in the way of country people all dressed-up to greet the priests. During the tea-drinking the boy had a fit. His face swelled and grew purple. He cursed impurely, and strangest of all, he cursed the Blessed Trinity-Father, Son and Holy Ghost-in doctrinal language which was entirely unknown to him. The Missioner was astounded. He heard the language of St. Thomas Aquinas from a boy in a fit who had the mind of a child. The mother ran to her son, gagged him, and held him tightly. He would have bitten the mother if he had not been gagged.
The Missioner blessed the boy with the prayers of the “Ritual.” As the last blessing was being given “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” the boy howled shrilly and snapped out of the fit and became calm. The mother took the gag out of his mouth and asked all to act as if nothing had happened.
Before the Missioner departed he told the mother to pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. He appealed to her to erect the Shrine of Our Lady in her home. The Picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was bought. The two candlesticks for candles and the two vases for flowers were procured. The Shrine was erected and the Rosary said each night. The old Monsignor who knew most of the details and most of the background refused to discuss the matter. The years passed and the boy, who previously had at least one fit each week, did not have another. One of his sisters entered a convent. It appeared that the heel of Our Lady had crushed the head of the serpent.


In 1940, on the sands of Moreton Island opposite Caloundra, guarding the ocean passage there were numerous six inch Naval guns. They were manned by R.A.N. personnel. A six inch Naval gun on land with a fixed base is a very tough and nasty weapon. They were camouflaged with sand and stunted mangrove trees. With the goodwill of commanding officers, two brothers (identical twins) were camped together and were part of the naval group in charge of the guns. It was impossible to separate the two sailor brothers. Feature by feature they were identical, although they were twenty-six years old. They had been in the Navy seven years, and had sailed over most of the seas in the “Far East.” They loved Singapore.
Visiting Moreton Island as a Naval Chaplain, I unexpectedly came on a group of sailors having a swim. The brothers were there; their backs were bare. They told me that at Singapore they had their backs tattooed whilst under the influence of drink. One had a naked girl tattooed over the whole of his back, and it was strangely obscene. The other had a full tattoo of the traditional picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Singapore is renowned, even in the East, for the wonderful work that is done by its tattoo operators. The tattoo of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was startingly beautiful. The dual set-up was most bizarre. I knew each brother would have gone to great lengths to get rid of the tattoos.
Some years after, I met one of the brothers; his brother had died in the sinking of the Australian cruiser, the “Perth,” off Indonesia. This is his story:
The “Perth” was sinking, and the order had been given to “abandon ship.” The Jap cruisers kept on firing as they closed in on the crippled and doomed ship. The scuppers ran molten lead. The heat of the high-explosive shells turned cold steel into liquid metal. My brother caught hold of a steel bar, high off the deck to escape the boiling steel. He held on for some minutes and then began to weaken. Everywhere one could smell the stench of burning flesh. I was in the water watching my brother. His feet touched the stream and were burnt off in a matter of seconds. He died quickly. I swam away. About 40 of us were taken to Darwin, and I served the rest of the war in the Naval base at Launceston, Tasmania. My Catholic religion now means a lot to me and the devotion I have to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is my greatest spiritual joy.
I told him I was sure that the picture of Our Lady tattooed on his back helped him. “Oh, no,” he said, “on my back, to my shame, is a naked girl; it was my brother who bore the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. It seems that Our Lady has given me a chance to repent of my folly.”


I was one of six girls who served liquor in a Queen Street hotel in Brisbane, Queensland. Three of us were Catholics and the year was 1922. It was rightly said that in those days a barmaid was either good or bad. She did not remain lukewarm or indifferent to holy things. If she tried to play with the fire of life she was quickly burnt. Quite a number of barmaids went to daily Mass and were very holy. They were attached to different devotions. In St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, which we three attended, was a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Many a prayer was said before that picture of the Mother of Christ. It was a pious custom to touch the picture on the completion of a prayer.
On my first morning at Mass, my girl companions told me that if I looked hard enough at the picture of Our Lady, it would glow and light up with a heavenly fire for the one who touched it. I scoffed at the idea. My people had a farm in a fertile belt outside Brisbane. I had two boy friends, one a farmer near my own home, and the other an acquaintance I had met when he came to the hotel-bar. The second seemed to have plenty of money and was most amusing. Everyone liked him but somehow I was doubtful. I seemed to hear my Mother’s Irish saying : “He is too sugary to be wholesome.” I knew that in the end I would have to face the issue, for the farmer lad was getting anxious. I determined to ask the Lady of the Picture. I went to Mass and Holy Communion, and then went up the Church to Our Lady’s picture. I touched it, and to my eyes it seemed to glow, and a conviction came into my mind: “Marry your farmer boy.”
I did so-and now as I write this letter, the old fellow-my husband-has just come in for his dinner. The eight kids have grown, or are growing up. I have had no explanation of the “glowing picture.” I had asked the priest, but his look was enough to shut me up. Needless to say, devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is my favourite devotion, and that is why I came to these devotions and have my own Shrine.


During the war the Americans built long narrow piers out from Cleveland, Brisbane, into Moreton Bay. These piers were sometimes half a mile long and stretched over shallow water out to deep water where large vessels could bring or get supplies.
After the war the piers were used by residents and fishermen with motor-boats. One of the most fascinating set-ups was to watch the arrival of sharks when the tides began to come in. Out in the deep water they mobbed, and then began to come over the ledge into the shallow-water flats looking for food. The small ones first, and then the big ones. The torpedo black bodies would move with lightning speed, and their movements and antics would hold onlookers in their grip for long periods. They fascinated, because like all vermin, although most were timid and ready to rush off to deep water, some were brave; and then there was the odd one which was vicious and mean and quite unafraid. Drop a stone or a stick and these vicious ones would flash to the spot in seconds, ready to tear and rend for food. The mangrove mullet knew to be ready for the sudden darting rush.
One afternoon my children were playing on one of these piers as the tide was rapidly making. The black torpedo bodies would snap at the sticks thrown into the water. Then somehow the baby child fell, or was pushed into the water off the pier. A black body surged forward. Our dog leaped in. It seemed only moments before the big jaws closed around the dog. The child was pulled to the safety of the pier. Every one and everything was silent. Tragedies always leave an aftermath of silence.
When I hurriedly brought the toddler to my wife and told her of the happening, she told me she had been praying before our picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Since then, every morning and every evening, we say our prayers to Our Lady. The shadow of great tragedy came very near to our door. In our home are two holy pictures-one of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, and the other of an angel guarding with great white wings, a child crossing a stream.


My husband was a big man, nearly nineteen stone in weight. He was healthy, strong, full of happiness and joy of life, which he always wished to pass on to others. When we married we went to Darwin. We prospered. We once owned the famous rice bowl of Darwin: “Humpty-Doo.”
My husband had a black boy, a man Friday, who in the way of black men worshipped my husband. This black boy was named Nipper. A priest once asked Nipper what was his religion! The black boy said: “The same as boss.” “And what is that?” asked the priest. “Nuttin,” said the black boy. Although “nuttin” may have been their religion, my husband and Nipper taught my children their prayers and catechism. Nipper in the laughing way of real black men, said that he was as good as a priest in teaching the children their catechism. The years went by, I had one ambition in my life, and that was to make a Catholic of my big husband. I asked Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for guidance. All my efforts failed. Nipper became sick and went to the Mater Public Hospital, Brisbane. The Sisters were fascinated by this happy black man who knew his prayers so well. When it was known he was dying, he was received into the Church. His mortal remains, in all their simplicity, lie buried in Nudgee Catholic cemetery. Still my big man remained aloof. He did not wish to change anything. Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was besieged by me. My husband took different executive positions. Finally, he undertook to establish new cattle abattoirs at King Island, off Tasmania. One Sunday morning he became ill, he grew worse, and at his request I baptised him. We were far from any priest, an island off the mainland of Tasmania. A few minutes after I had baptised my husband and as I knelt in prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, a priest came in-just walked into the house as if he had been called. He heard my husband’s first Confession and gave him his first Holy Communion, and anointed him with the oil of salvation. His grave is on lonely King Island. There the Antarctic sea breezes often peal their funereal dirges. Thus, through the persistent love of my family to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, my two men came into the true faith of Christ. They were both true and valiant men-big in many ways. One was white; the other was black.