Letter-Stories In Honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Part 8.


We stood at the counter of a large emporium in Brisbane. We were three-an airman, his Mother and a Chaplain. The airman had asked to see some overcoats. It was mid-winter and he was dressed in faded shorts and wore sandals without socks. His cap was quite new. He told his Mother he got the R.A.A.F. Cap at Townsville, where the destroyer called on its way south. He was lucky to be alive. He was an airman-one of a squad of sixteen who had flown “Wirraways” against the Jap Zeros on their first strike against New Guinea. The whole sixteen of them had not lasted many minutes in the sky after they attacked the “Zeros.” He landed his disabled plane on the seashore, and with ten others had walked nearly two hundred miles of coast-line. The Navy put him on a destroyer and the Chaplain had brought his mother down to the mouth of the Brisbane River in the early morning to meet and welcome him. No one gave him any clothing, and Danny (for that was his name) did not know how to beg or scrounge. His mother realised that many eyes in the store were focussed on him, but she thought all were looking upon her son as a hero. Then it happened! An oldish man behind the counter, with a tight smile, handed him a pink envelope. The airman, surprised, tore open the envelope and out fell a white feather. The hush had a meanness. The mother cried, but Danny did nothing. I believe the girls who gave the old man the envelope thought he was a desk officer. Danny selected a coat, paid for it, and the three left the store. The mother told the Chaplain that the great devotion of her life was to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. She also said that in the ordinary normal way of life Danny would have laughed at the white feather, but Danny was at the limit of his endurance and terribly affected. The mother appealed to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Her son’s sanity and life were at the crossroads. Danny would do anything for his Mother, for she often told the Chaplain that of all her children, Danny had “the gentle soul.” She got Danny to say the traditional prayers of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Danny grew well at his home and tried to forget his experiences. Our Lady loomed large in his life. His great delight was to prepare the Shrine-the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour-the two lit candles and the two vases of fresh flowers cut from the garden by himself. The Chaplain told his friends that a morbid compulsion often drew him back to the great shop just to see the man with the tight smile who gave the white feather to the great airman. Danny went to England with the R.A.A.F. and was killed in England over Manchester on his first flight against the German bombers. His grave is in the war cemetery near Manchester. His mother has another son a priest and still says daily her prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour who put her mantle around Danny when he needed her greatly. She will remember to her last breath the gentle soul of Danny before the holy Shrine.


My husband and I are good Catholics and have lived ordinary and simple lives. Our only child, a daughter, aged 19 years, who is now almost a woman, had the best of homes, the best of food and clothes, and a very good education. She passed her Senior University examination. She is healthy and pretty.
Two months ago she left our home and took up lodgings with a girl-companion, in a flat in a very social suburb. What for? I did not like to ask myself. She paid no heed to the protests of my husband and myself. I was very upset; in fact, I lost control of everything; only pride kept me going. What would I do? What would I do? was the question I asked myself a thousand times. After some days something seemed to say, “Put your trust in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour”; and that is what I did.
Going through my daughter’s room I noticed the Blue Cape or Mantle of the Child of Mary, which my daughter left behind. I thought I heard the voice saying, “Send it to her.” I appealed to Our Lady. I wrapped the Blue Cape, after ironing it well, in new brown paper, and tied it with a big blue ribbon; posted it to my daughter and again appealed to Our Lady. Her flat-mate told me she looked at the Blue Cape as though she could not believe her eyes and dropped it like a deadly snake.
Last week my daughter came home. Again the voice seemed to say: “Do nothing and say nothing.” It was the correct thing to do. Now everything is alright. As long as I live, I will always try to look through the eyes of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on my daughter and her ways, and then I will know that .I will do the right thing.
The Blue Cape saved my daughter; so you see why I love Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and the devotions in her honour.


The two young men were enjoying themselves immensely. The heat had been terrific and now they were swimming near the main pier at Sandgate, Brisbane. The tide was coming in and they did not notice the old man for some time. Suddenly they both became alert to his presence, for it seemed that the old man was in difficulties. They went to his aid. The old man fell over and began to beat the water in a feeble way. All he said was, “Get me a priest.” The two young men half-dragged and half carried the old man to the shore. Over the sands, a little old lady was coming to meet them. She looked most pathetic and seemed to sense the plight of the old fellow. “That’s my husband,” she said. “Is he very ill?” The old man lay on the sand blue in the face and quite unconscious. The old lady said her husband was a Catholic and she would like a priest to be called. Both the young men looked startled, for they were both priests. By mutual consent one gave absolution, the other ran and “phoned the local parish priest. There on the sand with the tide coming in the last rites of the Church were given and the old man died. The old couple had come from Ipswich (some 20 miles from Brisbane), and they were down for the day at the sea-shore. A few months after the funeral the old lady called on one of the priests. This is her story.
“My husband when he was young became very antagonistic to his religion. He mocked and raved at anything holy. He hated above all a priest. Someone told me about devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, so I determined to follow the devotions in my own home.
One night each week I erected my little shrine -the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, two lighted candles, and two vases of flowers. I said the Rosary. My husband always exploded in anger, but I met him face to face. It was the start of a weekly row. I remained true to the devotions, and each week erected my shrine despite his disapproval.
The years passed, and slowly he began to mellow. First of all he cut some flowers for me, knowing I would use them on the Shrine, and then one night he lit the candles for me. Apparently Our Lady had won. I brought him to Mass, but he was afraid to go to Confession. He told me he would go to Confession the Saturday afternoon following our excursion day to Sandgate. He did not get the chance. He died on the sand at the beach with the afternoon tide coming in. The one prayer I said each week before the Shrine was that he would have a priest with him when he died. He had three. In my sorrow they reminded me of God-Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for in the three priests I could only see one-one Christ.”


Michael stole whenever he could. His father thrashed him again and again but to no avail. After each beating Michael still wore his tight grin; and then his father tried the two pictures. One depicted the death of a good man. This room was lit up with a heavenly light, and the resplendent figure of Christ appeared at the end of the bed. Holy white angels were everywhere in the room. The other picture depicted the death of a bad man. His room was dark and gloomy. A big devil with smoke and fire jetting out of his mouth, stood at the end of the bed. Everywhere in the room were devils waiting to clutch the dying man’s soul. The father explained the pictures to the boy, and the boy was impressed. He did not steal for some time. Still Michael worried his father. He tried to drown a small child and the father worried that he would repeat the action. He knew Michael. Michael was very clever at school, and his joy in life was to fight boys bigger and stronger than himself. The fierceness of his attack was appalling. Then World War II came, Michael enlisted although he was under age.
He took the war very seriously. He was the ideal soldier. His uniform and equipment were kept immaculately clean and he was most proficient with all parts of army equipment, especially grenades. He rose in rank very quickly. When the Jap bombers struck Darwin, Michael, who was now Captain Michael, saved three lives and pulled seven dead people from the waters of the harbour. He did not know what fear was. He served with distinction in New Guinea and in the islands to the north. He received the Military Medal for wiping out a machine gun nest of Japs. The ferocity of his attack and the sight of the dead bodies awed Michael’s companions.
He became ill. The doctors diagnosed his complaint as cerebral malaria. He was sent back to Brisbane “mentally deranged.” He began to read religious books especially on the Mother of Christ. Finally he became obsessed with love of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. He wrote everywhere for books and pictures, and became proud of his library in her honour. He had a letter and a picture from Father Murray, the Superior general of the Redemptorist Fathers at St. Alphonsus” Church, Rome, where St. Luke’s historical picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is venerated. His father was happy, for Captain Michael in his love for the Mother of Christ had become gentle and kind and the old tensions were gone. The father who had watched Michael all his life, told a Priest that he thought something evil had departed out of the boy from the time he turned to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Apparently the heel of Our Lady had, once more, crushed the head of the Serpent.


The young University student played golf very well. He was very athletic. His parents had been Catholics but they had given up the practice of their Catholic Faith and had reared the boy (their only child) in a pagan way. Over the years they endeavoured to fill the mind of the young man with a contempt for anything religious. It was a planned campaign. He had passed his Junior and Senior University examinations with brilliant results. Now he was enrolled at the Queensland University and had completed three years of the engineering course.
It was St. Patrick’s Day and he was playing golf with a huge Catholic Priest who was his great friend. They had a lot in common and generosity was the mark of both. He was intrigued with the priest’s sallies and now the priest in his droll way was making him look at the collection of pictures of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour he had collected. The great gift of the huge priest was the gift of wishing things on the unwilling without offence. He appeared to be a child but was very wise and he knew the boy’s background of Catholicity. He had six varieties of pictures. The best one, all in black and gold, he said, came from St. Alphonsus” Church in Rome. Two varieties came from France, and two from America. Now, he said, the sixth came from Australia and it was sky-blue. It was, he continued, very pretty but was not true to the historic original.
The golf game went on for they played for a St. Patrick’s Day trophy. As they neared the golfing house a violent electric storm broke. The priest hurried to the golf-house, but the young man with two others ran to the shelter of a nearby large tree. The young man held a steel golf club in his hand. A most vivid flash of lightning struck the tree and it splintered in the middle. Those who were sheltering there were stunned but the young companion of the priest was hurt and blackened. When the others recovered, they noticed his plight as he lay in a puddle of water. He asked them to bring his priest friend. The priest came and the young man said he was dying and wanted to be baptised a Catholic. On the golf course he was baptised and the priest performed all the last rites of the Church. There was real spiritual joy on the injured face of the boy as he received his first Holy Communion. Before he died he told the priest that he had been keeping company with a Catholic girl whom he intended .to marry. He died on the course as the afternoon storm was ending.


The two young men both played Rugby League football well. Both were married and two children graced each home. They were now getting dressed for football. One in his marriage had given up the practice of his Catholic religion, the other in his marriage had drawn closer to his Church. Whilst they were dressing the brown scapular of the good Catholic caught in his shirt as he was pulling it over his head and he got into difficulties. His friend released him. “So you still wear that superstition,” he said. How can a piece of brown cloth with a picture on it be of any assistance? The good Catholic did not reply but he placed the scapular over his shirt in his locker for the cord was broken.
When the game was over he became aware that a little stray dog was the source of merriment amongst his mates. He looked at the dog and found that someone had tied his brown scapular around the dog’s neck. He retrieved his property and said he did not like anything holy of his to be mocked. No one said anything more.
Some years later he was coming home in the train with his friend when the plastic strap broke on the parcel he was carrying and numerous brown scapulars were revealed. His friend laughed and asked him whether he was going in for scapulars in a wholesale way. “No,” he said, “these scapulars are for the children of the Catholic School who are making their First Holy Communion. I know you have given up your Faith, but do not mock it, for that frightens me. Mockery, like scandal, is three edged. It sins against God, it hurts the mocker, and it can hurt the mocked. I think of Christ’s words-God is not mocked, solet us remain friends but don’t make fun of my Catholic religion. Our Blessed Lady means a lot to me. I have her Shrine in my home-the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, the Candles, and Vases of Flowers and we all, as a family, say the Rosary before that Shrine each evening. Surely I have the right to do that without being mocked or having to apologise. They nodded coldly when they separated near their homes.
It was dark, cold, and it was raining. Later that night as the good Catholic family was saying the Rosary, the “phone rang. Apparently the wife and two children of the mocker were coming home in the dark and were all killed by a motor truck. The husband was bereft. At first he was stunned and he cursed and raved but that did not bring his dead back to life. He now had nothing on which to lean. He broke down on his friend’s shoulder and sobbingly told him it was he who had draped the brown scapular around the little mongrel dog. It had worried him and over the years it seemed to grow meaner and meaner. He had always loved to mock and the scapular seemed like a flag which he deserted. He mocked everything holy when he could but now apparently God had struck back and left him naked. Nothing remained-life held nothing. His friend tried to console him and brought him back to his home. He knelt with the rest and the Rosary was finished before the Shrine of the Mother of Christ.


The gaunt old lady was dying on a verandah bed at the Mater Public Hospital, Brisbane. She had been in hospital for six months. Her complaint originated from “diabetes.” Everybody liked her. The Sisters of the hospital looked upon her “as indispensable” for she was always doing something useful. She always radiated peace and happiness and her bright smile brought a response from all who came in contact with her.
Her son and daughter sat at her bedside. On the table at her bedside was a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. The most notable feature about her was her large muscular hands. They were naturally huge and massive and now they were swollen. The old lady died fortified with all the rites of her Catholic religion.
The daughter after the funeral at Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, wrote a letter about her mother to a priest.
“My mother in her early days was plagued with a violent temper. After my father’s death it grew worse. She was a big woman, and in a rage, with her own hands she choked and killed her sister. When questioned by the police she made no denial and frankly admitted everything. She was convicted for murder. She served twenty years in the State Penitentiary and my brother and I were reared in a Catholic orphanage. During her years of imprisonment my mother grew to love Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. A priest taught her this holy devotion to the Mother of Christ. On her release we came together. Our lives have been difficult but despite hard times we remained together.
The sole joy of my mother’s life for the last ten years was erecting the Shrine of Our Lady each night in our small home off Coronation Drive, Brisbane. There she found peace and from the Shrine gathered in her smiling countenance a holy radiance which most found irresistible. The naturally massive hands became enormous and enlarged as the result of sewing canvas whilst in prison. I love the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour because to the end it gave courage, holiness and happiness to my mother. I pray that my brother and I will be equally as loyal.”


He knew he would remember all the days of his life this great gathering of ships on the high seas. Its designation was “Rendezvous.” Ships were everywhere. Great massive aircraft carriers surrounded by monster battleships, cruisers of the line, numerous destroyers and many other naval ships. All were stripped for fighting and were going north along the Queensland coast. They had refuelled at the great seaports of America and Australia. The Australian Navy was well represented. Destination was the port of Wewak along the northern New Guinea coastline. The necessity of “softening up” a port or island before marines landed was dominant in General McArthur’s design of war. Wewak felt the full force of the great blast of the naval guns and it seemed that nothing could have survived. Still no signal was given to land. The next day bombardment was again commenced and nothing appeared to be left standing. The marines landed and the Japs appeared like ants in their thousands. The battle raged, but in the end the Japs took to the hills. A fortified port was established.
On the way to Wewak the engines of an Australian destroyer failed. The great armada passed on its way. It was submarine area in a restricted passage. Danger threatened. Two Australian destroyers ranged close to their powerless sister and began to take off personnel. In the middle of the operations the alarm sounded-Jap planes and submarines. The two destroyers quickly disappeared into the mists over the horizon. Numerous whale boats were scattered on the sea. They were strafed with machines guns by the Jap planes. Westerly winds began to blow with gale force and accidents quickly followed. Three boats capsized. In one boat there were seven men and all were injured and wounded. Nothing could be done except wait. Waiting in an open boat tossed by high winds and waves is a frightful ordeal. Sullen despondency sits on everybody and nerves fray and crack. It is easy to lose control. The strongest man in the boat broke first. “Why don’t you pray better, why don’t you pray ?” he said to the priest, “get us out of this mess with your prayers.” The little silent officer who had been number one on the destroyer, said “Shut up! for heaven’s sake shut up!” He told the priest he was badly wounded, and knew he would die. He wished to become a Catholic for in every letter he received from his wife and children they wrote how they prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour to guard and help him. This part brought tears to his eyes. Now he was going to die, could the priest do anything for him? He knew all the prayers his wife and children said at home. He knew the life of Christ and what the Mass and Sacraments were. How much more was needed. “Nothing more,” said the priest, and there in an open boat on an open sea, the naval man was baptised. He made his first confession, was anointed and died.
Only three of the seven lived through the ordeal. The priest was one. Months afterwards he met the widow and her children and told all the circumstances of the naval man’s death. The widow’s sole remark was that her holy confidence in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was not misplaced. The priest as he went away thought of Christ’s words: “Everyone who liveth and believeth in me shall not die forever.”


He was in hospital and was far from anyone he knew. He was a priest and was frightened not so much that he would die, but at the treatment his condition demanded. It was the first time he had seen or received a blood transfusion and the ordeal appalled. Then there was the intricate instrument which kept all food from his body. It was a nightmare. The hospital authorities told him that the doctors were going to operate and that there was little chance he would live. He did not care very much but many thoughts crowded his mind and confused him. In the end he made his mind call up the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and there he tried to anchor it whilst he waited to go to the operating table. The final dressing with white cap and white socks gave him an awful jolt. He did not know such things were done or necessary. He brought his mind back to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for he knew he was a priest and it was right that at such a time he should completely concentrate on holy thoughts. Our Lady must have helped. Whilst he lay on the operating table he became depressed at the silent white figures of the doctors and nurses, but the image of Our Lady seemed to steady his mind and keep it calm. The new anaesthetic that brings oblivion with a single plunge of needle found a willing victim, and he awoke some hours later with the image of the Mother of Christ before him. Our Lady was ironing out many of his difficulties. He spent months in bed. He lived, but he was told that he was still in the woods and then they operated again. He acted as he did in the first operation but he felt less afraid. They operated seven times, and finally he was not afraid, for the Mother of Christ always gave him help and encouragement. He was told that in all probability he would die, and that saddened him for then, he thought he would not be able to do anything priestly again. He was denied all medicine for relief of pain. The great surgeon told him that the battle was not won through palliatives.
He appealed to Our Lady, and the conviction came that if he endeavoured to do something special for her cause, he would receive help in a heavenly way. “Special” seemed to convey the right idea, but how could he make it “operative.” Time, no doubt would suggest a way. Perhaps after all, he thought, during the many long hours of night, it might not be paying too high a price to become a fool for the sake of Our Lady, because what looked folly could be truth, and that when he really came to the end of his life, the folly he sought could pay higher dividends than the wisdom of this world. “A fool of himself” could well be that he would place Our Lady first always and not stop because others might consider him foolish to go ahead. He decided he would always endeavour to go ahead for Our Lady’s cause against himself and any human objections or considerations.
Surely he is now foolish from a worldly angle in publishing these letters in honour of Our Lady. He is also performing an act which is special for him, and foreign to his way of living. Despite the predictions of many, he is well and is able to do his priestly duties. He now hopes to keep on fulfilling his promise to the Mother of Christ, because he has already heard the beat of the waves on the eternal shore, and they are never entirely forgotten. Often from imminent fear of death, one may try to go beyond “seeing in a mirror as in a dark place” about which St. Paul speaks, and try to imagine in a human way things on the other side where everything is face to face.


He will always do what I, His Mother, wish however untimely or however undeserved.
In the small town of Cana, of Galilee, there was a marriage feast to which Christ, his Mother, and some of His disciples were invited. The people were poor and during the feast to their embarrassment, they found they did not have sufficient wine for their guests.
The Mother of Christ said to Him : “They have no wine.” And Jesus saith to her: “Woman, what is that to me and to thee. My hour is not yet come.” His Mother saith to the waiters : “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.” Now there were set there six waterpots of stone. Jesus saith to them : “Fill the water-pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them : “Draw out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast.” And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him “Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.
Gospel of St. John, Ch. 2—vs. 3 to 11.

These letter-stories are built on realities and each reality is based on a spiritual influence attributed to Our Lady. The letters sound a true spiritual note for they come out of the daily lives of people.

@ JAMES DUHIG, Archbishop of Brisbane