We all know the old saying, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” That is true of home towns, too. In my case, New Orleans. Every year, on January 8, my thoughts go back to the Crescent City because that date is the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. [Today is] the bicentennial of that famous battle and victory. As the battle became more imminent between a British army under Packenham, and the American sharpshooters under Andrew Jackson, the Ursuline Nuns of New Orleans invited the ladies of the city to keep watch with them and pray during the previous night for an American victory. They prayed during the night before the battle before the image of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, a favorite devotion of the Ursulines of New Orleans. The battle was engaged, and the victory was so lop-sided (the facts are somewhat uncertain, but it is thought that the Americans lost seventeen men and the British lost two thousand!), that General Jackson himself came to the convent to thank the Sisters personally for their prayers for him and his troops.
Ever since then, on January 8, in fulfillment of a vow made by the nuns in 1815, the Ursuline Nuns have a special Mass of thanks to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, a favorite devotion of theirs and the title under which they invoked the help of the Mother of God on the night before the battle. In today’s gospel, we find Our Lord’s heart moved with pity for the crowds who followed him, seeking his teaching. Not only did he teach them, but with five loaves of bread and two fish, he fed five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.
During this Christmas season, we look upon the newborn Christ lying on the hay of a manger and we feel both sorrow for his poor condition and also a great attraction for this baby, so appealing, so beautiful. But really, it is HE who feels the greater attraction for us. That love for us attracted him from heaven to earth; from eternity into time; from his divine condition into our poor human circumstances. Whether we contemplate him as an infant in the manger, or a man speaking on the hillsides of Galilee, or a tortured victim dying on a cross, we must remember that he did all that for US because his sacred heart was moved with pity for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, overflowing with love for us, have mercy on us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.