May 24 is of course the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, and so a particularly appropriate day to pray for the conversion of Australia! I've written previously about the background of the feast, celebrating victory over the last Muslim attempt to invade Europe by force of arms in the Battle of Lepanto.
Our country certainly needs prayers at the moment:
O God, Who hast appointed Mary, Help of Christians Patroness of Australia, grant that through her intercession our brethren outside the Church may receive the light of faith, so that Australia may become one in faith under one Shepherd. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.
St Mary McKillop, pray for us.
St Francis Xavier, pray for us.
St Therese of the Infant Jesus, pray for us.
Pray for also for China
It is as well to remember however, that though so many ungratefully reject it, we do, in this country, have the right to worship freely. The situation is quite different in China, a country that also enjoys the patronage of Our Lady Help of Christians.
Pope Benedict XVI gave a reminder of this in his General Audience last week. Here is an extract from that talk (but do read the whole thing):
"Tuesday, 24 May, is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai: the whole Church joins in prayer with the Church in China. There, as elsewhere, Christ is living out his passion. While the number of those who accept him as their Lord is increasing, there are others who reject Christ, who ignore him or persecute him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The Church in China, especially at this time, needs the prayers of the universal Church. In the first place, therefore, I invite all Chinese Catholics to continue and to deepen their own prayers, especially to Mary, the powerful Virgin. At the same time all Catholics throughout the world have a duty to pray for the Church in China: those members of the faithful have a right to our prayers, they need our prayers..."
Accordingly, you might also say the following prayer for China to Our Lady Help of Christians under the name of Our Lady of Sheshan, composed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and which he has requested be said each year on this day:
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians,"
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!