Holy Helpers (picture is from Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague, Czech)
Fourteen Holy Helpers is a title given to the fourteen saints of our
church. They are regarded as ancient saints, some of whom died as early
as the year 95. There was a devotion to the Fourteen Holy Helpers as
early 1348 at an altar in St. Peter’s Church in Munich, Germany. Because
they are the patron saints against a variety of diseases, they were
called upon for help during the Black Plague epidemic in Europe from
1346 to 1349. The Fourteen Holy Helpers usually appear in pictures with
the Blessed Virgin who is also known as Queen of Martyrs and Queen of
WARNING . . . these saints are very powerful!
They are invoked as a group because of the Black Plague which
devastated Europe from 1346 to 1349. Among the symptoms were tongue
turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on
the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason,
and killed within a few hours; many died without the last Sacraments.
Brigands roamed the roads, people suspected of contagion were attacked,
animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave,
social order and family ties broke down, and the disease appeared
incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging for intervention of the
saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in
Germany, and tradition has remained strong there.
A group of saints invoked with special confidence because they have
proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties,
known and venerated under the name Fourteen Holy Helpers. Though each
has a separate feast or memorial day, the group was collectively
venerated on August 8th. However, this feast was dropped and suppressed
in the 1969 reform of the calendar.
According to the Legend, in the year 1445, a young shepherd, Herman
Leicht, was given the opportunity to see a vision of a young child who
shone like a light. When he tried to approach it, the child disappeared.
he saw the child again but again it vanished. On June 28, 1446, the
child again appeared but this time was surrounded by fourteen other
children, all in a circle of light like a halo. Herman asked who the
child was and what he wanted. The child responded by saying, “We are the
Fourteen Holy Helpers and wish a chapel built here for us. Serve us and
we will serve you.”
After that time, people began to believe the young boy, prayers were
offered and miracles occurred. The next year a chapel was built, then a
church, and then a basilica located near the town of Bad
Staffelstein north of Bamberg, in Germany. The
late Baroque-Rococo basilica known as Vierzehnheiligen Basilica
was designed by Balthasar Neumann and constructed
between 1743 and 1772. It is now a famous place of pilgrimage. There
are many churches devoted to the Fourteen Holy Helpers in Italy,
Austria, Hungary and other countries in Europe. Our Parish built in
Gardenville, NY (now known as West Seneca, NY) is the only active parish
in the United States devoted to the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
An Explanation of the Martyrs
During the early years of the Christian Church, many people did not
believe in Jesus. Some of these people were in positions of over over
the lives of others. Because these people, such as the Emperor
Diocletian, did not believe in Jesus, they wanted all Christians to say
that Jesus was not really the Son of God. The early martyrs refused to
say they did not believe in Jesus, and so these were put to death. These
Christians were martyrs by giving their lives for the love of Christ.
The word Martyr comes from the Greek language. It means, “witness”. A
person may be a martyr (witness) to faith by living according to the
word of God, to show how people can believe in Jesus and live happily.
People can be a martyr (witness) by telling others about Jesus and His
ministry of love and service. We can be martyrs (witnesses) by being of
service to others with kindness, sharing, and love. And, we can be
martyrs by our gratitude for the goodness and mercy of Jesus in our