The devotion became popular in Europe during the pontificate of Pope Pius V. During the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, His Holiness asked the people to pray the rosary and invoke Mary under the title “MARY HELP of CHRISTIANS”. The victory of the Christians over the Turks was attributed to the intercession of Mary under this title.
On 15th September 1815, the anniversary of his return to Rome after liberation from Napoleonic imprisonment in 1814, Pope Pius VII declared 24th May, to be the feast of Mary Help of Christians.
Don Bosco zealously promoted devotion to Mary Help of Christians as his works for youth in Italy and Europe expanded. From 1865-1868, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Italy, was built through his efforts with just eight pennies in hand. In his humility, he attributed everything to Our Lady: “I have put up nothing of my own: Aedificavit sibi domum Maria (Mary has built herself a house). Every stone, every decoration represents a grace.”
“Have great devotion to Mary Help of Christians and you will see what miracles are.” Don Bosco often repeated these words to the young people in the Oratory since he himself experienced unexpected miracles in his life through the intercession of Mary the Help of Christians.
Impelled by his great love for Mary, Don Bosco, through the collaboration of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (also known as the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco) in 1872. He intended the Congregation to be a“living monument of his gratitude to Mary Help of Christians”.