“Save Me, Holy Queen!”

An unfair grade at school led the young Plinio to alter his report card, much to the chagrin of his mother, Dona Lucilia. In the days leading up to the boy’s innocence being proven, he experienced great anguish, but he also received one of the greatest graces of his life. Do you, reader, not also experience difficult situations? Dr. Plinio’s story may help you…

I had a habit of getting up late on Sundays, but that day I got up very early because I was no longer tired and could not sleep any more. So I decided to go to Mass at the Salesian church – the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus [in São Paulo] – which was very close to my house, just three or four blocks on level ground, which is nothing for a boy. […]

I was hoping to find a seat in the middle of the central nave, but when I entered I was disappointed to see a scene that was completely different from what I was used to: children were coming in a queue, singing, and filling up the pews. It was a Mass for the students of the Sacred Heart of Jesus School. […]

After the children entered, the faithful occupied the side aisles. The church was packed.

Pushed by the flow of people, I happened to move to the aisle to the right of those entering, realizing that I would have to attend the Mass standing, leaving the seats for the ladies. […] In the end, I found an empty seat in the last or second-to-last pew, right at the back.

At the feet of Our Lady Help of Christians

At a certain point, the children sang again and the priest entered. Mass began.

Because of the columns, I could not see the celebrant, but could only follow the movements of the people as they rose and knelt. Nor could I see the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the main altar. The only image I had in front of me was the statue of Our Lady on the side nave altar, which was decorated with flowers.

It was a beautiful statue of Our Lady Help of Christians, made of absolutely white marble, so smooth that it seemed to be made of snow. She was radiant, with a Queen’s crown on her head, holding the Child Jesus on her left arm and a sceptre in her right hand. She held her Son as a mother cradles her child, and the sceptre like a general holding a baton of command. The Child Jesus, also wearing a crown, was smiling and seemed happy to have given the sceptre to His Mother.

She appeared to be slightly smiling, illuminated and inundated with happiness, giving me an idea of what She would be like in Heaven. With such purity, goodness, superiority, grandeur and majesty, but looking at the faithful in such a welcoming, noble, affable and merciful manner that it left me spellbound.

The thought also came to me that the Child Jesus would do whatever Our Lady asked, just as I would do whatever my mother wanted, because She had a similar influence on Him as my mother had on me.

I thought: “If I, who am a wretch, love my mother so very much, imagine God, who is infinite! How will He love His own Mother, and what will She be like for Him to have chosen her as His Mother? It must be marvellous!”

And I said to myself: “How good She really is! If I, a forger, were to turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I would not be helped, because I do not deserve to be helped, but She is the help of Christians! She who is ready to help all Christians in particular. I am a Christian! I am going to pray to her! Maybe she will find a solution for me in this mess I am in!”

“Save me, Holy Queen!”

Then, not knowing exactly what to say to Our Lady, a prayer came to my lips instinctively that I had learned to pray and knew by heart, but which had never particularly caught my attention: the Salve Regina.

In Latin, the word salve is a greeting. Just as we say “good morning” and “good afternoon” today, the ancient Romans used to say salve, and this Latin greeting passed into Salve Rainha in Portuguese and other languages, with the meaning of “I greet you, O Queen!” But I did not know that and I interpreted salve, thinking it was related to the verb salvar [to save], as in Portuguese. So it would mean “save me!”

It was a gross error. I had only just started to learn Latin, which is another way of saying that I knew next to nothing… But I was not thinking about greetings or protocols at that moment, when I felt shipwrecked. It was a cry for help, an S.O.S.!

And I thought: “Salve! What a good discovery! That is the prayer I need! Ideally suited to my dire straits! I am in a situation where I need someone to really save me! I am going to ask Our Lady right now to protect me, help me and save me, because I am lost!”

I fell to my knees before that image of Our Lady Help of Christians and began to pray the Salve Regina. It was the first time I had recited this prayer with all the fervour of my soul and with an enormous desire to be answered:

Salve, salve… Save me, save me! Save me from this trouble, save me from this difficulty! I absolutely want to be saved!”

A light and a smile

The Mass continued.

I was thinking of Our Lady and praying the Salve Regina, when, at a certain moment, while staring at that image, something happened. She was so motherly! I had the singular impression that She was looking at me, full of kindness, mercy and tenderness, as if She knew me […].

Our Lady Help of Christians – Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine, São Paulo

I seemed to feel all the pity that Our Lady had for me. She saw my soul and, without wanting to judge me, She understood the drama in which I was immersed, and wanted to help and caress me.

Two thoughts came to me at that moment, like a flash of lightning. The first was: “She is like my mother!”

And the second: “My mother is so, so good! She does everything for me and accompanies me on every occasion, but… Our Lady has a greater kindness, beyond compare! She is enormously more adept, unspeakably more perfect than my mother! It is unimaginable! No-one else is like her!”

I cannot describe what it was like! There was no apparition, vision, revelation or ecstasy. So there was no miracle, and the facial features of that marble image did not change in any way. But, by an imponderable impression, I saw in her gaze a light for me and on her lips a smile.

In that hour of trouble, Plinio fell to his knees before the statue of Our Lady, asking her to save him from his tremendous woe

I had a kind of personal knowledge of this unfathomable mercy, and I thought: “I did not expect so much! Instead of despising this wretch, this child who has sinned and who appears before her trembling, She lets the petal of a smile fall!”

Then, by a movement of grace – without hearing any voice – it seemed to me that the image continued to express itself through the gaze and said inside my soul: “My son, it is true! You are indeed a wretch and never forget this in your life, but you have never yet asked for my support. I am good, much more than you are bad! My mercy also extends to wretches and I pity you, for I am your Mother! Ask Me for pardon! Believe that I love you. I draw you close to Me, I caress you, embrace you, inundate and purify you with my affection.”

And I felt that if by any chance I wanted to run away, She would lovingly take me and say: “My son, come back! Here I am.”

I had already been to Confession and I knew I was absolved, but at that moment I was struck by the realization that Our Lady’s smile was opening the way to mercy for me. I could expect everything from her! She would cover what I had done and give me the courage and strength to make amends! Deeply repentant, I began to ask Our Lady for forgiveness a thousand times, not because of the bad outcome that could result from my action, but because I had offended her and, to a much lesser degree, because I had offended my mother also.

I had both enormous contrition and the sensation of great forgiveness, accompanied by a gentle, kind and encouraging help. […]

“With her, I will make it!”

In Our Lady’s expression I also felt a kind of promise, as if She were saying to my soul: “My son, I make a covenant with you: I will never abandon you! Have confidence, because I will help you!”

Plinio among his classmates in 1921, the year he altered his report card

I said to myself: “I have learned the lesson: I do not deserve to be given the strength to continue on my way, but if I cling to her, everything will change! How sweet and pleasant it is to turn to her! What a paradise for the soul! This is my path! I will trust in Our Lady all my life! With her, I will make it! Without her, I will go to hell!”

And something in that image instilled in me the conviction that in all the afflictions, dangers and even infidelities throughout my life, when I looked to her or remembered her, asking for her help, She would take pity on me and welcome me, because She was the key to all solutions. In the end, I would win the battle of my life, become a worthy Catholic and even a hero. Therefore, the serenity, tranquillity and freshness of soul that that promise communicated to me would accompany me until the end of my days.

As he prayed, every word of the “Salve Regina” filled the heart of the young Plinio with wonderful brightness

Our Lady made me see all the beauty and gentleness of the path that was opening up before me, if I remained united to her, taking refuge at her feet, living off her affection, her care, her compassion and her mercy. And in this my affectivity found its proper environment.

I realized that She also wanted to be loved entirely by me, as if to say to me: “I give myself entirely to you, but you must give yourself entirely to Me! Walk the path of fidelity, say ‘no’ to the men of the Revolution in order to say ‘yes’ to Me, who am the Queen of Heaven and earth. Struggle and fight, because one day you will see that your ideals will be realized! Love Me all your life, and I will love you for eternity.”

Right then and there, I made a resolution to be very devoted to her until death, and to never forget how She had helped me. And I answered inwardly: “My Mother, I am yours!”

“I am good to everyone!”

I felt that Our Lady took special pity on me because I was so weak. However, I had the clear understanding that this compassion was not a privilege for me, but was her attitude towards all people, which left me very touched and moved.

I did not think of myself as a person whom She loved especially, but only as unum ex populo1and I thought: “Just as Our Lady cares for me now, I see that She cares for all the faithful. I am just one of those in this church. She also takes pity on all the sinners who fill the streets, the houses, the trams and the cars; on anyone, no matter how bad they are, as long as they have the desire to make amends! But many of them reject her…

And it seemed to me that She was implying the following: “If you want others to benefit from this goodness, tell them that I am good to everyone!”

“Mother of mercy”

As the Mass went on, I continued to pray the Salve Regina, once, twice, I do not know how many times, overtaken by an enormous and enthusiastic joy! Each of those words, which I had previously just parroted, took on a beauty for me and seemed to fill my heart with a marvellous light, with the ineffable impression that Our Lady was giving them value and meaning. I comprehended point by point what I was reciting and said to myself:

Dr. Plinio venerates a statue of Our Lady Help of Christians on her feast day, May 24 of 1991

Hail, Holy Queen!

“Here is the life preserver! I am so miserable that if I do not cling to her, there is no way out for me! She will solve my problems…”

Mother of mercy

“The word mother already indicates the idea of mercy, because mothers are merciful, but She is all mercy! How well thought out that is! What an impressive and extraordinary thing!” […]

“Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope…”


“Since that is the way You are, save me!”

Our life

I thought: “See? She is my life! I would feel completely ruined if She did not take pity on me and plead my cause before her Son. I want to live with her!”

Our sweetness

“How gentle She is! My sweetness is Our Lady, who takes care of me in this situation! What sweetness would be left in my life if I did not have the chance to pray to her?”

And our hope

“My hope is in her and there is no other! If She does not look after me, I am lost and have no solution on earth, but with her I have hope!”

“At the end of my life, I will see Jesus!”

To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.

I did not really know what the word banished meant, but I understood that it was a very unfortunate situation and I said to myself: “This is the prayer for me! That is right! I am banished and I am crying out.”

To Thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping

“Although I am not actually weeping – not being very much inclined to tears – I am mourning as much as I can! The whole of my being is mourning…

In this vale of tears.

“That is right! I am swimming in my own tears. How much interior weeping! How much weeping without tears in this soul that suffers so much at such an early age!”

Turn, then, most gracious Advocate

On that day, Our Lady established a relationship of goodness towards him, by which Dr. Plinio never lost his confidence in her mercy

“I understand: I needed someone to plead my cause before Our Lord Jesus Christ, my judge. She is my Advocate, who has a kind of parti pris2 for me and remains by my side in all circumstances. Her mission is to move me, to bring me closer to Jesus and to obtain His forgiveness for me. There is someone who unites my irremediable imperfection with His heavenly perfection! And so I will succeed in the end!”

Thine eyes of mercy toward us.

“She is looking down on me from Heaven! Everything will work out!”

And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

“Then, after I get out of this trouble, at the end of my life, I will still see Jesus!”

And so on I went, praying the entire Hail Holy Queen, with a very strong inner emotion, having the impression that She was smiling at me even more.

“I was calm for my entire life”

This produced a real turnaround in my soul. I felt that her compassion, shining down on my misery, as sunlight might shine down upon a wall, had regenerated me.

Mass came to an end. I left the church comforted, encouraged, feeling changed and reaching the conclusion: “I am going to trust! Everything will work out and mother will ‘make up’ with me again, because Our Lady prayed for me and will set this case right!” […].

From that day on, She established a relationship of goodness towards me and I never lost my confidence in Her. I was calm for my entire life, because whatever happened, once I had felt enveloped by this mercy, I could rest. ◊

Taken from: Notas Autobiográficas
[Autobiographical Notes].
São Paulo: Retornarei, 2012,v.III, p.186-207



1 From the Latin: one from among the people.

2 From the French: a decision taken in favour of someone before knowing a certain fact.



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