Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to pray the Sub Tuum Praesidium prayer, the first line of which appears in blue on the front page of The B.C. Catholic every week.

The Pope asked Catholics to pray the Sub Tuum Praesidium in a statement encouraging the Rosary and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel be recited daily during the month of October.

The prayer’s Latin text reads “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.” Its opening line has appeared, off and on, on the masthead of The B.C. Catholic since the newspaper’s origin in 1931.  

Readers regularly ask what the text “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix” on the masthead means. The words, which in English read “We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God,” are both the title and the first line of the prayer. 

The rest of the short supplication reads: “Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”

The words come from the earliest prayer invoking Mary that has ever been discovered. It was found written in Greek on a scrap of papyrus dating back to the 3rd or 4th century.

An issue of The B.C. Catholic from January 28, 1960.

It’s unclear what prompted early B.C. Catholic editors to choose the prayer for the masthead of nearly every issue for 87 years, although it does reflect the deeply-rooted devotion to Our Lady found in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, whose cathedral (opened in 1900) is dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

Originally known as The British Columbia Catholic, the newspaper’s name was shortened when the paper’s size and format were expanded in 1958.

Published on Saturdays, it had the stated aim of “the defence of Catholic rights, the explanation of Catholic Truths, (and) the sympathetic uniting of our Catholic people in the common cause of our Holy Faith.”

Before 1931, Vancouver’s weekly Catholic newspaper was The Bulletin. Its masthead said: “a weekly devoted to Canadian citizenship” on the top left, and “a weekly devoted to Catholic ideals” on the top right.