Today we celebrate the Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, one of the four principal churches in Rome. Someone might say: there you go, you Catholics, with all these weird devotions – even to the point of a devotion to a building!!! How do we explain to him what’s going on here?
There is another name of this day, the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows. If you have heard of it, maybe you thought is must have come from some devotion to Our Lady in the Alps Mountains or something! No.
The story is that, in around the year 360, a rich man in Rome and his wife both woke up having had the same dream, a vision of a Church for Our Lady they were to help build on the Equiline Hill of Rome. They went to the site, and they found it had just snowed there – in Rome in the middle of the heat of August – and they saw traced in snow on the ground the same design of the Church they had seen in their visionary dream. Pope Liberius authorized the building of this great Church of Saint Mary Major.
A church is a home for the family, the Family of God. Our homes reflect who we are. Right from the beginning of Christianity, Christians have experienced that. We build churches with great devotion to give praise and adoration to God, as we create spaces that celebrate and instruct who we are as Church! Especially a great basilica does this and the four major basilicas in Rome much do in an exemplary way.
Our Feast today celebrates what we have heard from the Book of Revelation: “Behold God’s dwelling with the human race”, in Jesus! At the same time, we celebrate how Jesus wants to give us His Mother as Our Mother, as Pope Francis has said many times. The Lord wants His Mother to share His love, to help us, to guide the Church, to be with each of us as we journey through life toward heaven, particularly at times of crossing stormy seas as we do now!
Let’s pray that one day soon all brothers and sisters understand this so that the great Family of Jesus can give the united witness to God’s love that our world today desperately needs to understand and accept.
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About Father Jim Phalan, C.S.C.
Father James Phalan, C.S.C., is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary as part of the Family Rosary team. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!