Monday, October 24, 2016

Italian Pilgrimage: The Holy House of Loreto

Our first view of the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto

Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto

In preparing for this Italian Pilgrimage, I spent some time researching our destinations and the lives of the saints we would learn about but I hadn’t done much research on the Holy House of Loreto and knew very little about it, so I wasn't greatly looking forward to visiting there and didn't have any expectations.  And as it happens sometimes in life, we receive our greatest graces when we least expect them.  The Holy House of Loreto was certainly a source of great grace and as it turned out, was one of my favorite stops on our pilgrimage.

Bishop Don says that the Italians have a saying, “If it isn’t true, it ought to be!”  That saying is often applied to the Holy House of Loreto.  The belief is that the very house where the Blessed Mother Mary was born and raised, and also the house where the angel Gabriel visited her and the Word was made Flesh, was this very house in Loreto.  The story is that angels carried the Holy House from Nazareth to Croatia in 1291 and then across the Adriatic Sea to Loreto in 1295 where it has remained ever since.  Later documents show that the stones of the house were transported by a family with the name of Angelo or de Angelis in the 13th century. But because of the angel legend Pope Benedict the XV has declared Our Lady of Loreto to be the patroness of aviation and you can bet I was relying heavily upon her intercession during our airline travels as they filled me with anxiety and fear.  

We weren't allowed pictures inside but I found this online source
We were given time to enter the Holy House and pray before the image of Our Lady of Loreto or Black Madonna, so called because over time soot from candles colored the wood from which she was carved into a soft black.  The original statue was damaged in a 1921 fire and when a new statue was made the carver used a dark olive wood from the very beginning to maintain her black image. 

Our Lady of Loreto, the Black Madonna (source)

I was deeply moved to stand in the very place where Mary gave her yes.  I touched and kissed the walls, wanting to feel the graces that they carry.  Then we were given a real treat!  Patrizia, our fabulous guide, stood near the exit, where, in a very small and dark niche, rested a dish from which our Lord Jesus himself was fed.  She lit the niche with her cell phone light so that we could better see the dish as we paused to reverence this amazing relic.  After this astounding event I had to stop and write out the prayer that was spilling from my heart. 

Dear Jesus, from this vessel you took nourishment for your earthly body which has now become spiritual food for the world.  How blessed we are to consider this and pray about it here.  Blessed Mother, thank you for your yes, for allowing the Word to become Flesh within you.  Teach me to follow your example and to always say yes to the will and desires of God.  Amen.
The Holy House
The Holy House is encased in marble walls which depict the life of the Blessed Mother and the entire house is inside of the Basilica della Santa Casa that was built around it in 1469.  Something that moved me deeply is that over the many centuries people would pray the rosary on their knees on the marble floor outside of the Holy House and after time they wore two grooves into the marble from their knees.  That’s powerful prayer!  Although we didn’t have time to pray a full rosary there, Paul and I knelt in the grooves and prayed a Hail Mary together for our family.  How I would have loved to pray the whole rosary there, though!  Can you imagine how mighty that rosary would have been?

The grooves in the marble floor.

After we all had a chance to visit the Holy House, we went downstairs to a lower chapel for Mass.  Prior to Mass, a guide shared a little information with us.  She told us that the little house is like a treasure.  People come to this place and go out different, changed.  Many miracles have occurred here and many saints, including St. Francis de Sales, St. Therese of Lisieux, Pope St.  John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II all spent time praying here. In fact, Pope St. John Paul II considers this holy house like a house of family.  This is the place to pray for families, for all of the fighting we have to do for our sanctity.  There is a little candle inside the house that is lit every morning at 7:30 am for Italy and for families.  Before we left the holy house we were given the opportunity to leave a donation and receive blessed oil from the lamps that had been kept in the holy house all night.  Many families have reported miracles from this oil.  I requested ten bottles but wish I had asked for many more.  I wish every family could have a bottle of this precious oil in their homes!

Olio S. Casa Loreto and Relic of the Veil which covers the statue
of Our Lady of Loreto on Good Friday and Holy Saturday

The guide also told us that the gift shop offers blue ribbons for families that cannot conceive children.  Miracles have happened with these light blue ribbons that have been prayed over by nuns.  The recipient wears the ribbon all the time and then brings it back to the Holy House when they have conceived a child.  Many blue ribbons have been returned!

Following the guide’s talk, Mass commenced and Fr. Dennis Dirkx, one of the Milwaukee priests who traveled with us, gave a beautiful homily on the day’s Gospel passage from Luke:   “While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”   Fr. Dennis said that the Word of God speaks of home.  We can interpret the command of Jesus, “Blessed are those who observe the Word of God and keep it” to mean that the Word of God has to be “at home” within us.  Jesus invites us to take the Word and allow it to be at home within us and then we have the ability to live that Word in our daily lives.  That’s the invitation that Jesus gives us in this passage, we allow ourselves to become that Living Word of God.

After the homily, Bishop Don invited all of the married couples to stand up and renew their wedding vows and offered a special prayer for those who were widowed or traveling without their spouses.  This truly was a beautiful, holy and life-changing place!  Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us!

Our next visit is a short stop at the Adriatic Sea with a special gift!

sidewalk drawing outside the Basilica

sidewalk drawing outside the Basilica

sidewalk drawing outside the Basilica

from side chapel dedicated to American flight (see the angels carrying the holy house?)

Chapel of the Cruxifix

Chapel of the Crucifix

vows renewed and ready for 25 more years of marriage!

1 comment:

  1. How sweet that you renewed your vows! And what a special place to do that. I can almost picture the grooves worn in the floor from praying on fervent knees. Beautiful piece, Annie.