Honoring the Blessed Mother on Dedication Day of Saint Saint Mary Major Basilica

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Currents News Staff

On August 5, 358, legend has it snow fell on Esquiline Hill in Rome. It was after a dream Pope Liberius had the night of August 4, in which the Blessed Mother told him to build a church where snow would be the following day. 

When he woke up, it would be known as the site of St. Mary Major.

This medieval legend is still remembered today, but now takes the form of white rose petals falling from the dome of the basilica. 

Thousands of pilgrims brave the intense summer heat to come watch, pray and honor the Blessed Mother during the annual Mass celebrated at the beginning of each August.

“I didn’t really know that it wasn’t the actual snow. I learned about those flowers there,” said one pilgrim.

“It’s a moving experience which you must participate in to really know the emotion,” another faithful visitor said.  

“I think this tradition, this place is so beautiful. I went to this place from Poland. Because when I see this, I think yes, it’s a nice tradition, nice people and a nice place,” concluded another.

While Pope Francis did not celebrate the Mass himself, he has a place in his heart for this Basilica and the patroness of Rome. 

He visited the church at the beginning of his pontificate to pray for her protection, and continues to do so before and after each trip he takes.

Likewise, over the centuries, countless other popes have visited the basilica to do homage to the Blessed Mother, who personally indicated where she wanted this church constructed.

As one of the four major basilicas in Rome and the first church in the Western world dedicated to Mary, this tradition today that we are celebrating also gives way to the church’s other name, St. Mary of the Snow.