Tag Archives: catholic church

A Summer snowstorm resulted in the First Church ever built in honor of the Blessed Mother

Basilica of St. Mary Major                                                         wikipediaorg

By Larry Peterson

This is about the first church ever built for Our Lady. Today it is called the Basilica of St. Mary Major (LatinBasilica Sanctae Mariae Maioris). It did not start out that way.

I have a pre-Vatican II, St. Joseph Daily Missal which I use for reference.  Its Liturgical Calendar lists  August 5, as the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. If you look in the current 2019  Missalette, you will note that August 5 has the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The name change occurred in 1969 when the General Roman Calendar was revised. It is actually the same feast with a different name.

Historically, (part of which is considered legend) the story goes like this:

There was a patrician man named John, and he and his wife were a devout Christian couple but had not been blessed with children. They did, however, possess a large tract of land. They went to see the Pope, whose name was Liberius. He was the 29th successor to St. Peter and had just been elevated to the Papacy. They told the Pope that they had decided to donate their worldly goods to the Mother of God. They asked him what he thought about that idea. The Holy Father told them to pray and ask the Blessed Mother for a sign to help them decide.

The couple did as the Pope suggested and during the night of August 4th and into the morning of August 5th, 352 A.D., snow fell on the largest of the Seven Hills of Rome; the one known as the Esquiline Hill. This is where John’s land was located. Even though it was during the stifling heat of summer, the snow did not melt.

The snow landed, making an outline on the ground. The same night Our Lady appeared to John and his wife and also to Pope Liberius. She told them she wanted a church built in her honor on the property. The church would be built on the outline laid out by the snow. The land was owned by John.  He and his wife happily donated the land to be used for the church as requested by the Mother of God. The Holy Father joyfully accepted.

It is a rare occurrence for snow to fall in Rome in winter, no less in mid-summer. The Pope, along with John and his wife, explained to the gathering crowds what had happened. The news spread like wildfire, and soon the people were chanting, over and over, “Our Lady of the Snows!”  “Our Lady of the Snows!”

Pope Liberius ordered that a church be built in Mary’s honor on the site. Work began but was not completed until a century later, under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). Its dedication coincided with the ending of the Council of Ephesus of  431 when Mary was officially declared to be the Mother of God. The finished church was called the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It was also called the Church of St. Mary of the Crib because it was said that pieces from the crib Our Lord was placed in when he was born were kept in the church.

History tells us that Pope Gregory the Great led the first procession carrying an image of Our Lady from the Church of Our Lady of the Snows to the Church of St. Peter in the year 597 to ask for prayers for the people of Rome who were being decimated by the Black Plague. It is written that St. Michael the Archangel appeared and the plague ended. Over the centuries many other miracles have been attributed to interactions with the church.

It was Pope St. Pius V who inserted the feast day of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Snows into the General Roman Calendar in 1568. It remained there until 1969 when, because of ambiguities in the 4th-century historical accounts of the “summer snowfall,” the feast day was officially changed to the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Over the centuries many churches have been dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. There are over 152 in Italy alone. There is the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois and other places in the United States and around the world.

Lastly, on August 5 of each year, upon the conclusion of the Solemn Mass celebrated at the Basilica in Rome, the people commemorate the miraculous snowfall of  352.A.D. by having a shower of white rose petals dropped from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady. It must be a beautiful sight to behold.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Can People who do not Believe in Jesus Christ get into Heaven; Dad said, “Absolutely.”

My Dad, Emil Peterson 1912–1965

By Larry Peterson

There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world of which 1.2 billion are Catholic. That is almost one-third of the world’s population. Obviously, there are many Christians in our world so, to the question: Can all those who call themselves Christians, be saved?

The answer is YES! Not only Catholics but  Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc., can be saved and get to heaven. The fact is, any one of God’s human creations can be saved. If a person truly seeks God and demonstrates by living their life “loving his neighbor as himself,” how can they not?

There are those in the Catholic Church who might insist that ”outside of the Church there is no salvation.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear on this topic; it reads, “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846). Well, what about our Jewish brethren? What about Buddhists and Hindus and others?

The Catechism follows with; “this is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church”  Indeed, if these people seek God with a sincere heart, and try, in their actions to do his will as they know it, they may also attain heaven (CCC 847).

My dad died 54 years ago, and memories of him are faded at best. (we were all very young).  It was Christmas day and, as was the custom in our five-story walk-up, everyone traveled from apartment to apartment on Christmas sharing food and drink and laughter and conversation.

A group of neighbors, including dad, my brother Bobby and I, were gathered in the apartment below ours. Suddenly, a man’s voice, much louder than any of the others speaking, blurted out, “Sorry Emil, (my father’s name) that’s what the church teaches. I did not make it up.”

There are few vivid memories of my dad that I still have. But this is one that stuck like glue. As the people all grew quiet and turned to listen in, my father leaned forward in his chair and slowly and purposely said, “ Listen, Walter, let me tell you something. Any human being God ever created can get to heaven. All they have to do is love their neighbor. It doesn’t matter where they come from or even if they have a religion. We all are born knowing what is right and wrong. Heaven is every person’s choice.”

I never forgot those moments.  My young head knew he had it right. What he also had right was when he said, “we are all born knowing what is right and wrong.” He did not realize he was validating and defending the Natural Law; I do not even know if he had ever heard of it. It just means that each of us instinctively knows what “right” is and what “wrong” is. We all have the ability to choose.

Many years later, inside my much older head, I still know dad had it right. We are, in fact, ALL God’s children. He was a man who never finished high school no less attend a catechism class. But he had it right, and this was way before the Catholic Church clarified the question of who can obtain salvation.

The Natural Law predicated our behavior. The Founding Fathers used it as a basis for the Declaration of Independence. Whatever happened to common courtesy among people and the common respect we gave each other? Heck, recently I was reprimanded by a woman because I held a door open for her.

It was never a perfect world but the concept of  “love your neighbor” seems to have been devoured by a secular society that tolerates no opinions that might disagree with another’s life choices. The primary result of secularism seems to be “As Long as I’m Happy that is all that Matters. Too bad if you don’t like it.”

My dad was a man of faith, and because of his faith he got it right. When he said, “Heaven is every person’s choice,” he was spot on.

copyright©Larry Peterson

My Dad, Emil Peterson 1912–1965

2018