The story of Our Lady of the Snows dates back to the city of Rome in 352 A.D. A generous nobleman and his wife, blessed with much wealth but childless, chose to leave their wealth to the Mother of God. Though the sentiment of their heart was lively, their desire was difficult to achieve. How would they do such a thing? They prayed to the Blessed Mother asking for her to make known to them some means by which they could leave their wealth to her. They even asked her for a sign so they could be certain she had heard their prayers. In answer to their petition, during the night of August 5, Our Lady appeared to the nobleman, his wife, and also to the Holy Father, Pope Liberius. She had a solution for their dilemma. She instructed them to build a church in her honor on the top of Esquiline Hill. As an extra means of confirmation, she told them snow would cover the hill’s crest. And snow it did! Snow in Rome in August! Flakes fell steadily through the night covering the hill in a blanket of white. When the townspeople found out that the snow was a sign from the Blessed Mother, they named her “Our Lady of the Snows.” Per Our Lady’s instructions, the nobleman and his wife built the Church and it became known as the Basilica of Liberius as well as Our Lady of the Snows. In time, the basilica was given another name to distinguish it from the many other churches in Rome dedicated to the Mother of God which had been established. It became known as St. Mary Major, the first and greatest of all church’s under the patronage of Our Lady.
Queen St. Helena and her son, Emperor St. Constantine, brought to the Basilica from the Holy Land a great Marian treasure – an image of the Madonna and Child known as the “Salus Populi, Romani” (The Protectress of the People of Rome) . It is attributed to St. Luke, the apostle and evangelist. Many healings and deliverances from oppressors have been credited to its miraculous intervention. The Basilica of St. Mary Major has celebrated the Divine Motherhood of Mary since the Council of Ephesus in 432 A.D. when Mary was first proclaimed “Theotokos,” Mother of God. On the Feast Day, August 5, beautiful white roses are released from the ceiling in the Basilica showering the sanctuary in remembrance of the snowfall that led to the building of Our Lady’s first church.
Our Blessed Mother has a beautiful way of making her intentions known. Read the account of the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11). How did she make her desires known to Jesus? To the servants? Why did she make these requests? In light of this, why do you think Mary would ask that a church be built in her honor? What is she asking of you today? For what purpose?