Viva la Madonna! Long live the Mother of God!

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Tony Gentile/Reuters

In the Catholic Church, the month of May has traditionally been a month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  It is during this month that priests, bishops, and even the Pope himself encourage and highlight the importance of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives and our need of her prayers.

It is clear that Pope Francis has a particular love of the Mother of God and wishes for us to love her too. Just last weekend, he traveled to the largest basilica in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. Mary Major, to pray the rosary with the faithful.  This is his second visit to this basilica since he was elected pope – the Holy Father came to St. Mary Major the day after his election to ask Our Lady’s intercession for his new pontificate.

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Mary is a mother who helps Christians grow, face the difficulties of life and use their freedom to make lasting commitments, Pope Francis said. Marking Catholics’ traditional celebration of May as the month of Mary, Pope Francis led the recitation of the rosary May 4 at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. After the service, he went to the steps of the basilica to greet thousands of people who were unable to get inside, and he asked them to say three Hail Marys “for me, because I need it.” He also led the crowd in chanting “Viva la Madonna” (Long live the mother of God). At the beginning and end of the service, Pope Francis venerated the basilica’s famous icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people, in the above photograph). In a reflection after the recitation of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, Pope Francis said there are three primary ways in which Mary, as a mother with “great and tender love,” promotes the healthy growth of Christians.

On Monday, May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will consecrate his pontificate to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why not say three Hail Mary’s today, for Pope Francis but also that your love for the Virgin Mary might increase each day?

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us!

As over a foot of snow is set to blanket the UW-Madison campus and the Madison metro area, closing local schools, businesses, and even most operations at the university, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady of the Snows, to protect all those who must venture out into the inclement weather today.

Why Our Lady of the Snows? 

According to a legend dating back to the fourth century (352 AD), the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a wealthy, noble Roman couple who were without children and, having no children, had chosen Mary as the heiress to their fortune.  In her appearance in a dream, she expressed her desire to have a church built in Rome in her honor, and that the site for this church would soon find itself covered in snow.  On a day in August, in the hot, stifling summer climate of Mediterranean Rome, the Esquiline Hill, one of the seven historic hills in the city, was blanketed by fresh snow – heralded as a miracle.  In 358 AD, a church was built on the site to honor the Mother of God.  Today, that church is known through the world as the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of only four basilicas in all the world that are known as major basilicas (the others being St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s, and St. Paul Outside the Walls, also all in Rome).  To this day, the Basilica of St. Mary Major remains the largest church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Rome.

SantaMariaMaggiore

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us!

For more information on the miracle of the snows:

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois

For more information on St. Mary Major:

Official Website of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major