On December 10 we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. This feast has an interesting history.
According to tradition, the Holy House of Loreto is part of the Virgin house at Nazareth, which was made up of a cave carved into the rock and a front room. The latter was transported in 1291, according to tradition by an “angelic mystery”, from Nazareth, first in ancient Illyria and then reached the Loreto hill on 10 December 1294. When the crusaders in 1291 were expelled from Palestine, the brick house was transported to ancient Illyria, in the present city of Tersatto, where a Marian shrine now stands. On the night between 9 and 10 December 1294, the house was transported to Italy, in the lands of the ancient town of Recanati and was placed on a public road where it is still kept today.
The devotional tradition tells that this transposition was the work of the angels, but recent research on an archaeological and philological basis proposes the well-founded hypothesis that the Holy House was transported in a providential way by ship, under divine protection. Some clues suggest that the authors of the transport were not the angels of heaven, but a family called Angeli. It was May 17, 1900 when Giuseppe Lapponi, pontifical archiatrist of Leo XIII, indicated that he had read in the Vatican archives some documents indicating a noble Byzantine family called Angeli, who saved the materials of the House of the Madonna from Muslim devastation and had them transported to Loreto. The Holy House is housed within a marble cladding designed by Bramante who prepared the design in 1509. It was built under the direction of Antonio Sansovino, Ranieri Nerucci and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. Since the 16th century, pilgrims used to go around the Holy House on their knees, where over the centuries two deep furrows were formed that can still be seen.
From the 14th century onwards Catholic pilgrims flocked to this great place of grace because they fervently believed that inside these blessed walls the Virgin Mary was born, raised and greeted by the Angel Gabriel. To put it simply, if the Holy House of Loreto is actually the house of Nazareth, this must be the dwelling wherein the “Word became Flesh” at the moment of the Annunciation. This has certainly been a decisive turn in humanity’s history.
Connected with this House of Loreto there is a very interesting reflection written in 1848 and 1884 by Cardinal St. John Henry Newman. This holy Cardinal recounted how this holy place changed him:
“I went to Loreto with a simple faith, believing what I still believe, even more so after having seen. Now I no longer have any doubts. If you ask me why I believe it, it is because everyone believes it in Rome— cautious and skeptical as they are in many other things. I believe it, as I believe that there is a planet called Neptune, or that chloroform destroys the sense of pain.
I have no prior difficulties on this point.”
“It was thought that St Maximilian Kolbe never visited Loreto. Our Lady, however, always manages to bring to what was her home, while on earth, those who revere and venerate her in a special way. It comes as no surprise, then, to learn from the Mass register of the Basilica, that he participated in a Mass along with thirty priests from Yugoslavia on 13 July 1919. The following day, the feast of the Franciscan theologian St Bonaventure, he celebrated Mass within the Holy house itself.And so another name, a modern day Saint, has been added to the list of Saints and holy persons who have visited the shrine of Loreto. Undoubtedly there will be many more as time goes on, paying their respects and drawing inspiration from the holiest House in this world.”
It is very significant that Cardinal St. John Henry Newman is associating the house of Loreto with “simple faith”. In the messages that Our Lady is giving to us in Medjugorje we encounter the spirit which animates the Holy House of Loreto. Thus, in a message of 1984 Mary said: If you want to be very happy, lead a simple, humble life, pray very much, and do not sink into problems. Let God resolve them. Then, on 25 September 1997 she told us: Today I call you to comprehend that without love you cannot comprehend that God needs to be in the first place in your life. That is why, little children, I call you all to love, not with a human but with God’s love. In this way, your life will be more beautiful and without an interest. You will comprehend that God gives Himself to you in the simplest way out of love. Little children, so that you may comprehend my words which I give you out of love, pray, pray, pray and you will be able to accept others with love and to forgive all who have done evil to you. Respond with prayer; prayer is a fruit of love towards God the Creator. On 25 October 2002 Our Lady told us: Also today I call you to prayer. Little children, believe that by simple prayer miracles can be worked. Through your prayer you open your heart to God and He works miracles in your life. Whilst on 2 September 2007 she said: Give me your simple hearts, purified by fasting and prayer. Only in the simplicity of your hearts is your salvation. I will be with you and will lead you.
If our homes are filled with prayer, fasting, humble life, loving with God’s love, accept others with love and forgive those who hurt us will not our homes become a living replica of the Holy House of Loreto too?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap