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Our Lady of Loreto
Question from carolyn paris on 7/28/2005:

I am looking for information on Our Lady of Loreto: History, Novena, Feast Day.

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 8/2/2005:

Our Lady of Loreto is the Virgin's title with respect to the Holy House of Loreto, contained within the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, in Loreto, Italy. A number of saints have consideed it the holiest place on earth, since in the Holy House "the Word became Flesh." The House has been been shown to be constructed of materials native to Nazareth and with dimensions which suit the site of the cave venerated in Nazareth as the home of Mary at the time of the Annunciation. On the hillside of Nazaraeth in Christ's time it was common to adjoin a structure to one of the many caves, and so a very equitable interior climate was maintained in this partially underground home. The archeology of the House, and of the cave in Nazareth over which both the ancient and modern basilicas of the Annunciation were built, support the connection between the two. It is also known that in the 1200s after Moslem fighters twice destroyed churches over the site in Nazareth, in which the small stone house was somehow spared, it suddenly disappeared.

As to how the House got to Loreto, some suggest that it was taken by crusaders who did not want it to be destroyed, first to what would be Croatia today, and then to Italy (c. 1294). Others point to a vision credited to St. Nicholas of Tolentino, who saw angels set the House down on the road from Assisi to Ancona. Interestingly, there appears to be some evidence of lashings on the stones (the first transport?), and yet beneath the House in its current location there is no foundation to support it (excavations 1962-1965), suggesting the impossibility of its being set there by human hands.

What IS known is that the Shrine of the Holy House is the Lourdes of Italy in which innumerable miracles occur, and which saints visit with great devotion, send demoniacs to be liberated, and otherwise vouch by their example for the sanctity of the place. I might note that when I visted Loreto for the first time in 1982, a woman paralized for her entire life and carried in on a pallet the week before had walked out under her own power. Her healing, as do most, occured during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lady never puts herself first. Also, in Loreto you don't take away water as in Lourdes, but blessed oil, that has burned in the many lamps of the Holy House and the Shrine. It, too, has been known to cure sickness.

The feast day appears to be December 12. Pope Benedict XV (the Benedict before the current one), decreed the Virgin of Loreto the patroness of aviation. In the 1600s a Mass and a Marian litany was approved. This "Litany of Loreto" is the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the 5 litanies approved for public recitation by the Church. Her statue, carved from Cedar of Lebanon, is one of the "Black Madonnas," owing to centuries of lamp smoke. It, like the Holy House, is associated with miracles. When Pope John XXIII visited the Shrine in 1962, the statue was photographed in a smile. You can buy reproductions of this photograph in Loreto. When the Pope opened the Vatican Council he alluded to this near the end of his opening address when he said, "O Mary, Help of Christians, Help of Bishops, of whose love we have recently had particular proof in thy temple of Loreto, where we venerated the mystery of the Incarnation, dispose all things for a happy and propitious outcome and, with thy spouse, St. Joseph, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, intercede for us to God."



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