August 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI who will be canonized in October. Pope Francis spoke of this at the Sunday Angelus, saying, “Forty years ago Blessed Pope Paul VI – the Pope of modernity – was living his last hours on this earth. He died in the evening of August 6, 1978. We remember him with great veneration and gratitude. From heaven, may he intercede for the Church and for peace in the world.”
This column might be Joan’s Rome lite tomorrow as I will be travelling much of the day. I’ll bring you what I can – if I can!
THE AUGUST SNOWFALL IN ROME
Every so often people write me to tell me they’ve read stories of snowfall in Rome in August, traditionally the hottest month of the year – perhaps together with July! The snowfall they read about has nothing to do with needing warm clothes when you visit Rome in August but has everything to do with one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, Our Lady of the Snows aka St. Mary Major.
The other three papal basilicas are St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran. By the way, these four basilicas, with three others, constitute the 7 must-visit pilgrim churches in Rome. The remaining three: St. Sebastian, Holy Cross in Jerusalem (with relics of the crucifixion) and St. Lawrence – San Lorenzo al Verano.
Now about the snowfall:
The year was 358 A.D. John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and requested that they build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night.
John and his wife went to tell their friend Pope Liberius of their dream and to their amazement discovered that the pontiff had had the same dream. That morning, August 5, one of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline, was covered in snow, as witnessed by John, his wife, the Pope and his entourage, and a throng of Romans. Pope Liberius took a stick and traced the sign of the future basilica in the snow, a basilica which would be forever known as Our Lady of the Snows, in addition to the name it bears today, St. Mary Major, the greatest – and the oldest – Marian church.
The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5. Each year, there are two celebrations on that day. In late afternoon during a liturgy, usually vespers, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released through one of the square panels of the basilica’s glorious gilt ceiling. In the evening, about 9 pm, outside the basilica, white flower petals are showered down on the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.
If you are ever in Rome on August 5 go to St. Mary Major in mid-afternoon or about 9 at night to witness the snowfall and participate in a liturgy.
Here’s a brief Youtube video I did on my first visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9LTZk-k2k8
30,000 ITALIAN YOUTH ON WALKING PILGRIMAGE TO ROME
The initiative organized by the Italian bishops conference is in preparation for the Synod on young people in the Vatican in October and the World Youth Day in Panama in January.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews.va)
More than 30,000 young people of some 200 Italian dioceses set out in groups Friday morning on a weeklong walking pilgrimage in the territories of their respective dioceses, an experience that will conclude in a mega rally in Rome next weekend with meetings with Pope Francis.
The National Service for Youth Ministry of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has organized the initiative in view of the Synod of Bishops on young people scheduled for October in the Vatican.
Father Michele Falabretti who heads the Youth Ministry office explained that they wanted to add a special experience to their meeting with the Pope, hence the initiative called, “Per Mille Strade” (Through a thousand roads), a pilgrimage involving young people and those accompanying them and “Siamo Qui” (We Are Here), the encounter with Pope Francis on the last two days in Rome, August 11 and 12.
Pilgrimage through the world
To be able to make the most of the walking pilgrimage, each participant has been provided with a pilgrim’s kit containing both practical and spiritual items. This includes a pilgrim’s shoulder bag with items such as a headlamp for use at night, a hat, a portable water bag, a diary, a Gospel, a cross, a commentary booklet on the encounter between Jesus and the disciples, a small canvas with the image of the holy shroud, a map and an identification badge.
The young pilgrims have also been furnished with a log, where they will post their experiences as they pass through the various stages of their journey.
Fr. Falabretti said the purpose of the pilgrimage is to help young people step out of the beaten path, slow down and keep their eyes open to the testimonies of life and faith that they come across and to know about the stories of today’s man and his difficulties and hopes. This journey is to make the children think and feel as part of the Church, he said.
Rally with the Pope in Rome
After the pilgrimage across their respective dioceses, the youngsters will board buses, trains or other means to converge on Rome on Saturday, August 11, where they will hold an evening prayer vigil at Circus Maximus with the participation of the Holy Father.
The following day, Sunday, they will attend a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, at the end of which the Pope will hand them a missionary mandate and bless the Crucifix of St. Damien and Our Lady of Loreto which they will carry to the World Youth Day in Panama, next year.
The young people have been encouraged to remain connected by posting their experiences online on the social media that will be shared with all in real time as the pilgrimage progresses.