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. although in a continuous battle with July for that title! 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 that 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.

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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:


Thanks to the Knights of Columbus, the incorrupt heart of St Jean Marie Vianney was on a tour of the United States from November 2018 to June 2019. These photos were taken by ChurchPOP English editor Jacqueline Burkepile:


Written in Spanish, Pope Francis’ Letter to Priests on the 160th anniversary of the death of the Cure d’Ars, St. Jean Marie Vianney, was also released by the Holy See Press Office in Italian, French, English, German, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic. He died on August 4, 1859.

Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney was a parish priest in Ars, France, known for his sanctity of life. Canonized in Rome in 1925 by Pope Pius X, he is venerated as the patron saint of pastors in the Church. His incorrupt body and heart are in the shrine dedicated to him in Ars.

Pope Francis’ letter begins: “Dear Brothers, A hundred and sixty years have passed since the death of the holy Curé of Ars, whom Pope Pius XI proposed as the patron of parish priests throughout the world. On this, his feast day, I write this letter not only to parish priests but to all of you, my brother priests, who have quietly “left all behind” in order to immerse yourselves in the daily life of your communities. Like the Curé of Ars, you serve “in the trenches”, bearing the burden of the day and the heat, confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people.

“I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life. Some time ago, I shared with the Italian bishops my worry that, in more than a few places, our priests feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit. I mentioned that priests need to find in their bishop an older brother and a father who reassures them in these difficult times, encouraging and supporting them along the way.

“As an older brother and a father, I too would like in this letter to thank you in the name of the holy and faithful People of God for all that you do for them, and to encourage you never to forget the words that the Lord spoke with great love to us on the day of our ordination. Those words are the source of our joy: “I no longer call you servants… I call you friends” (Jn 15:15).”

The Holy Father writes of the pain of the sex abuse scandal and of gratitude for vocation, recalling that, “vocation, more than our choice, is a response to a free call from the Lord.” He thanks his brother priests “for their fidelity to their commitments”. It is “truly significant” – he observes – that in a “ephemeral” society and culture, there are people who discover the joy of giving life.

Pope Francis writes that the “heart of a pastor is one who has developed a spiritual taste for being one with his people, a pastor who never forgets that he has come from them…this in turn will lead to adopting a simple and austere way of life, rejecting privileges that have nothing to do with the Gospel.”

Another important word for Francis is encouragement: The mission to which we are called does not exempt us from suffering, pain and even misunderstanding. Rather, it requires us to face them squarely and to accept them, so that the Lord can transform them and conform us more closely to himself.”

The papal letter ends: “Brothers, once again, I continually give thanks for you… May we allow our gratitude to awaken praise and renewed enthusiasm for our ministry of anointing our brothers and sisters with hope. May we be men whose lives bear witness to the compassion and mercy that Jesus alone can bestow on us.”

Click here to read more:


I met two wonderful young Rangers this afternoon – scouting jargon for girl scouts or girl guides – and interviewed them for my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider. That conversation with Franziska from Cologne, Germany and Alexandra from Warsaw, Poland will air next weekend.

I felt privileged to be in the presence of these terrific and personable young ladies and leaders and you will understand why when you listen to them talk about their life and experiences in scouting and their time in Rome with the Euromoot (scout jargon for an international meeting) that concluded with a meeting this morning with Pope Francis, followed by Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

P.S. More scouting jargon: Rovers are boy scouts.



By Courtney Grogan (CNA).- This week, as many as 5,000 Catholic scouts are walking historic pilgrimage routes to Rome that will culminate in a private audience with Pope Francis and a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Aug. 3.

Catholic scout troops are a European tradition that started in the early 20th century with Venerable Jacques Sevin, a French Catholic priest who was inspired by the potential of scouting, founded by his contemporary Robert Baden-Powell in England, for youth development.

Fr. Sevin founded the first Catholic scouting troop, consecrated to the Sacred Heart, in France in 1918.

The Scouts of Europe, a Catholic scouting organization recognized by the Holy See, was founded in the wake of World War II, built on the idea that scouting can help young people “discover that the true European legacy is the capacity to live together in peace and brotherhood around a common aim, Christ,” according to the International Union of European Guides and Scouts – European Scout Federation.

The theme of the scouts’ weeklong trek to Rome, called the “Euromoot,” is “Parate Viam Domini,” which means “prepare the way of the Lord.” The logo includes twelve stars symbolizing the Virgin Mary.

Some of the scouts are walking to Rome by the Way of St. Francis from Assisi, while others have chosen to walk the Way of St. Benedict or part of the medieval Via Francigena. Priests walk with the different scout troops to provide access to the sacraments throughout the pilgrimage.

The scout troops of “rangers” and “rovers” aged 16-21 come from more than 20 countries. Some members of the organization’s North American branch, the Federation of North American Explorers, are also participating in the pilgrimage.

Reflections for the journey focus on St. Catherine of Siena, St. Paul, St. Benedict, St. Francis, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius as ideal examples of heroic virtue to be imitated.

“The most important thing … for us as leaders … is to take their souls to God, their sanctity is essential,” Spanish scout leader Flory Delgado told CNA.

Delgado, 32, has been involved with Catholic scouting her entire life before becoming a volunteer leader for the Scouts of Europe. Delgado’s parents met through their Catholic scouting troops in Spain.

“For us scouting is a style of life,” she explained. The aim of this lifestyle is God, above all, and then training one’s character, good health, service to others, and practicality, she said.

Delgado said that the scouts try to incorporate their Catholic faith into all of their activities with a particular emphasis on the sacraments and service.
“In every activity, we start with a prayer, we finish with a prayer. We pray together the Angelus,” she said.

In her 14 years serving as a scout leader, Delgado has seen the benefits of getting young people out of the house through scouting.

When you leave your comfort zone, you have to face difficulties, Delgado explained, such as the weight of your backpack on a hiking trip.

“You have to make your own decisions of what we will bring with us, and this is what we will carry on our shoulders,” Delgado said. This is a lesson for life, she explained, you have to take responsibility for your own decisions.

“Also, when you start something, finish something,” she said.

The first Scouts of Europe pilgrimage to Rome took place in 1975, in which 500 scouts met St. Paul VI.

St. John Paul II met with scout delegations on several occasions. In 2003, the pope met the scouts in Castel Gandolfo and said to them:

“Dear young people, be generous in answering Jesus’ call inviting you to put out into the deep and become his witnesses, discovering the trust he puts in you to devise a future together with him. Above all, to fulfil this mission the Church is entrusting to you requires that you cultivate a genuine life of prayer nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.”

“Dear Guides and Scouts of Europe, you are a precious gift not only for the Church, but also for the new Europe which you see growing before your eyes, and you have been called to share, with all the ardour of youth, in building the Europe of peoples, so that the dignity of every individual as a child loved by God will be recognized, and a society built on the basis of solidarity and charity,” he said.


Pope Francis on Saturday met some 5,000 scout rangers and rovers from over 20 countries of the International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe. The papal audience concluded the weeklong Euromoot 2019 event of the young men and women.

By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis on Saturday urged scouts to give of themselves to others by building, serving and caring for others, saying it will free them from within and enrich the world.

He made the exhortation to some 5,000 young scout men and women from over 20 countries belonging to the International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe. They met the pope at the end of their Euromoot 2019 event, July 27-August 3, that saw them travelling along historical itineraries of Italy and converging on Rome.

“Give, and it will be given to you”
Noting that during their itinerary, they contemplated Saints Paul, Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena who travelled through Italy, the Pope said they gave their lives for others without keeping anything for themselves. The Pope said that the “Gospel is the map of life” where Jesus indicates a clear course to happiness: “Give, and it will be given to you.”

The Pope said that for Jesus, the starting point is giving, not having. It consists of coming out of the comforts of the armchair and going out to the field to give the world a little bit of goodness.

Rewards of giving
The Pope assured that by giving one is not left empty-handed because when it seems that God is taking something away from you, “it is only to give you something more and better”. Jesus makes you happy from within, not outside, by freeing you from the false promises of consumption.

“One receives only by giving .” This, the Pope said is the secret of life. The latest smartphone, the fastest car or the fashionable dress, besides never being enough, he said, will never give them you the joy of feeling loved and loving.

The Pope expressed appreciation for the scouting term “departure”, whereby scouts take upon themselves to serve as a way of life, living the brotherhood of scouting by being open to the others and doing good. “If you build bridges to others,” he said, “you will see others walk those bridges to you.”

“Look at your hands, that are made to build, to serve and to give and say to yourselves: ‘I care, the other concerns me,’” the Pope urged.

The words of Jesus, “Give, and it will be given to you,” the Pope said, is also applied to creation. “If we take care of it, we will have a home tomorrow too.”

Creation, he said, is an open book that teaches that we are in the world to meet others, to create communion because we are all connected. “Creation is made to connect with God and among us,” the Pope said, adding, “It is God’s social media.”

Even the love of the scout rovers and rangers for their common homeland, Europe, the Pope said, requires not only attentive observers but active builders of reconciled and integrated societies that give life to a renewed Europe, not as protectors of spaces but as generators of encounters.


I had a fun experience this afternoon as I was searching for a photo or two of the work done last month in the Vatican’s Teutonic cemetery to see if the remains of Emanuela Orlandi might be buried there as suggested last summer in an anonymous note to the Orland family. As you will read below, I am dedicating a special on VI this week to the missing teenager and I wanted a picture for that article.

I had not saved the Vatican photos I used in my July stories so I searched Google for images under “Teutonic cemetery, vaticannews” and, as I scrolled through the many photos, I found some of my own photos of the cemetery, and Google cited “Joan’s Rome”!…34822.37438..38264…0.0..1.515.1635.10j1j0j1j0j1……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i5i30j0i8i30.UIDsywDxPUs&ved=0ahUKEwiaqOup0eTjAhUS3aQKHcBLD3cQ4dUDCAY&uact=5#imgrc=ZMLJQl26D2j-UM:


In a departure from my format of an interview at the end of Vatican Insider each week, this week I prepared a special for VI on the deepening mystery of the Emanuela Orlandi disappearance – a mystery that has stumped a family, Vatican City officials and Italian officials for 36 years, a mystery that deepened with some events this summer. So tune in for that tale!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Vatican City State is to implement a system for reporting crimes and cases of negligence regarding the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by the end of the year.
By Vatican News

The Cardinal Vicar of Vatican City State announced Tuesday that “a public, permanent, and easily accessible system for reporting crimes and negligence in the area of child abuse and vulnerable adults” will be put in place by the end of the year.

On the same day, Cardinal Angelo Comastri sent a letter to the heads of all Vatican Dicasteries and associated spiritual assistants.

According to the Osservatore Romano, the missive contained details on the procedure for bringing to light any information and accusations of abuse.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis promulgated new rules for the protection of minors within Vatican territory and the Roman Curia, as well as throughout the universal Church, both of which took effect on 1 June.

Contact Person
The Osservatore Romano reports that the new system will be gradually integrated with existing measures, such as those identified in the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons for the Vicariate of Vatican City.

The Guidelines created a “Contact Person” for anyone who has “information or suspicions that a minor or vulnerable adult is at risk of abuse or has suffered it in connection with the pastoral activities of the Vicariate, along with any act of negligence on the part of the Authorities.”

Msgr. Robert Oliver, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was appointed as the contact person in June.



If anyone reading this column has reserved for August 3 (this weekend) the Vatican Museums’ visit to Castelgandolfo and the papal residence that takes place on Saturdays throughout the year, the Museums have issued the following notice (obviously this refers to any tourists who still wants to reserve this special visit in August):

“For extraordinary summer maintenance work on the Ciampino-Albano Laziale railway line (vice versa) – and in order to cause the least inconvenience to visitors, the Vatican Museums’ “Vatican by Train” initiative has arranged for a private substitute shuttle service dedicated to visitors who reserved the visit in lieu of scheduled train service on the following Saturdays: August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. This visit, whose destination is the papal villas in Castelgandolfo, normally starts with departures from the Vatican City train station and from the Roma San Pietro. On the above dates busses will substitute the trains.”

If you can manage to have your Rome itinerary include a Saturday, be sure to reserve for this special trip. I have done it and it is a full day but a lot of fun and a real beautiful experience – the Castelli Romani hills towns, the papal residence and gardens, Lake Albano, an extinct volcano, etc. (JFL photos)

For anything related to the Vatican Museums, go to the OFFICIAL website:

For the Saturday Castelgandolfo visit:

Do not Google “Vatican Museums” and get some tour group or website that will charge you a higher price than the Museums do. After all, they have to make a profit. Go straight to the official site!


Pope Francis has released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for August, which is that families may become “schools of true human development”.

In his prayer intention for the month of August 2019, Pope Francis invites us to pray that, “families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly schools of true human development.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention is below:
What kind of world do we want to leave for the future?
Let us leave a world with families.
Let us care for our families, because they are true schools for the future, spaces of freedom, and centers of humanity.
And let us reserve a special place in our families for individual and communal prayer.
Let us pray that families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human development”.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.

Click here to see the August papal video:



As I wrote yesterday, you cannot escape the Amalfi coast – every breathtaking view, every hill, every mountain, every bend on the tortuous roads, every port and harbor and spectacular small cove, every bougainvilla-covered wall or terrace, every tiled roof and patio and church dome – without taking a thousand photos.

Yesterday I offered a slide show of some of the reasons that people travel to Sorrento, Positano and beyond – ice cream, limoncello, amazing cuisine, wonderful leather goods, enticing fruit markets and stunning fashions for all ages.

Today I get serious! Here are a few of my travelblogue © photos of the beauties of this region of God’s unparalleled creation! Someday I will count the photos I’ve taken over years of visits to Sorrento, Positano and Ravello – thousands for sure!

One slide show today is dedicated to just Ravello as it is so spectacular, especially the gardens of the historical Villa Ruffolo!



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I have no idea of the audio link of Andy Williams singing “There’s a Summer Place” will work but here it is!



Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are probably the main reasons why people are drawn to the stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast. There are smaller but no less exciting towns nearby, up and down the coast, such as Praiano and Sant’Agata, Minori and Maiori, that welcome visitors, many of which are places where Italians have summer homes.

I returned to Rome from the Amalfi Coast last week after five days of both work and vacation with my niece Christie, her husband Bryan and their four wonderful kids – Brogan, 1, Cole, 13, Emory 11 and Cece (Cecilia) 9. More memories, more fun times, more exploring, more relaxing, more terrific meals – and more photos!

You cannot escape the Amalfi coast – every breathtaking view, every hill, every mountain, every bend on the tortuous roads, every port and harbor and spectacular small cove, every bougainvilla-covered wall or terrace, every tiled roof and patio and church dome – without taking a thousand photos.

Today, just for fun, I offer a slide show of many of the reasons that people travel to Sorrento, Positano and beyond.

Tomorrow I will get serious – travelblogue© photos of the beauties of this region of God’s unparalleled creation!