This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5 -- Feast of Santa Maria Maggiore

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore  (Saint Mary the Greater) on the Esquiline Hill in Rome is so especially blessed that it has its own feast.  Considered the first church in the West to be dedicated to the BVM / Theotokos, it was commissioned in 432 by Pope Sixtus III and expanded, renovated, and restored repeatedly over the centuries.  August 5 is considered the feast of the dedication as well as the date of its miraculous plan. 

The Miracle of Our Lady of the Snows 
If Mary snows, the Pope shovels
The church is also called Our Lady of the Snows, which is odd for Rome, since it has an average annual snowfall of 0 centimeters.  True, it did snow in 2010, but before that, you have to go back to 2005.  And if you want to talk about enough snow to actually build a snowman, you have to go back to 1986.  The name came from a dream that Pope Liberius had on the night of January 4 and 5, sometime in the mid-fourth century.  According to the legend, the BVM appeared in a dream saying that she would mark out the footprint of a new church that she wanted Liberius to build.  In the morning, the outline of the church was covered in snow.

The Personal Connection

In the English-speaking world, the church is often called Saint Mary Major.  My father's uncle, Alfred Major, frequently claimed ancestry from whatever ethnic group we happened to be talking about.  Once, in an effort to substantiate some Italian heritage, he cited Saint Mary Major as an antecedent.  Looking back, if figure there are three possible explanations.
1.  He didn't know what the name referred to.  It made sense to him.
2.  He was deadpanning and I didn't know that he was kidding.
3.  The Theotokos is my great-grand-aunt (x100 or so).

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