The Translation of the Holy House of Loretto
By “the Holy House,” we understand the blessed house, or rather a part, a room of it, in which Mary, the Blessed Virgin, lived for three years, and afterwards was greeted by the Angel; in which the only Son of God became man and dwelt for a long time with his pure Mother and his holy foster-father. This sacred dwelling first stood at Nazareth in Galilee, a province of Syria. The Apostles consecrated it as the first Church in Christendom; the first Christians held it in high honor, and pious pilgrims visited it with great devotion. Helena, the great and holy Empress, built over it a magnificent temple, which, in the course of time, was destroyed by the barbarians. When, in 1291, God in His incomprehensible Wisdom, decreed that the infidels should become possessors of the Holy Land, the Christians were driven out of it, and pilgrims were no longer permitted to visit the holy house. But the Almighty, who would preserve the honor and veneration in which this holy house had until then been held, wrought to this end a miracle such as the world had neither seen nor heard of. In the night of the ninth day of May, in the above year, the holy house was suddenly taken from the ground on which it had stood for more than twelve hundred years, and lifted through the temple erected over it, which parted in the middle, and it was carried by the Angels over land and sea, from Galilee to the far off Dalmatia, where it was placed between Tersatto and Fiume, not far from the Adriatic sea. When, early in the morning of the following day, some people saw this unknown little chapel, they informed the inhabitants of the above-mentioned towns of it, and the amazement of all was indescribable.
Alexander, the provost, or ecclesiastical Superior of Tersatto, who was at that time very ill, greatly desired to know what little church it was, and whence it had come. During his fervent prayers, the Divine Mother appeared to him, and informed him of what he desired to know; with the addition that the immediate reestablishment of his health should be a sure proof of the truth of what she had revealed to him. Alexander awoke, found himself perfectly restored, left his bed, and gave due thanks to God and the Queen of heaven for the grace which had been bestowed upon him. No sooner had daylight appeared, than he went through all the streets of the town and announced to the people the revelation which he had had the night previous in regard to the little church ; and, followed by all the inhabitants of the place, he went full of heartfelt devotion to the holy house. There he prostrated himself and gave humble thanks to God, who had so unexpectedly bestowed so great a treasure on him and his flock.
Nicholas Frangipane, the Governor of Dalmatia, desiring to examine the matter thoroughly, sent four respectable men to Nazareth in Galilee. Having arrived there and gained admittance by paying a large sum of money, they asked the few Christians who still dwelt there, where they could find the sacred house wherein the Divine Mother had been greeted by the Angel, and the Son of God had been made man. The Christians replied that it had been suddenly taken away one night, but they did not know by whom, nor why it had been taken, nor where it was at present. They showed them the place where it had been and the foundations on which it had stood; and told them what had been in the house, namely, a picture of the Blessed Virgin and an Altar. The deputies measured the length and breadth of the place where the holy house had stood, and the width of the foundation, and found that all corresponded exactly with the chapel that had appeared in Dalmatia. In like manner, the time at which the holy house had been taken away from Nazareth, agreed with the time of its arrival in Dalmatia. The deputies also had seen, in the little chapel, all those articles which the Christians of Nazareth described as having been in the holy house. Hence there could remain no doubt of the truth of the revelation which had been made to the pious Alexander.
Giving due thanks to God, they returned rejoicingly, and publicly announced the result of their journey. From that moment, the people flocked in crowds towards the holy house, and God wrought many miracles on the infirm who took refuge within its holy walls. But the joy of the people of Dalmatia did not last long; for hardly had three years and seven months passed, when the holy house was taken from them. It was carried by Angels over the Adriatic sea, and arrived in Italy, surrounded by a heavenly light, in December, 1294. The Sovereign Pontiff decreed that the 10th of December, the day on which this happened, should be yearly commemorated in Italy. The happy spot where the holy chapel had placed itself, was a wood near Ancona, which belonged to a widow named Lauretta, from which the house was afterwards called the House of Loretto. Some pious shepherds, who watched by their flock, had seen this miraculous transfer of the Holy House, and approaching the spot where the house had rested, they were not less amazed than the inhabitants of Dalmatia had been when they first perceived it. When this became known, on the following day, every one ran to the Holy House. All were convinced that a miracle had taken place, but had no idea whence the Holy House had come. The many miracles which took place there, as in Dalmatia, on the infirm, drew thither a multitude of pilgrims. Some godless men took the opportunity to attack, plunder and even kill, in the stillness of the wood, many of the pious pilgrims.
Such terrible wickedness could not be suffered near the sacred house; and before eight months had passed, the Angels took it again, and placed it nearer to the town of Recanati, where it rested on a hill. This hill belonged to two brothers of the nobility, who at first rejoiced at the grace thus bestowed upon them, but afterwards quarrelled on account of the rich offerings which the pilgrims made to the Holy House, of which each of them desired the larger share. At last, the one challenged the other to a duel. God, however, put an end to this strife. The Holy House, which had hardly stood two months on that spot, was again taken by Angels and placed not far off on the public highway. Thus its site was changed four times in the space of five years. This was done, without doubt, that so great a miracle as this translation should be much more readily believed by all persons, since it had so frequently taken place before the eyes of a great number of people. These frequent changes greatly astonished the inhabitants of Recanati and of all the neighboring places; they did not know what little church it was, nor how or why it changed its place so often. They, however, bore in their hearts great devotion to it; for they could not help perceiving, by the transfers and by the miracles that took place in it, that the Almighty favored this little church.
The inhabitants of Dalmatia at last discovered the secret of the holy building; for, as the frequent removal of the house became known, they immediately supposed that it must be the little chapel that had been taken away from them. Hence, crossing the sea, they came to the place where the Holy House stood, and recognizing it, they wept bitterly that they had lost it. After this they related to the inhabitants of Recanati how sacred this little house was and how greatly honored by the Almighty; who had lived in it; how sacred the mysteries which had taken place in it; and how they had come to this knowledge. All present were greatly amazed at these words, and prostrating themselves, they gave humble thanks to God, and held the house in great honor. But in order to leave nothing undone to arrive at all the facts of so miraculous an event, the inhabitants of Recanati sent a special deputation, first to Dalmatia, and thence to Nazareth in Galilee, to investigate the truth of all that had been told them with regard to the little chapel. At the return of the deputation, there was no longer any doubt that the house or chapel was the sacred dwelling in which the Virgin Mother had been born; where she had received the greeting of the Angel, and where the only Son of God had become man. Another deputation, which was sent for the same purpose some years later, by Pope Clement VII., after having carefully examined, both in Dalmatia and at Nazareth, the above facts, attested the perfect truth of the same. It may be said that there is not a fact to be found in the history of the Church, which has been more thoroughly investigated than this one.
I. The miraculous transfer of the Holy House, and the many miracles that took place in it, may serve to prove how much we please God by honoring and invoking the Blessed Virgin, and by making pilgrimages in a devout and Christian spirit. Therefore, let no Catholic allow himself to be misled by the heretics, who consider this as useless and superstitious. Let us continue to honor the Blessed Virgin with our whole heart, to invoke her often and devoutly, and to recommend ourselves to her care. We must, however, not forget what I have frequently said, that the most efficacious way to honor her and to obtain her protection is to imitate her virtues. “Whoever desires the protection of Mary,” writes St. Ambrose, “must follow her example.” St. Bernard writes: “Do not neglect to imitate her, that you may become worthy of her intercession.” Pilgrimages are not commanded in the New Law, but they are pleasing to the Most High. If you wish to perform them, after the example of pious Catholics, do so, as I have already elsewhere instructed you, with pious intentions, and avoiding all that is displeasing to God and that weakens the power of your prayers.
II. The history of the Holy House should awaken the memory of the infinite love which Christ manifested to us when He descended from heaven for our salvation and became man in the chaste womb of the Virgin. “He desired to dwell among us on earth, in order to prepare a dwelling for us in heaven,” says St. Augustine. Of such infinite love, so great a benefit, think especially during the present season of Advent, and give humble thanks to Him, for whose gracious coming the Catholic Church prepares us. As, however, this coming is only a proof of a measureless love which Christ bears to us, it is but right that you should exercise yourself, during this month, in acts of love to Him. Love Him who has loved you in so incomprehensible a manner. Love Him with your whole heart and with all your strength; but love Him not in words, but in works. “Let us therefore love God; for, God has first loved us,” says St. John. (1 John, xviii.) “I beseech you to manifest your love to Christ not in words only, but in deeds,” says St. Bernard.
O God, who didst mercifully consecrate the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the mystery of the Word made Flesh, and hast now mercifully placed that House in the midst of Thy Church; grant, that being separated from the abodes of sinners, we may be made worthy to dwell in Thy holy house. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.