Today, we celebrate the feast day of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is one of the four major Papal basilicas, and the largest church dedicated to Our Lady in Rome. The original basilica was built around the year 350 A.D. At the time, is was called Santa Maria ad Nives, (Our Lady of the Snows), recalling the legend of snow falling on the Esquiline Hill on a host August summer day, marking the spot where the church dedicated to Our Lady was to be built. It is also know as Salus Populi Romani, (Our Lady Protectress of the Roman People) because of the beautiful miraculous image of Our Lady with the infant Jesus. the painting of the image is attributed to St. Luke. St. Helena brought it from the Holy Land to Rome. There have been many times through out the ages that Our Lady has come to the aid of the Roman people through their devotion to this image. In 597, Pope St. Gregory the Great carried the image through the streets of Rome when the plague had decimated Europe and Italy. Also, during the Second World War, the people of Rome stormed the basilica, day and night for days on end seeking her protection nearby villages and towns were bombed. the basilica was also called Santa Maria ad Prasepe (St. Mary of the Crib) by Pope Sixtus III. The basilica holds relics of Our Lord’s crib under the main altar. This basilica has always had a special place in the lives of the Popes and faithful Christians. Many Popes have visited seeking special graces and protection. The basilica is a major stop for all pilgrims and tourists to the Holy City. It’s beauty and magnificence tell of the Church’s love for the Mother of our Savior. Let us pray for the people of Rome, the Church of Rome and all of us who are Roman Catholic, for she is our true mother.