By Jean M. Heimann
December 10 is the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto, which commemorates the house in which Mary was born and where the Annunciation occurred. Tradition tells us that in 1291 this house was transported from the Holy Land to Dalmatia (present day Yugoslavia) by a band of angels!
In Dalmatia, shepherds discovered the sudden appearance of a little house in a field. They informed the local priest, a cripple, who visited the house. While there, he received a vision about the house and was healed of his physical handicap. He was informed that St. Peter put the altar in the house and the figure of Mary (now known as Our Lady of Loreto) was carved by St. Luke. A commission sent to the Holy Land learned that the house of Mary had, indeed, vanished, and the foundation left behind measured exactly the length and width of the house in Dalmatia which had miraculously appeared out of nowhere.
Angels moved the house two other times to protect it from plunderers. The house stands erect to this day, with no foundation. It was this flight that led to Our Lady of Loreto’s patronage of aviators and the long life of the house that has led to the patronage of builders, and construction workers. It is the first shrine of international renown dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has been recognized as a Marian center for centuries. Popes have always held the Shrine of Loreto in high esteem, and it is under their direct authority and protection.
Many miracles have been linked to the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto. One famous miracle is associated with Pope Pius IX. Growing up in Piceno, Italy, he made an annual pilgrimage with his mother to Loreto. When he was just a child, he fell into a stream and began experiencing chronic fatigue, fever, and epileptic seizures which later caused him to leave the seminary. Pope Pius VII, a confidant, counseled him: “God is mysterious. He throws down to raise up. He throws into the gutter the ones He wants to lift to the stars. Above the wildest storms gleams the Star of the Sea. Renounce yourself and place yourself in the hands of the Madonna. Call out to her ‘save me!’ The Virgin of Nazareth is your future.” Pondering these words, he returned to Loreto. There he prayed: “Mother, behold your child—–sick, miserable, useless. I am the shame of my family and disgust to myself. I dedicate myself to you—–save me. Immaculata, make me clean!” He was miraculously cured, returned to seminary, and was ordained. He later became an archbishop and a cardinal. In 1846, he was elected to the papacy and selected the name, Pius IX. In 1854, he declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, thus officially initiating the Marian Era. Pope Pius IX visited Loreto seven times