Celebrating Our Lady of Loreto (10 December)

Celebrating Our Lady of Loreto (10 December)

‘Loreto, after Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray while meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.’ —Pope Benedict XVI

Sometimes living liturgically can be as simple as giving new meaning to something you already do. That may be the case with celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Loreto on 10 December. If you usually decorate gingerbread houses this time of year, do them that day and tell the story of the Blessed Mother’s house! And if cookie houses aren’t your thing, or you’d rather not buy the kits or supplies, you could make houses from waffles, blocks, or legos, or draw one with crayons. 

The title Our Lady of Loreto refers to Santa Casa, or the Holy House, of Loreto, which is the stone house in which Mary was born, where the Annunciation occurred, and where an ancient statue of Our Lady is found. Many believe it is also the house in which Mary and Joseph raised Jesus. Since the 13th century, popes and over 150 saints and blesseds have made pilgrimages to the site.

The fact that St. Anne and St. Joachim lived there with Mary and that Jesus lived there with Our Lady and St. Joseph is more than enough to capture our interest. But there’s more! The story has a fascinating twist because Loreto … is in Italy! How, you may wonder, did the house in which Mary and Jesus lived come to be in Italy?

The house originally stood in Nazareth. It was a sacred place from the apostles’ time. Emperor Constantine had the first basilica built over the house and its attached grotto in 312. The first Crusaders built a new basilica over it in 1100, which was destroyed during a later crusade. With the Crusaders driven out of the Holy Land in 1291, the house itself was at risk of destruction or desecration.

The first miracle of the transportation of the holy house was reported that same year on 10 May 1291 when the house suddenly appeared in a field in Tersatto, now Croatia. Inside the “chapel” shepherds found an ancient altar and a beautiful statue of the Holy Mother of God. They ran to get their priest, who spent hours praying for understanding. Our Lady appeared to him in a dream and told him this was the house in which she was born and raised and where the Annunciation happened and Jesus became incarnate. She told him the altar in the house was consecrated by St. Peter. This priest was then miraculously cured of his crippling arthritis. The house was venerated as a holy place until it suddenly disappeared three years later – just before the area was invaded. Shepherds reported seeing angels carry it away. 

Next the house was discovered on a little plain in Italy near the city of Lecanati, then a second property in Lecanati, and then finally in Loreto. Government investigators were sent to Nazareth to research the house. All they found was the spot where the house originally stood – with the foundation measuring exactly that of the house in Loreto, 13’ x 31’. The hand-chiseled bricks used in the house are exactly those found in Nazareth and are completely different from what was used in Italy. The investigators were convinced it was the Holy House. 

There is an alternative theory of how the house came to be in Loreto. Some say the origin of the tradition that angels carried the house is because a rich merchant whose last name was Angelos (meaning “angels”) paid crusaders to move the house to Italy. Documentation in the Vatican was found that was the basis of this explanation. Some scholars have noted that there are no signs that the house was ever disassembled and reassembled, which would have been necessary to move it.

The tradition of angels transporting the house from Nazareth to Tersatto to Italy is the reason that Mary, under her title Our Lady of Loreto, is the patron saint of pilots! 

Regardless of how the house was transported from Nazareth to Loreto, it has become the greatest shrine to Our Lady in the world. More than 50 popes have testified to its authenticity. And, it is a place of many miracles. 

Pope Francis added the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto to the Roman Calendar to be celebrated as an optional memorial during Advent on 10 December. The feast comes just two days after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, inviting us to contemplate further on the love God had for his Mother in sparing her from original sin.

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us!

Celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto by:

  • Decorating a gingerbread house or building a house from blocks or Legos.
  • Praying the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was originally called the Litany of Loreto.
  • Eating spaghetti or another Italian dish as a reminder of the home’s location in Italy. You might consider serving Challah bread along with it to tie in the Jewish origins of the Holy House. You could try your hand at baking it, or just look for it at your local grocery store. It’s often in the bakery section this time of year due to Hannukah.
Celebrating Saint Juan Diego (9 December) & Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 December)

Celebrating Saint Juan Diego (9 December) & Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 December)

It is fitting to celebrate these two feast days together. The beautiful story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe is well known. A poor Indigenous man named Juan Diego was walking for many miles to attend Mass on December 9, 1531. Near a hill called Tepeyac, he heard beautiful music that sounded like birds. A radiant cloud appeared, and in it stood an Indian maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him and sent him to the bishop of Mexico to ask for a chapel to be built in that place. The bishop was skeptical and told Juan to ask for a sign. Juan promised to do so but that day his uncle became very ill and Juan stayed to care for him instead. When Juan later went to the priest, he took the long way around the mountain, trying to avoid the lady he had let down. The lady appeared to Juan along his detour and chided him for not coming to her for help. “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” The lady assured Juan that his uncle would recover. For the bishop’s sign, she instructed Juan to gather roses in his cloak, called a tilma. The roses were miraculously growing out of season on the mountaintop. When Juan opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence on December 12, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees in reverence. On the tilma was an image of Our Lady, exactly as she had appeared at Tepeyac. The symbolism of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image was obvious to the Native Mexicans: she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God. Our Lady of Guadalupe did not appear again, for her mission was complete. She had come to offer faith, hope and consolation to the oppressed natives of Mexico and to reconcile them with their Spanish rulers. She put an end to the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztecs and converted ten million natives in the next 10 years. The church she asked for was built and remains there today, in a suburb of Mexico City. Juan Diego’s tilma, woven from cactus fibers (with a shelf-life of just 30 years) remains miraculously preserved there. With the Bishop’s permission, Juan Diego moved to a small room attached to the chapel that housed the sacred image. There he cared for the tilma and church. Millions made pilgrimages to see the miraculous tilma, and to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. Great miracles continue to occur, even today. In 1945, Pope Pius XII decreed Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the “Patroness of all the Americas.” Juan Diego died on May 30, 1548, at the age of 74. In 1990 he was declared Blessed and was canonized in 2002. Saint Pope John Paul II praised Juan Diego for his simple faith and considered him a model of humility for all.

Ideas for celebrating these feast days at home:

  • Mexican-inspired dinner menu: tamales or tacos, black beans and rice, guacamole and chips. Make Mexican hot chocolate with Mexican wedding cakes for dessert! Click here for more recipe ideas. 
    • We love a good taco night! We kept it simple. We also picked up some local pan dulce and empanadas at la Panaderia Pereira, just 3 minutes down the road from Prince of Peace on the corner of E Lee and Watson Rd! 
  • Roses: buy dark pink roses or make tissue paper roses to place on your dinner table in memory of the Castilian roses that Juan Diego picked on the mountainside. 
  • Decorate Tilmas: turn brown paper bags into homemade “tilmas” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Click here for idea.
  • FORMED has a wonderful children’s video about Juan Diego and Guadalupe – available for free using your parishioner account! Click here to watch. There are also several wonderful books about her apparition.
    • We also watched this great authentic music video of the most famous song about La Virgen de Guadalupe. There are some neat clips of “los danzantes” and the crowds outside of the shrine celebrating the great feast in Mexico City.  
    • We read this book by Carmen D. Bernier-Grand from the library, and there were several other options available there as well. 
  • Prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe can be found at this link
  • If you have a statue of Our Lady, decorate it beautifully with flowers, Christmas lights, or candles in honor of this special feast day. You can encourage devotion to the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe by purchasing one to display in your home. Or, you can print one here
    • We put our large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on our altar and prayed a decade of the rosary (good thing those rosaries are chewable…)
  • Click here to learn more about the amazing symbolism of Our Lady’s image on the tilma. 
Celebrating St Nicholas (6 December)

Celebrating St Nicholas (6 December)

6 December: Feast of St Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is the patron of children, the hungry, brides and scholars! He was born in the year 270 and grew up on the coast of what is now Turkey with his wealthy Greek parents. He became bishop in Myra and died there on December 6, 343.  He was also known as “Nikaolaos of Myra” and “boy bishop”, because he became a bishop at the young age of 30. He was known for being incredibly generous, especially to children. In the year 800, he was officially recognized as a Saint. In France in the 1200s, Catholics began celebrating Bishop Nicholas Day on December 6. Throughout the years, Saint Nicholas became more well-known and Dutch immigrants brought their traditions to America. They added their pronunciation of his name — Sinter Klass. This began to lead the way to the tradition of gifts being brought in the night by the name of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Traditions: The most popular way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day is to put shoes out for St. Nicholas to leave small treats and gifts in. This tradition is done in remembrance of how St. Nicholas himself would leave gifts for the poor outside their windows or doors at night. Children love this tradition! They put their shoes out the night before St. Nicholas Day. Shoes can be placed outside a door or by the fireplace. When they awake, it is a delight to find that St. Nicholas has left special surprises in their shoes!

St. Nicholas Day shoe gift ideas:

  • Chocolate gold coins (to represent the gold coins St. Nicholas left for 3 poor daughters)
  • Candy canes, Life Savers, or other little candies
  • Small toys or trinkets
  • Ginger or gingerbread cookies
  • Clothing or new shoes (to represent how St. Nicholas gave clothing to the poor)
  • A Christmas ornament
  • Clementines (because they also represent the gold St. Nick gave away)
  • Religious items (medals, holy cards, rosaries, saints books or videos, saints peg dolls, etc)

Some fun St. Nicholas feast day activities for children include coloring pages or printable ornaments:

  • Check out these from Catholic Icing
  • Read about St Nicholas with this book, this one, or even this one!
  • Try out these cute & easy St. Nicholas cookies or, make your own traditional St. Nicholas Gingerbread cookies
  • Here is an idea for making a St. Nicholas miter
  • Another neat tradition is the blessing of candy canes. The candy cane shape reminds us of St. Nicholas’ crozier (bishop’s staff). On St. Nicholas day, you may purchase candy canes and say this blessing
  • Most importantly, be sure to pray together and ask St. Nicholas to intercede for you and your family.

God our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas, you will protect our children. Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in your sight. Give them strength to keep their Faith in You; and to keep alive their joy in your creation. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

God of joy and cheer, we thank you for your servant, the good bishop Nicholas.
In loving the poor, he showed us your kindness; in caring for your children, he revealed your love.
Make us thoughtful without need of reward so that we, too, may be good followers of Jesus.

#iGiveCatholic Giving Tuesday 2023

#iGiveCatholic Giving Tuesday 2023

#iGiveCatholic is a 24-hour celebration from midnight until 11.59p on Giving Tuesday, 28 November. Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to generosity that kicks off the charitable season! We invite you to pray and discern what God is putting on your heart related to supporting our wonderful parish school.

45% of our students depend on financial support to attend our school. How can you help make Catholic education accessible for all who desire it? Together we’ll unite as parishioners and donors to watch the ordinary become extraordinary. Giving Tuesday is part of our Annual Fund 2023-24. If your heart is moved to make a gift today, do so by donating online or sending a check by mail to Prince of Peace Catholic School 1209 Brushy Creek Road Taylors, SC 29687.

Learn more about our students:

Share your support of the parish school by taking an #unselfie and posting it on social media with the link to give online: https://tithe.ly/give_new/www/#/tithely/give-one-time/1748027