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Bucket List: A Pilgrimage to Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

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Since the movie “The Bucket List” of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, it has become a thing for some to create a bucket list for themselves. A bucket list is a list of things one wishes to do before God’s call to eternal life.  I am one of them. A pilgrimage to the the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore however, was a late addition to my already existing list.

My husband organized a trip to Rome for my family this summer and I came across this basilica while reading my travel guide to Rome and other points of interest. When I read about it, my heart started beating with excitement. As a marian devotee, this is certainly a very special place to visit and I could not possibly pass the opportunity of experiencing a basilica devoted to our Blessed Mother in the Eternal City of Rome.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore or St. Mary Major is Marian shrine that have called pilgrims from all over the world to experience the holiness and the treasures of the basilica. It is the only Papal Basilica that has preserved it’s original structure with enhancements done over the years.

As one can imagine, the basilica exudes the splendor of a church befitting the Queen of Heaven and Earth but among the many treasures in the church, one that leaves most mesmerized and awestruck can be found under the altar, the relic of the  Holy Crib, the crib where the Infant Jesus was born.

Located in the summit of the Esquiline Hill,  it is said that the Virgin Mary herself selected this hill for the church’s construction. The Blessed Mother appeared in a dream to both the Patrician John and Pope Liberius saying that she wishes a church to be built in her honor and that through a miracle, she would choose a site.

On a summer day in August, the Esquiline Hill was covered with a blanket of snow. The perimeter of the fallen snow was traced out by the pope and John financed the construction of the new church. The miracle is known as the Miracle of Snows and every August 5, the congregation solemnly celebrates this day.

Amidst the grandeur and richness of the basilica, there is an overall feeling of comfort there. The treasures found within seem to intermingle beautifully with the holiness of the church, the same way that I would imagine feeling in the presence of the Blessed Mother. She is the “Mother of God” yet she is also “my mother”, who wipes my tears and smiles at me with love.  I was fascinated by all the art showing episodes in the life of our Blessed Mother. It was as if I was reading a picture book lovingly made in her honor.

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Laying eyes on the wooden slab which held the baby Jesus during the nativity, left me speechless. I was transported in time and taken back to that glorious night when God came to us through his Son. I also thought, that very night, Mary became a mother. How  happy she must’ve been to see and hold Jesus for the very first time and how beautiful that scene must have been.  There, I lit a candle for all the mothers and members of our prayer community.

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Relic of the Holy Crib

Lastly, I would like to share a prayer written by St. John Paul II. This prayer is dedicated to the Queen of Peace found by the entrance of the basilica. The Blessed Mother leads us to her Son Jesus: the way, the truth, and the life. Only in Jesus, can we find true happiness and peace.  Let’s pray for each other, that through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we venture through life everyday firmly holding Jesus’ hands.

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Resources: Vatican http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/sm_maggiore/en/storia/introduzione.htm

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