Sunday, December 10, 2006

Santa Casa

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Loreto.
(Pictured, the Translation of the Holy House. It can happen! )

Commemorating the miraculous translation - by angels - of the Holy Family's house in Nazareth, this feast honors the transfer, first to Croatia and then to the hilltop of what is now known as Loreto, Italy.

Since a little boy, I have never had the least problem with this story. In fact, I went to live as a pilgrim in Italy, in imitation of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, with the intent of visiting Loreto, where I stayed for a while.

I stood praying within the Holy House, which is enclosed within the basilica, ornamented by marble architecture, as a sort of tabernacle or aedicule. I stood at the back of the interior, in a corner, so as not to be disturbed by pilgrims. I would only step out to pray Our Lady's office from time to time, seated on a bench outside the House, since the light was easier to read by. My experience there, convinced me the Holy House is authentic. (I also thought it would be a beautiful place for newlyweds to honeymoon - not the House, but the beautiful hill town of Loreto.)

My friends, Alberto Marvelli (pictured), and Pina Suriano were beatified there by John Paul II shortly before he died.

It was there I prayed most especially for my family. Years later, my brother Skip died on this day, a personal tragedy far worse than the loss of my parents.

It was the year when the feast of the Immaculate Conception was observed on the 9th of December. I stayed by his bedside, hoping Our Lady would come for him on the 8th. On the 9th, the observance of the solemnity, I asked Skip, who was in a coma, "When is Our Lady coming?"

He lifted his head from his pillow and opening his eyes, looking directly at me, responded clearly like a little boy, "I don't know?" Then he fell back into his coma.
The next day, on my way to see him, I was at the first Mass of the day. After communion, I understood he had just died. When I got to his house, his nurse told me he had died about 20 minutes earlier, and I said "I know." When I got to him he was still warm.

Skip had had a vision of Our Lady several years before his death. She just suddenly appeared as Our Lady of Grace - for a few seconds - it was just a glimpse. He began to pray again, wondering what it meant. I always believed it was Our Lady, that was why I asked him when she was coming for him as he lay in that coma.

Towards the end, he struggled with alcoholism and depression. His marriage had failed in divorce, and he was haunted by his own sense of failure - something our parents predicted for us, as a sort of curse. Skip had already been in and out of treatment. Being the little brother, I tried to help him, but couldn't. He got mad at me when I would send black-humor greeting cards, or serious notes - intervention style - to try and coerce him into going back into treatment. He finally asked me to stay out of his life.
When I finally backed off, some "holy people", those I like to call "Job's friends" had much advice for me. One piece was their fraternal correction that I was comitting a grave sin and risking my salvation by not doing more for my brother..."How can you just let him die like this?!" (Gee! I don't know - maybe because he won't answer the phone or his door and when you get the police to go over to his house he tells them I am a trouble maker and he doesn't want me near his house? Or that, after his doctor told me his prognosis and that I should encourage him to get some help, my brother told everyone else that I made it up and I was lying? Maybe that is why I let him die. Watch out for those "holy people".)
Thanksgiving the year he died I went to be with him in the hospital - waiting at first while the nurse asked his permisson for me to enter. He had already made his confession and we talked. He expressed his fear of purgatory - I promised him I'd take care of that with prayer and many Masses for him. I told him it wasn't as bad as everyone believes - because the soul knows for certain one is saved and the soul accepts whatever comes with peace. Then I told him all about St. Catherine of Genoa's treatise on purgatory - careful not to be like Job's friends. (Not long after his death, his daughter Gioia had a dream wherein she opened a door and Skip was standing within a blast furnace, all aflame. She worried it was hell, and I said it was more likely purgatory. But then I began to worry - what if I fooled him? However, Our Lady consoled me a few years later by letting me know he was saved. Although I don't know if he is in heaven yet. Skip was very fond of money.)

So that's my Loreto story - Our Lady finally came to get my brother on this feast. It's pretty sappy, but "Wind Beneath My Wings" always makes me think of him, especially the lines, "Did you ever know that you were my hero? You're everything I wished I could be?" He never knew that. Sometimes brothers compete, and fight, and hide their true feelings. If he was still alive, I doubt I'd let him know how I truly felt - now that he is dead, it's okay - he can't turn on me any longer.

Here is a brief history on the Holy House.

"According to Catholic tradition, the Holy House came under threat during the turmoil of the Crusades, so in 1291, angels miraculously translated the house from its original location to a site in modern-day Croatia. An empty space was left in Nazareth, while a small house suddenly appeared in a field. The bewildered parish priest, brought to the scene by shepherds who discovered it, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary revealed it was her former house.

On December 10, 1294, the house was again moved by angels because of the Muslim invasion of Albania. It landed first in Recanti, Italy, but was shortly thereafter moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto.

The Holy House of Loreto, or Santa Casa di Loreto in Italian, has been venerated by pilgrims great and small, including many popes and saints, and numerous miracles and healings have been reported. Scientists are said to have confirmed the materials to be the same as those found in Nazareth and the house lacks any foundations."


  1. I'll add Skip to my list.

  2. I'll remember him at Holy Mass tomorrow.

  3. Thank you Don Marco! That is so kind, he was buried on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
    I'll call you tomorrow afternoon.


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