Our Lady of many titles

Homily given on the Memorial of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Today is a special feast for Mary Queen of Heaven parish.  Today Holy Mother Church celebrates not just another church dedicated to our Blessed Mother but the first Marian Church in the west – St. Mary Major in Rome. Santa Maria Maggiore was erected in the 4th century in honor of the proclamation of Mary as Theotokos (God bearer) or as we say ‘Mother of God’ at the council of Ephesus.

We celebrate not only the dedication of a church named after the Blessed Virgin but we also celebrate another title given to Mary in connection with a miracle that led to its erection when in 352, legend has it, Mary indicated in a dream to a wealthy, childless Roman couple, who had prayed that Mary might show them how to dispose of their money, that she wanted a church built in her honor. The couple’s friend, Pope Liberius, also had a dream in which Mary told him that a church should be built in honor of the title ‘Mother of God’ and the site for this church would be covered with snow. The next day, August 5th, a hot, sultry morning, the Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. All Rome proclaimed the summer snows a miracle, and Santa Maria Maggiore was built on the hill; and from this event Mary was given the title ‘Our Lady of the Snows’.

And so, here at our church in Elmhurst Illinois 1,663 years later, dedicated to yet another title given Blessed Mary we celebrate almost two millennia of special honors given to this small maiden, from a small backwards village in a small backwater kingdom – who offered her whole heart and mind and entire being to God long before she gave her fiat to the Archangel Gabriel. A young maiden whose yes changed humanity. A young maiden who has time and time again come among us with love to do one thing – to lead us to her Son.

Brothers and sisters whether we proclaim her as: Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any of the other dozens of titles let’s make sure that we make it our mission to honor Mary by how we live our lives. Let’s make her total faith in her Son our own.  Let’s be like the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel and approach her Son with the confidence that Jesus will hear our prayer and say to us ‘O woman/man great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.[1]

Let’s not give in to the pressures of trying to fit into society if it leads away from where Mary is pointing.  The last week or so our first readings have shown us a stubborn and wayward Israel nation who at almost every step of their journey were tempted to return to slavery if it meant comfort. This is not our path; our path is that of our Blessed Mother – who trusted in God – come what may! She will help us to move towards her Son, she is our Mother; she will untwist the confusion and chaos we find ourselves in by pointing to her Son; which brings us to yet another title given her (and one of Pope Francis’ favorite) ‘Our Lady of the Knots’.

Oh, Lady of many titles help us to keep close to your Son and our Savior.

[1] MT 15:28


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