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Feast of the Immaculate Conception (2)

The second item on the papal itinerary today was a visit to St. Mary Major Basilica (Santa Maria Maggiore) to venerate the image of Mary known as the "Salus Populi Romani," which is an icon depicting Mary and the Christ child, over the altar of the Pauline Chapel (Cappella Paolina).
I have written about this miracle in a bOok close to my heart entitled THE LITTLE SAILOR.

In August 352, Italy’s First Woman, the Madonna, worked one of her miracles.
The month began as it always had, sizzling hot, and, on the eve of the fourth, with hardly a soul left in Rome for the communal walk, Giovanni the Patrician struggled up the Esquiline Hill for a breeze. There was none, and he sat on a rock and watched droplets of his sweat fall to the scorched ground.
But then a cool wind rushed onto his face and played all around like a rippling ocean wave. At the same time, he heard a rustling of cloth very near. Giovanni raised his ears in order to hear better and, at eye level, he saw, suspended, three feet off the ground, the most perfect little pair of feet. The Madonna’s veil extending down to her ankles was of natural vellum, like a sail’s, and it was flapping. She spoke in a clear, firm voice:
“Build a chapel on the spot where snow will fall tomorrow morning.”
It would take a miracle for snow to fall on Rome in August, the temperature and humidity soaring, the joints swelling, the brain afire, Romans by the thousands except the blind beggars fleeing to the seashore and the mountains. Then Giovanni fell asleep.
A long serene time seemed to have passed before he felt a gentle cool drop onto his lip, then one onto his closed eyelids, and another onto his cheek. Cool, moist fingertips bouncing and spreading and melting. He was afraid to open his eyes.
It was snowing. Flakes pure white as the Madonna’s toes, soft as the vellum of her veil, dandled and floated and finally fell onto him and onto the hill. Giovanni’s eyes fluttered and he laughed with the exhilaration of a child.
The Madonna seemed to be saying:
“Accept the mercilessness of Nature. Remember the sacredness of Home Ground.”
Giovanni the Patrician and Pope Liberio sketched the plan for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore atop the Esquiline Hill. At one point, his eyes down on the parchment, Liberio felt tapping on his gilt, tri-cornered hat. Rose petals. Giovanni, smiling, was dropping rose petals.
Every year since, on August 5, soft, red, aromatic rose petals fall onto mass goers who enter
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