Our Lady of the Snows
Traditionally, this devotion goes back to the year 352. According to legend, there was an elderly, childless noble couple in Rome. The couple was wealthy, and having no heirs, desired to use their wealth to further the work of the Church. They consulted Pope Liberius who encouraged them to pray for guidance.
During the night of August 4, 352, the Virgin Mary apeared in their dreams and expressed a wish that a church in her honor be built in Rome on the hill covered with snow. The next day, the citizens of Rome awoke to the astonishing sight of the Esquiline Hill draped in a blanket of snow. The childless couple accepted this as Our Lady's answer to their prayers and provided funds for the construction of the Church.
This church, the basilica of St. Mary Major, has been restored and refurbished a number of times. The church is popularly known as the first Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
In 1941, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate introduced the devotion of Our Lady of the Snows to the American Midwest at Belleville, Illinois. An original painting of Our Lady of the Snows by J. Watson Davis of New York shows Our Lady of the Snows in the Artic sky above some kneeling Eskimos. This became the center of a small shrine in the corner of the Oblate seminary. The shrine has since been moved to a place in what is now known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
In 1958, Navy chaplain Lt. Leon Darkowski, took part in Operation Deep Freeze II. Before leaving for the Antarctic, Father Darkowski had a medal of Our Lady of the Snows struck and distributed to Catholic Seabees who placed themselves under the protection of Our Lady at a Mass in the Quonset Naval Air Station chapel, North Kingston, R.I.
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