The Holy House of Loreto
Falling between the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the feast of The Holy House of Loreto. Here, then, is Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto, an extraordinarily moving painting. Caravaggio painted it in 1604, when he was thirty-three years old.
Loreto in My Life
I have visited Loreto twice in my life; once in 1975, and again in 2005. I have experienced the grace and mystery of the Holy House miraculously transported by angels to the place prepared for it by God. One of the most striking things about Loreto is the number of saints who have gone there in humble pilgrimage — Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and Saint Maximilian Kolbe come to mind — desiring to adore the mystery of the Word Incarnate and to linger in the sweet presence of His Virgin Mother.
On 4 January 2007, I was en route to Rome. My friend, Sister Barbara Matazzaro, A.S.C.J. was on the same flight. There was a layover in Dublin. Crossing the road, Sister Barbara and I sought out the little church near the Dublin Airport and I offered Holy Mass there. I remember being struck by the presence of a beautiful statue of the Madonna of Loreto, patroness of the airways. It was on that occasion that, standing at the foot of the altar, I sensed in my heart a summons to do something for Ireland. I made it one of the intentions of that Mass, never dreaming that three years later I would find myself once again in Ireland, not as a passing pilgrim, but as one who had come to stay. Our Lady of Loreto cannot have been foreign to this unfolding of events. And now, nine years later the A.S.C.J. Sisters (Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) are themselves established in Ireland, in the Diocese of Waterford–Lismore.
Listening to the Liturgy
Here are the texts of the Proper Mass of The Holy House of Loreto, one of those lovely Masses celebrated by special grant in certain places.
This is a fearsome place:
it is the house of God, the gate of heaven;
it shall be named the palace of God (Gen 28:17).
V. O Lord of hosts, how I love thy dwelling-place!
For the courts of the Lord’s house, my soul faints with longing (Ps 83:2-3).
O God, who in thy mercy didst sanctify the Blessed Virgin Mary’s house by the mystery of the Word made flesh, and didst miraculously place it in the heart of thy Church, grant that we may shun the abodes of sinners and become worthy to dwell in thy own holy house. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord who is God living and reigning with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.
One request I have ever made of the Lord,
let me claim it still, to dwell in the Lord’s house my whole life long.
V. Gazing at the beauty of the Lord, haunting his sanctuary (Ps 26:4).
How blessed, Lord, are those who dwell in thy house! They will be ever praising thee (Ps 83:5). Alleluia.
I will betake myself to thy house, and bow down before thy sanctuary, and praise thy name (Ps 5:8).
Lord, we pray thee, graciously accept the gifts we offer in this holy house; and grant that, with the merits of the Blessed Virgin pleading for us, these same gifts may prove a help to our salvation. Through Christ our Lord.
Blessed is he who hears my voice, who watches daily before my gates, and waits at the threshold of my doors. He who shall find me, shall find life, and draw from the Lord salvation (Prov 8:34-35).
We beseech thee, Lord our God, that the sacred rites thou hast bestowed upon us to safeguard this new life of ours may, through the intercession of Blessed Mary, the ever-virgin, bring us healing now and in time to come. Through Christ our Lord.