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Around the World with Mary - Pilgrimage

9 Our Lady of Catacombs, Italy

The history of Our Lady of the Catacombs dates back to the second half of the second century, somewhere about A.D. 175. This period was marked by persecution of Early Christians, where the Catacombs served as a hideout for them. Originally dug out as a series of underground burial chambers, the Catacombs were built from the 2nd – 5th centuries. The property belonged to Priscilla from the Acilius Glabrio family. Her commemoration is noted on January 16, in the Roman Martyrology, which speaks of her as a benefactor of the Christian community in Rome. The Catacomb contains beautiful and important paintings. In one of the Catacombs of St. Priscilla; beneath the Basilica of St. Silvester is the oldest surviving image of Our Blessed Lady and Child Jesus. 

In the painting is present a figure of a man standing beside Our Lady; historians and theologians have discerned him to be the Prophet Isaiah, whose prophecy first predicted the birth of Christ. It was he who proclaimed the verse; “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.” There is also a star between Isaiah and the Blessed Mother representing the Star of Bethlehem, and to the left of Isaiah, the branches of a blossoming tree extend over the group. The tree represents another prophecy of the Old Testament: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

The striking painting of the Madonna in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla by an unknown artist has been admired by St. Irenaeus. His teachings based on the painting draws the parallel between Eve and Our Lady; what he terms “the mortal fruit of one and the Blessed fruit of the other.” 

Today, the Catacombs of St. Priscilla situated in Via Salaria hold tremendous religious value and is visited by many to understand the history and archaeology of the site. 




Renowned as one of the oldest churches in West Bengal, the Bandel church, located 43 kms from Calcutta, is dedicated to Nostra Senhora di Rozario, popularly known as Our Lady of the Rosary. This church was built in 1660 and is a relic of Portuguese times. 

When the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port in the 16th century, they were given permission by the Mughal Emperor Akbar to build a town in Hooghly. The Augustinian Friars, who were the largest religious body in Goa, were enlisted by the Portuguese and soon the Emperor’s permission was obtained to preach the Catholic faith to the public. The year was 1599 and the first church in Bandel was built. Sadly, this church was burnt down by the Moors in 1632. According to historical records, Emperor Shah Jehan attacked and destroyed the Portuguese settlements including the church. Four out of the five priests were killed and the sole survivor was one Father Joan da Cruz. When Tiago, an ardent devotee of Mother Mary, tried to carry her statue across the river to safety, he was killed by an enemy arrow. The statue sank into the river. 

Father da Cruz was later captured along with other devotees and condemned to die by stampede of wild elephants, by the Emperor Shah Jehan. This is when a miracle occurred. The elephant stood in front of the priest and lifted him aloft with his trunk and placed him on his back. He also knelt before the Emperor with the priest on his back, as if asking for mercy. This impressed the Emperor so much that he set the prisoners and Father da Cruz free. Then, Shah Jehan underwent a change of heart and donated about 101.21 hectares to the local Christians. A new church was constructed by Gomez de Soto in the year 1660 over the ruins of the earlier structure. The keystone foundation of the ancient church remains at the eastern gate of this beautiful church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. 

There is another extraordinary event associated with this church. In the middle of the night Father da Cruz heard the familiar voice of Tiago calling him from the waters of the river and announcing that ‘Our lady is coming back’! The priest thought that it was just a dream. The next morning the statue of Mother Mary was brought by the local fisherfolk stating that ‘‘Guru Maa’ is back!’

Another account tells us that when a captain of a vessel encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal, Mother Mary rescued him. A ship’s mast stands in front of the church in testimony to the fulfillment of his vow of gratitude for having survived the shipwreck.

The church has several altars and a shrine of Mary, who is known by the titles of: Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Happy Voyage. 

Now a heritage structure, the Bandel Church was raised to a Basilica in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II. Every year, during the month of November, an annual festival is held in this Basilica of Bandel. This is the time when thousands of pilgrims from all over India congregate to thank Our Lady of the Rosary and celebrate her miracles.



On the Rue du Bac, in the heart of Paris, there is a Shrine that we are connected to in a very special way. This is because all of us, at some time or the other, have been gifted the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady. Do you know how this medal came to exist? 

A young novice of the Daughters of Charity, Catherine Labouré, had a great devotion to St. Vincent de Paul and, while at prayer, his heart appeared to her on three successive days, each day in a different colour: white for peace, red for fire and black for the misfortunes that would befall France. Then, on July 18, 1830, the eve of the feast of Saint Vincent, Catherine prayed that, through his intercession, her desire to see the Blessed Virgin would finally be fulfilled. At eleven-thirty that night, she was called by name. A mysterious child was at the foot of her bed and asked her to get up. “The Blessed Virgin is waiting for you.” Catherine followed the child who was “bringing rays of brightness wherever he passed.” Having arrived in the chapel, her little guide said, “Here is the Blessed Virgin.” Catherine knelt at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, seated on a chair, and rested her hands on the knees of the Mother of God. The Blessed Virgin pointed to the altar where the tabernacle was and said, “Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be spread over all who ask for them with confidence and fervour.” 

On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Catherine again in the chapel. First, Catherine saw two living paintings, one fading into the other, in which the Blessed Virgin stood on a half-globe, her feet crushing a serpent. In this first image, the Virgin held a small golden globe topped with a cross, which she lifted up toward heaven. Catherine heard, “This globe represents the entire world, including France, and every person.” In the second image, beautiful rays of light stream from the Blessed Virgin’s open hands, covered with jewelled rings. St. Catherine heard a voice saying, “These rays are a symbol of the graces that I pour out on those who ask them of me.” Then an oval formed around the apparition, and Catherine saw in a semi-circle this invocation: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you” emblazoned in gold letters. She then heard a voice saying, “Have a medal made according to this model. For those who wear it with confidence, there will be abundant graces.” Finally, the image turned, and Catherine saw the reverse side of the medal: the letter M surmounted with a little cross and two hearts, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced with a sword.

In the month of December 1830, during meditation, the same image of the medal appeared near the tabernacle, slightly behind it. “These rays are the symbol of the graces that the Blessed Virgin obtains for those who ask them of her…You will not see me anymore.” This was the end of the apparitions. Catherine communicated the requests of the Blessed Virgin to Father Aladel, her confessor. He was not receptive to her message and forbade her to even think about it.

Sister Catherine was assigned to the Hospice of Enghein (in the 12th district of Paris) to care for elderly men. However, an interior voice kept insisting that the Medal must be struck. Catherine spoke about it again to her confessor, Father Aladel. In February 1832 a terrible cholera epidemic broke out in Paris and caused more than 20,000 deaths. In June that year, the Daughters of Charity began to distribute the first 2000 medals produced at Father Aladel’s request. Cures accumulated, as did protection from the disease and conversions. It was overwhelming. The people of Paris began to call the medal “miraculous”.By the autumn of 1834 there were already 500,000 medals in existence. In 1835 there were more than one million worldwide, and in 1839 more than 10,000,000 medals had been distributed. At the time of the death of Sister Catherine, in 1876, there were more than a billion medals. 

Sr. Catherine Labouré’s incorrupt body is kept in the little chapel on the Rue du Bac where she first encountered the Blessed Virgin.



The Shrine at Banneux came to be through the experiences of a little 11-year old girl – Mariette Béco! Mariette was the oldest of seven children, from a poor family, who did not practice their faith. Yet Our Lady visited this little girl in order to demonstrate her closeness to all of humanity. Now, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come alone or in groups to seek Our Lady’s help, especially during the Triduum of the Sick, held weekly, during the pilgrimage season from May to October, each year. 

Banneux is a tiny parish ten miles from the city of Liege, in the portion of Belgium near Germany. While most of the people of Belgium are Roman Catholics, there were many anti-clerical elements not exactly sympathetic to the Church during the time of the apparitions. 

January 15, 1933, Sunday, was an ordinary day for the eleven member Beco family, and Mariette did not attend Mass, as usual. She also did not attend the catechism class. At 7:00 p.m., Mariette was anxiously waiting for her brother Julien to return home, looking out of the window frequently. Instead of seeing her naughty little brother, Mariette saw a lovely Lady bathed in light, shining and glowing against the backdrop of a dark winter night. The Lady was young, beautiful, clad in white with a blue sash, and with her head and body slightly inclined to the left. On her right arm hung a rosary which had a golden chain and cross shining brightly and on top of her right foot was a golden rose. 

Mariette exclaimed, “Mama, there’s a woman in the garden!” But while Mariette’s mother could perceive the light, she could not see the whole vision and brusquely drew the curtains over the window, declaring that it could be a witch! 

The second apparition occurred three days later, on the 18th of January. Our Lady, bathed in light, descended between the tops of two tall pines and, floating on a cloud, beckoned Mariette to follow her. She led the child to the stream nearby and told her, “This stream is reserved for me.” On the third apparition, asked by Mariette who she was, the Lady answered: “I am the Virgin of the Poor.” She also clarified her previous statement regarding the spring: “This spring is reserved for all nations – to relieve the sick.” 

On the fourth apparition, the Virgin made a request: “I would like a small chapel.” By this time, a few curious villagers had started observing Mariette. Fr. Louis Jamin, the new young pastor, though skeptical, was also closely monitoring events. The fifth apparition took place on February 11 , the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 75th anniversary of the apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous. On the sixth apparition, Mariette relayed Fr. Jamin’s request for a sign. This was met by silence on the part of the Lady until she finally said, “Believe in me, I will believe in you. Pray much. Au revoir.” 

On the seventh apparition, after descending on the pine trees in front of their yard, Our Lady again beckoned Mariette to the stream, some 325 feet away. She was grave and serious and told Mariette, “My dear child, pray much.” 

The eighth and last apparition took place on March 2. The Lady said, “I am the Mother of the Saviour, the Mother of God. Pray much.” She stretched forth her hands, blessed Mariette and said, “Adieu – till we meet in God.” 

Today, Banneux has become a wellspring from which grace flows. The chapel requested by the Virgin has been built and is called the Chapel of the Apparitions. Since it is too small to accommodate pilgrims, a bigger church – the Church of the Virgin of the Poor – was built in 1984. The place was made a National Shrine, by the bishops of Belgium, in 1999. 

Mariette died in 2011 – just 4 years ago - at the age of 90. 



Each year on August 5, the Church liturgical calendar commemorates the dedication of St. Mary Major (in Latin, Santa Maria Maggiore), one of the five great ancient basilicas in Rome. Why would that event be a feast day for the universal Church? What is our connection to the dedication of a construction in Italy that took place over 1,500 years ago? 

The history of this church is rooted in the role of Mary as the Mother of God and its story begins with a fourth-century legend: living in Rome around the year A.D. 350 was a wealthy and childless couple who, upon their death, wanted their earthly possessions used in a way that would honour the Virgin Mother. They prayed earnestly for divine guidance. Mary appeared to the husband in a dream, requesting that a church be built for her on a site where snow would fall in midsummer. 

The couple quickly reported Mary’s request to Pope Liberius (352-366), who claimed to have had a similar dream. On August, 5, at the height of the summer heat, snow miraculously fell on an area of Rome called the Esquiline Hill, defining the floor plan of the church. 

Here, the legend concludes, the first Christian church in honor of the Virgin Mary was built. It was called the Liberian Basilica after Pope Liberius. This basilica, rebuilt and magnificently adorned over the centuries, has been a rallying point for popes and laypeople, for Romans and pilgrims alike, to venerate the maternity and life of the Blessed Mother. 

For a while the basilica was known as St. Mary of the Crib after it obtained a relic of the Holy Crib, believed to be the one in which Jesus was laid at His nativity. This relic was carried to Rome by Christian refugees from the Holy Land fleeing the invasion of the seventh century. The basilica still hosts a procession of the Holy Crib every year on Christmas Day.

In 1566, Pope St. Pius V implemented the decisions of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), to affirm Mary as Theotokos - the Mother of God. To perpetuate the renewed Marian devotion among Catholics, Pope Pius introduced the feast of the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snow which further emphasized honored the divine motherhood of Mary. 

The church was later named St. Mary Major because it is the largest and most eminent of all the 26 churches now in Rome named in honour of the Blessed Mother. In 1969, following the Second Vatican Council, the name of the August 5 celebration was revised to “The Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.”

Since St. Mary Major is a patriarchal basilica, it contains a papal altar used only by the Pope himself or a priest to whom he has given special permission. Customarily, the Pope celebrates Mass here each year on the feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15).

The basilica is also home to the celebrated icon of the Blessed Virgin known as Salus Populi Romani (“Health of the Roman People”). This name comes from a miracle in which the icon helped shield the city from the approach of the plague. Legend claims that it was painted from life by St. Luke the Evangelist, but most scholars agree that it dates from the 13th century.

The feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major is not intended simply to call our attention to a legend or dedication of a beautiful church. Rather, it reminds us that Catholics throughout history have believed and continue to believe that the young Jewish girl named Mary is indeed the Mother of God.

This belief is an established truth, a dogma of the Catholic faith. St. Mary Major Basilica stands as an earthly symbol of that important reality. 



The most treasured and venerated Shrine of our Lady throughout the world is that of the Holy House of Nazareth in the Basilica at Loreto, Italy. And rightly so; for, according to tradition, to testimonies of Popes and Saints this is where the angel appeared to Mary, where she conceived the Saviour and where our redemption began. Over the past several centuries, people from all parts of the world have traveled to this shrine to pray and seek Our Lady’s help. Thousands of miracles attributed to Our Lady have been recorded at Loreto. 

The tradition and history of the Holy House goes back to apostolic times. Shortly after the year 313, Constantine the Great had a large Basilica built over the Holy House of Nazareth. The Holy House and the grotto formed part of the crypt of the new church. About the year 1090, the Saracens invaded the Holy Land, plundering and destroying many of the shrines sacred to Christians. One of these was the Basilica in Nazareth, but the Holy House and grotto in the crypt were left intact. 

Another Basilica was built during the 12th century to protect the Holy House and offer ample room for pilgrims. This second Basilica was destroyed when the crusaders were overpowered in 1263. Again the Holy House escaped destruction and was left intact under the ruins of the Basilica. In 1291 the crusaders were completely driven out of the Holy Land. Around this time, the Holy House of Nazareth was raised from its foundations in Nazareth and transported to Tersatto, Dalmatia in Croatia. 

Again, when the safety of the Holy House was threatened, it was moved through divine intervention twice more till it came to rest at its present location. The House became a place of pilgrimage and many miracles took place there. Incidentally, wherever it landed, the Holy House remained stable and rested securely on the ground, without a foundation. 

Over the centuries, many Pontiffs have testified to the authenticity of the Holy House and the miracles that have been attributed to it. The devotion and respect of the Pontiffs for the Holy House may be gathered from the numerous indulgences granted to those visiting it. 

Many who have been canonized, beatified or made venerable by the Church have visited the Holy House. St. Therese of Lisieux made a momentous pilgrimage before entering the Carmelites, to which she alludes at length in her autobiography. St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Frances Cabrini, Cardinal Newman, St. John Neumann, and St. Francis de Sales, to name but a few, have visited the Holy House. St. Francis of Assisi in the early years of the 13th century established a monastery at Sirolo. To a group of puzzled friars, Francis foretold that before the close of that century, a sanctuary would be built near there which would be more renowned than Rome or Jerusalem and that the faithful would come from all over the world to visit this Holy Sanctuary. This prophecy proved true when the Holy House of Loreto arrived on December 10, 1294. 




The Weeping Madonna of Syracuse is one of the most unusual of the approved miraculous images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and it is one of the most recent. 

A plaster plaque of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, mass-produced in Tuscany, Italy and shipped to Syracuse for retail was given as a wedding gift to Antonina and Angelo Jannuso who were married on March 21, 1953. At the time, they were tepid Christians, but they hung the image with some devotion on the wall behind their bed. 

When Antonina discovered she was with child, she was unfortunately afflicted with toxemia that caused her to convulse at times and experience blindness. At three in the morning on Saturday, August 29, 1953, Antonina suffered a seizure that left her blind. By 8:30 that morning her sight was restored; when she was able to see, her eyes were on the Madonna, which, to Antonina’s amazement was weeping. At first the others thought she was hallucinating due to her illness, but Antonina insisted she wasn’t. Her family looked again and they too could see the tears run down the Madonna’s cheeks and onto the bed. The neighbours were brought in and they confirmed the tears. 

One of the many visitors who examined the plaque at close range was Mario Messina, who was highly regarded in the neighborhood. After observing the slow formation of the tears, he removed the image from the wall, looked at it thoroughly and was satisfied that the tears were not the result of an internal reservoir. 

On Sunday, August 30 at 2:00 in the morning, the weeping image was placed on a cushion and displayed for the curious who had remained outside the Jannuso home throughout the night. The plaque was nailed above the main door on Monday, and its tears collected by the people on pieces of cloth and wads of cotton. Later, to protect the plaque from falling, it was brought to an improvised altar outside the home of the Lucca family who lived across the street; after the recitation of the Rosary, it was returned. 

A group of clergy, four of scientific background and three for reputable witness, investigated the phenomenon; they also collected a sample of tears for analysis. The plaque was examined while it wept and while the liquid collected in the cavity formed by the hand over the heart. It was examined thoroughly to eliminate all possible natural reasons for the weeping. The tears, scientifically tested in the laboratory, were confirmed to be human. 

A medical commission was nominated on October 7, 1953 to scientifically examine the 290 cases of reported cures; 105 of these were deemed to be of “special interest,” or likely miracles. The first person to experience a healing was also the first to observe the weeping. From the time Antonina Jannuso first saw the tears, she recovered completely from severe toxemia and gave birth to a healthy son on December 25, 1953. Crystallized tears are now in the reliquary.

The little house on Via Deggli Orti 11, where the Madonna first wept, is now an oratory where Mass is often said. The image itself is enshrined above the main altar of the Santuario Madonna Delle Lacrima, built especially to accommodate the crowds that continue to gather to pray before the holy image. 

Source: The Shrine of the Weeping Madonna of Syracuse -



French Catholic settlers began to arrive in large numbers in Canada in the early seventeenth century. They believed that they had enjoyed Our Lady’s protection during the long sea voyage across the stormy Atlantic, so naturally they prayed for her help as they made their homes in a new land. 

Three Rivers was a small trading port consecrated to the Immaculate Conception by the Society of Jesus in 1634. As trade increased, the original settlement divided and the newer part was named Cap de la Madeleine. In 1652, Pierre Boucher, Governor of Three Rivers, built a church and set up a little shrine to the Virgin, which in 1694 became the center of a local branch of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. The population increased and a larger church was built in 1720. Following the pastor’s death in 1729, there was a period of 115 years without a resident pastor! 

When Father Luc Desilets, the newly assigned pastor, visited the church, on Ascension Day 1867, his congregation consisted of a solitary pig in the Lady Chapel, chewing a rosary! The priest subsequently preached vehemently on the subject of ‘The Pig and the Rosary’ to shame his parishioners, and very quickly the congregation increased. An even larger church was now required, for which the stone had to be brought in winter from a quarry on the far side of the St. Lawrence River. Normally this would have been easily accomplished by using sledges over the ice, but the winter of 1879 was mild and the river did not freeze. Building was brought to a standstill. 

Father Desilets prayed to Our Lady for a bridge of ice. Although the winter was almost gone -it was mid-March -a tremendous storm blew packed ice from the banks into the middle of the river where it formed a bridge. 

In thanksgiving, Father Desilets preserved the old chapel by the side of the new church.

The dedication of this chapel to Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, took place on June 22, 1888 and a statue of Our Lady that had been donated to the parish in 1854 was ceremoniously placed on the main altar. That evening a lame man called Pierre Lacroix was brought into the chapel by Father Desilets and Father Frédéric. The three men were astonished to observe the statue – the eyes, previously downcast, were now open and gazing forward. Father Desilets later reported. “She looked in front of her as if looking outwards into the distance. Her face was severe and rather sad.” 

The three men swore an oath that what they had seen had truly taken place, and their statement is stored on parchment in the library of the sanctuary to this day. 

After the miracle of the ice bridge and the statue, pilgrims started to converge on Cap de la Madeleine from all over Canada. Their numbers increase year by year. 

In 1902, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate became the guardians of the Shrine. The construction of the present Basilica began in 1955 and it was inaugurated in 1964. It can seat 1660 persons. 

Source: Shrine of Our Lady of The Rosary



 County Mayo is in the center of a region of Ireland that had faced great distress in the 1870’s. Various famines and great poverty caused by forced immigration were responsible for much suffering, and it was in 1879 that our Blessed Mother visited her troubled children. 

On the evening of Thursday, August 21, 1879, two women from the small village of Knock - Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne - were walking back to their home, in the rain, when they passed by the back of the town church. There, against the wall of the church, stood the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist and an altar with a lamb and a cross on it. Flying around the altar were several angels. The women called several other people to witness the apparition. The thirteen people who came, saw in the still bright light of day, a beautiful woman clothed in white garments, wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised as if in prayer. They understood her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Angels. And while they stood and prayed the rosary, they were drenched by the heavy rain, while the apparition was not disturbed by a single drop. Other villagers, who were not present, saw a very bright light surrounding the church at the time. 

Later visitors to the church began to report inexplicable healings and as the news spread, pilgrims by the thousands arrived with their sick. In 1880, a statue of Our Lady of Knock was erected where she had been seen during the vision and by the end of 1880 some 300 cures had been recorded in the diary of the parish priest; the deaf heard, the lame walked and the blind saw. Now, the church receives one and a half million visitors annually. 

The Church did not immediately recognise this apparition, but the many miracles and healings reported by witnesses were found to be believable and there was nothing contrary to the faith. Four recent Popes have honoured Knock: Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II who made a personal pilgrimage to the Shrine in September 1979. Popes John XXII and John Paul II are now canonised saints, while Pope Paul VI has been beatified.

Source: Our Lady of Knock


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