Our Lady of Loreto with Sisters of the Holy Cross

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December 10, 2021

The following is the text of the homily delivered by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at Mass on the Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Dec. 10) at the Church of Our Lady of Loreto, Notre Dame.

Three years ago, Pope Francis added today’s feast to the universal calendar of the Church as the optional memorial of Our Lady of Loreto. I imagine you were very happy when you heard this news since your chapel here is under the title of Our Lady of Loreto and the first permanent chapel on this Saint Mary’s campus was the Holy House of Loreto.

The Holy House of Mary in Nazareth was a place of pilgrimage and worship since the early centuries of the Church. The emperor Constantine and his mother, St. Helena, had a basilica built around it in the year 313. When the Christians were driven out of the Holy Land in the late 13th century, the Holy House disappeared and ended up in Croatia and eventually in Loreto, Italy. Some believe that angels transported the house there. Others believe that it was brought over by ship. In either case, archaeologists have studied it and testify that the stone is indeed from Palestine as are minute bits of pollen found in the stone. There is graffiti on the stone that matches graffiti in the ruined basilica built by Constantine. Also, the measurements of the remains of the foundation in Nazareth perfectly match the Holy House of Loreto.

Why is this house so important? In the reading today from the letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” That woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, received God’s Son in her womb at the Annunciation which took place in her humble home in Nazareth, what we now call the Holy House of Loreto. The shrine in Loreto recalls the great mystery of the Incarnation. So many who visit there do so to consider the “fullness of time,” when God sent His Son, born of a woman, as well as to meditate on the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and Mary’s words of response to the divine call, the words we just heard in the Gospel of the Annunciation. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the humble handmaid of the Lord so became the dwelling place of God, the purest image of the Church.

Your church here, and especially the Holy House of Loreto chapel on this campus, are sacred places where you also contemplate the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation. Sisters of the Holy Cross since the beginning, to