Friday, 5 August 2011
Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives
I humbly invoke the intercession of Our Lady of the Snows (today we commemorate the Dedication of Her Basilica in Rome - Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives). I do this for two reasons. Hilaire Belloc had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and, of course, one of his most popular books is The Path to Rome. Of course, he travelled across large parts of France and Italy, on his foot-bound pilgrimage, but it was the snow-bound Alps that fired his imagination:
The mountains from their heights reveal to us two truths. They suddenly make us feel our insignificance, and at the same time they free the immortal Mind, and let it feel its greatness, and they release it from the earth.
If you should ask how this book came to be written, it was in this way. One day as I was wandering over the world I came upon the valley where I was born, and stopping there a moment to speak with them all--when I had argued politics with the grocer, and played the great lord with the notary-public, and had all but made the carpenter a Christian by force of rhetoric--what should I note (after so many years) but the old tumble-down and gaping church, that I love more than mother-church herself, all scraped, white, rebuilt, noble, and new, as though it had been finished yesterday. Knowing very well that such a change had not come from the skinflint populace, but was the work of some just artist who knew how grand an ornament was this shrine (built there before our people stormed Jerusalem), I entered,and there saw that all within was as new, accurate, and excellent as the outer part; and this pleased me as much as though a fortune had been left to us all; for one's native place is the shell of one's soul, and one's church is the kernel of that nut. Moreover, saying my prayers there, I noticed behind the high altar a statue of Our Lady, so extraordinary and so different from all I had ever seen before, so much the spirit of my valley, that I was quite taken out of myself and vowed a vow there to go to Rome on Pilgrimage and see all Europe which the Christian Faith has saved; and I said, 'I will start from the place where I served in arms for my sins; I will walk all the way and take advantage of no wheeled thing; I will sleep rough and cover thirty miles a day, and I will hear Mass every morning; and I will be present at high Mass in St Peter's on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.'
The Path to Rome