Saint of the Day ~ August 5


Today, the universal Church commemorates the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.

The basilica was originally built by Pope Liberius in the mid fourth century and was originally named after him “Basilica Liberii” or “Liberiana”. In 431, after the Council of Ephesus acclaimed Mary as the Mother of God, Pope Sixtus III restored the church, dedicating it to our Lady with the new title of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. It is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary.

Saint Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church – (1) Saint John Lateran representing Rome, the See (Diocese) of Peter; (2) Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the See presided over by Saint Mark; (3) Saint Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and (4) Saint Mary Major, representing the See of Antioch, the city where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.

One legend, unreported before the year 1000 and with no historical basis, gives another name to this feast – “Our Lady of the Snows”. According to that story, during the pontificate of Pope Liberius, a Roman patrician, an aristocrat whose name was John, together with his wife and who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to the Blessed Mother. They prayed that she would make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor.

During a hot summer night of August 5th, about the year 358, snow fell on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision which they had the same night, the couple encouraged Pope Liberius, who also reportedly had a similar vision, to build a basilica on the spot which was covered with snow. The legend has long been celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the ceiling of the basilica’s dome every August 5th.

We commemorate the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on August 5.

(From,, and



(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for the Dedication of Saint Mary Major)

“Lord, pardon the sins of Your people. May the prayers of Mary, the Mother of Your Son, help to save us, for by ourselves we cannot please You.

“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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