Dedication of St. Mary Major (i)

Friends in Christ, today we honor the great Basilica of St. Mary Major, in Rome. What is the story of this great Church?
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Well, from the earliest days of the Faith, Mary was called the Mother of God. By this title, we teach that her Son, Jesus, really is God. But in the 5th century, there would be a challenge to this truth.
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One day, the proud Bishop of Constantinople, named Nestorius, stepped into the pulpit of his cathedral to deliver a sermon.[i] In a shocking statement, he claimed that the Child in the womb of Mary was not God. The congregation was shocked and bewildered. Then a young man stepped out from the crowd; and summoning his courage, his voice thundered out to the Bishop: ‘the Eternal Word chose to be born to Mary. She is Mother of God!!!
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We do not know how Nestorius reacted to this interruption, but months later, Bishop Proclus answered Nestorius to his face in the same cathedral: ‘This Jesus, he said, ‘was in the Father’s bosom and also the womb of his mother. This Child was adored by angels, while he sat with tax-collectors. This Jesus, hung on the Cross but was never absent from heaven; His Mother is Mary, and so she is the Mother of God!        
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The congregation broke into thunderous applause. But Nestorius would not listen to the Church, and he spread his errors like a cancer. In 431AD, the Church called the great Council of Ephesus. The question put before the Bishops: is Jesus One Divine Person or not? Is that little baby born to Mary, true God and true Man? or not?
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You know, it was only a short distance from where they were meeting, to where Mary had lived in her little house on the hill. Looking out over the city, she had prayed for the early Church. And here, centuries later, she still watched and prayed from heaven. Prayed, that we would get it right about Jesus.
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It was night when the decision was made: ‘Yes! Declared the Church: This is the Faith.’ The people greeted the decision with joyous shouts: Mother of God! Mother of God! they cheered, and formed a torchlight procession winding throughout the city; The people of Rome decided to build a grand church in honor of the Mother of God, but where?
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In a dream, it was revealed that the Church should be built where snow would fall. Snow. In Rome, in August. Indeed it did. On August 5th, in the miserable heat of Rome, a blanket of white snow descended onto the Esquiline Hill, and there was built the Basilica we call, St. Mary Major. This great Mother of God is also called, Our Lady of the Snows.

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[i] See Carroll, Vol 2, p. 92.

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