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Our Lady of the Snows

Our Lady of the Snows by Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist Narrative:

The impetus of this image is a rock formation in the San Juan Range of Colorado, up the Camp Bird road. It was the beloved home of the Ute Indians, then the realm of miners in search of wealth, and now a few homes enjoying the formidable rock walls and snow in peace and beauty. Above, facing east on the south side of the canyon, is this formation, its name unknown to me, resembling the Madonna and child. As I painted, the crescent moon suddenly appeared, moving right out of Mary from my perspective. With the seasons of Advent and Christmas upon us, I hoped this image could offer the warmth and promise of the Incarnation for us in this cold and difficult time, late in 2018.

I decided to call this Our Lady of the Snows, which has quite a tradition. Tradition also states that the earliest icon now known as Our Lady of the Snows dates the attribution back to St. Luke. The actual miracle of Our Lady of the Snows dates back to the year 352. A wealthy couple, called to donate their fortune in honor of Mary, approached Pope Liberius. They prayed for a sign. On the morning of August 5th, snow fell and covered the ground of the Esquiline Hill. Snow is an extremely rare occurrence in Rome at any time, let alone August. The outline of a large church appeared in the snow. A basilica was built, and exists today, following the design in the snow: The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

A Portion of the Prayer to Our Lady of the Snows

"Our Lady of the Snows, Immaculate Queen of the Universe, from this privileged sanctuary, Thou has bestowed so many countless graces and pledges of love upon the hearts and souls of millions. O Mother, from this cradle of Christianity, this Mother Church of all churches, deign to shower forth the graces of thine Immaculate Heart upon the remnant Faithful throughout the world..." May Mary, through her beloved son Jesus, shower this time in a multitude of graces allowing us to find patience, acceptance and love for those who are different than us. Let us find ways to come together in compassion for our neighbors, keeping faith as our guiding light.

Her feast day is August 5.

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Devotion to Our Lady of the Snows

Usually, when one talks about devotion to the Mother of Jesus under a particular title, there is a link, either to one of Mary's qualities (Sorrowful Mother, Mother of Mercy) or to one of her apparitions (Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe). Devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Snows is one of the oldest devotions to Mary. It has direct ties to the legend about a marvelous snowfall in Rome in 352 A.D. Mary had indicated in a dream to a wealthy, childless Roman couple that she wanted a church built in her honor and the site for this church would be covered with snow. On a hot, sultry morning on August 5, Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. All Rome proclaimed the summer snows a miracle, and a church to honor Mary was built on the hill in 358 A.D. Restored and refurbished many times, this church, now the magnificent Basilica of St. Mary Major, still stands today as the seat of devotion to Our Lady of the Snows in the Catholic Church. However, Our Lady of the Snows is honored here, not so much because of the legend, but because of her special role in the Church that is by its very nature, missionary. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – the congregation of priests and brothers who operate this Shrine – following the inspiration of their founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod – have always called on Mary as their principal patroness, one who looks upon their missionary efforts with a mother's love.