The Fires of the Coming
Nov 09, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long
Reviving Catholic Traditions Surrounding the Holy House of Loreto
—taken principally from the book: The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto
One of the greatest relics of the Catholic Church is the Holy House of Loreto in Italy. The house of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was miraculously transported by the angels from Palestine to Europe, over a period of four years, making several “stops” along the way.
The house of the Holy Family in Nazareth has always been the object of Christian veneration. Shortly after 313 AD, St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, built a basilica over this holy abode. The Saracens invaded the Holy Land in 1090, plundering and destroying Christian shrines, including Constantine’s basilica. Under the rubble, the Holy House was found intact.
During the twelfth century, another basilica was built to protect the holy dwelling. In 1219 or 1220 St. Francis of Assisi visited the Holy House in Nazareth. So did King St. Louis IX of France, when he was leading a crusade to liberate the Holy Land.
In 1263, when the Muslims overpowered the crusaders, the basilica was again destroyed but, once more, the Holy House was found intact.
When the crusaders where completely driven out of the Holy Land in 1291, the Holy House simply disappeared. Where did it go?
For a complete description of the “travels” of the Holy House, see the book: The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto.
After a span of four years, the Holy House finally departed and landed on a public road on Mount Prodo connecting Recanati to Ancona, where it remains to this day. This time the Holy House came to rest in a wooded area four miles from Recanati, Italy. As the news spread fast, thousands flocked there, and many miracles took place at the site.
Folk Traditions Born from the Miraculous Translation
Unfortunately, following the profound social and cultural changes that have taken place since the end of the 1960s, many secular traditions linked to the feast of the Translation of the Holy House of Loreto have been lost. However, in recent times, we have witnessed their recovery, dictated especially by a desire to preserve the precious and rich local folk heritage.
Traditionally, the most important and characteristic manifestations take place on the eve and during the night of the Translation. For inhabitants of the Marche province of Italy, the evening of December 9 is that of the “Coming,” when we remember the miraculous Translation by angels of the three intact walls of the Holy House of Nazareth to Loreto hill.
Popular celebrations for the coming of the Holy House began spontaneously and almost immediately since the fourteenth century. 1 However, they were formalized and organized in the seventeenth century thanks mostly to the preaching and work of Capuchins Fathers Boniface of Ascoli, and Thomas of Ancona.
In 1624, the municipality of Recanati (to which Loreto then belonged), ordered that on the evening of December 9 “with the shooting of mortars and the sound of all bells, fires are lit over the land of the municipality and lights placed on all city windows and fires lit by ‘peasants throughout the countryside.’ 2
A Tradition Worth Reviving
While varying from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, and even family to family, in general, the “fires of the Coming” were lit before or after dinner, but of course, always at night. People gathered around the bonfire, recited the Holy Rosary, and sang the Loreto Litanies, then sang Marian songs and hymns of popular devotion. (see text of one of those songs, below) Besides, at least one light would be placed on the window or windowsill of each house or building. Commendably, various parishes and local communities have recently reinstated these devotions. As tradition once had it, grandparents or parents would tell children the story of the miraculous Translation, and it is easy to imagine how it excited their imagination.
The culminating moment generally took place at 3 am, the time when the three walls are thought to have landed in the Marche region. At that time, the church bells would ring loudly and many family heads would fire several shots from the windows, to welcome the Coming. Then they would go to church to pray or to attend Mass, which was often celebrated.
Some Tips on Planning Your Own Fires of the Coming:
- Invite friends and neighbors for Dec. 9th (or the Saturday closest to that date); it may be a good idea to ask them to bring a folding chair.
- Collect wood and set up a bonfire the day of your celebration.
- Ask your guests to bring some easy-to-prepare snacks [S’mores are encouraged!] and a beverage of choice.
- Gather up rosaries for those participants who do not have one.
- Get a real large bell, or ask everyone to bring a small bell giving Our Lady a warm welcome on a chilly night.
- Designate an honorary “grandparent” who will, during a period of silence, tell the miraculous story of the translation of the Holy House of Loreto.
- Print up a little program with the following song and prayer. If you are feeling creative, choose your own!
SONG To the Most Blessed Virgin of Loreto. *
Here the Angels raised the holy house,
That once received Mary with her holy Son;
They carried it over the clouds and above the water:
A great miracle, to which I lift up
My mind otherwise turned to the ground,
And oppressed by thoughts.
This is the Mount you deigned to honor
With your holy walls,
O Virgin chaste and pure;
Indeed your birth, and later, his own,
Made me envied by Mount Atlas;
For, despising its fabulous qualities,
You made me the humble stay of both the king and royal family.
* The author of this song, Torquato Tasso, dedicated some verses to the Holy House later taken up by the current Liturgy of the Hours for the feast day. When visiting the sanctuary as a pilgrim on October 31, 1587, he entrusted his sufferings and trials to Our Lady.
The Litany of Loreto
(can also be found on YouTube)
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Mother of divine grace, pray for us.
Mother most pure, pray for us.
Mother most chaste, pray for us.
Mother inviolate, pray for us.
Mother undefiled, pray for us.
Mother most amiable, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, pray for us.
Mother of good counsel, pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of justice, pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, pray for us.
Vessel of honor, pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.
Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us.
Tower of ivory, pray for us.
House of gold, pray for us.
Ark of the covenant, pray for us.
Gate of heaven, pray for us.
Morning star, pray for us.
Health of the sick, pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.
Help of Christians, pray for us.
Queen of Angels, pray for us.
Queen of Patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of Prophets, pray for us.
Queen of Apostles, pray for us.
Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of Confessors, pray for us.
Queen of Virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.
Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.
Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.
Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, unto us Thy servants, that we may rejoice in continual health of mind and body; and, by the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, may be delivered from present sadness, and enter into the joy of Thine eternal gladness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Most Holy Rosary
If this is your first time praying the rosary, never fear! We have so many resources, literally at your fingertips:
- How to Pray the Rosary
- FREE Rosary Guide Booklet
- Video on How to Pray the Rosary
- Looking to learn more about the Rosary? Just type “Rosary” in the search box on this site. But be sure to bring a cup or glass of something with you; you may be there a while!
I. Christopher Columbus and the Holy House:
Christopher Columbus, as can be read in his “Journal,” knew the Loreto sanctuary very well possibly visited it as a young sailor when crossing the Adriatic between 1465 and 1475. On February 13, 1493, while returning to Spain from the historic journey in which he discovered the American continent, his fleet was hit by a violent storm. The sea became very threatening and the wave tormented the two surviving ships, the “Niña” and the “Pinta.”
On the night of February 14, the wind intensified further and the waves became appalling. The "Pinta" was at the mercy of the wind, was taken off course, and disappeared from sight. Faced with danger, Columbus and his sailors relied on the intercession of Our Lady, to whom they made three collective promises. As many chickpeas were put into a cap as were sailors on the "Niña." One of the chickpeas was marked with a cross, and whoever extracted it would have to go on pilgrimage to three Marian shrines.
The first and third draws fell on Columbus, who promised to go to the Spanish sanctuary of Santa Maria of Guadalupe in Extremadura, offering a five-pound candle, and to that of Santa Clara di Moguer. The second drawing fell on a sailor, Pedro de Villa, to whom Columbus promised money to go “to Holy Mary of Loreto, located in the Mark of Ancona, in the Papal State, which is the House in which the Blessed Virgin has made and still makes many great miracles.”
After the three promises, the storm gradually subsided and the crew was finally able to land on the Spanish coast. In the dome of the Basilica of Loreto, the painter Cesare Maccari depicted Christopher Columbus fulfilling his vow. 3
II. Loreto, the Sanctuary of “Non-negotiable Principles”
The Holy House of Loreto is a sanctuary that can serve as a spiritual “lung,” especially for those who struggle to defend non-negotiable principles (right to life, defense of the natural family, right of parents to educate their children).
The events that took place in the Holy House, of great importance for the history of humanity, and all the more for those who profess the Christian religion, leave no room for doubt. 4
Our Redemption began among those sacred walls. Not only was Our Lord Jesus Christ conceived there; it was also the place of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and birth. Within those walls, the Word became flesh and came to dwell among men. How can we not then think of the intrinsic dignity of human beings from the moment of conception? Jesus himself, the Savior, assumed the human condition right from the beginning. Our Lord was an embryo and a fetus and lived for nine months in the virginal womb of Mary Most Holy.
Therefore, Loreto should become the spiritual point of reference for all those who work to defend the right to life of unborn children. Because there is no difference in dignity and sacredness between an unborn person and another already born, just as there is no difference between a young person and an elderly one, male or female.
A human being is always human in every phase of existence. For this reason, opposition to genetic manipulation, the artificial production of children, and the crime of abortion must be clear and radical. Any law that admits the murder of children or their reduction to objects is inherently iniquitous and must be rejected and repealed.
The same obviously applies to the barbarous practice of the commodification of the womb or surrogate motherhood, which some blasphemously associate with the Annunciation that took place in the Holy House. This comparison clearly makes no sense if only because Our Lady did not ask to become the Mother of God but just accepted it by saying “Yes” to the divine will. A “yes” open to life, which today too many refuse with contraception and unbridled hedonism.
- 1 See G. Santarelli, Tradizioni e Leggende Lauretane, cit., pp. 26 & ff.
- 2 Cit. in G. Santarelli, Tradizioni e Leggende Lauretane, cit., p. 30.
- 3 Cf. Il voto di Cristoforo Colombo alla Madonna di Loreto, in http://www.vivereosimo.it/2007/12/10/il-voto-di-cristoforo-colombo-alla-madonna-di-loreto/150119/.
- 4 Cf. Benedict XVI, Discorso ai partecipanti al convegno promosso dal Partito Popolare Europeo, March 30, 2006, in https://w2.vatican.va/content/...;