Ever wonder where Jesus grew up? Today we learn more about his childhood home.
There are stories within the history of our faith that we tend to focus on, most of them coming from scripture. There are even places that we seek out from these stories and pilgrimage to: the Jordan river, calvary, etc. One such place that I had never thought about in much detail until earlier this week is what is known as “The Holy House”: the house in which Mary and Joseph raised Jesus. Did I mention the Holy House is not in the Holy Land? Let that sink in for a second. The current location of the house is Loreto, Italy. How did it get there? One word: angels.
The house of the Holy Family resided in Nazareth long after the life of Christ. In fact, it stood tall on its original foundation for 13 years until May 10, 1291 when overnight it disappeared - leaving only the foundation in its place. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich recounts the sight of the house being transported in one of her mystical visions, stating,
“I saw the Holy House borne over the sea by seven angels. It had no foundation, but there was under it a shining surface of light. On either side was something like a handle. Three angels carried it on one side and three on the other; the seventh hovered in front of it, a long train of light after him.”
The angels first carried the home to Trsat - an area now located in modern day Croatia. The house remained there 3 years, baffling the town people as to where it had come from. God’s plan was revealed after the third year when in 1294 the town of Nazareth was invaded by Muslims. This attack would have destroyed the home in which the miracle of the Annunciation had occurred. God anticipated this act of violence and thus sent his angels to relocate it to a safer location.
This is not the first time in history that we see God has worked through his servants to remove relics from the Holy Land and relocate them to a safer destination. Take for example St. Helena. Mother of Emperor Constantine, she took matters into her own hands when she decided she wanted to learn more about her religion and set off to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. Once there, she gathered some of the local elders and asked for their help in locating various relics associated with Jesus. According to the story, a handful of them knew where the cross of Jesus was rumored to be hidden. St. Helena excavated the site and found not only the three crosses from Calvary, but the title of the cross, and the crown of thorns. She is also credited with bringing the Holy Stairs back to Rome, along with the manager of the baby Jesus and a handful of its hay. All of these relics remind us of the same message that the Holy House tells us: Jesus and his parents, along with their love for us, are real.
We do not know why the Holy House made a pitstop in Croatia - perhaps it was to provide a multitude of witnesses to the miracle of its relocation, or to bless multiple lands with its presence. Regardless - its multiple homes over the years reminds us that this was not a feat of man, but a miracle of God. It’s next resting place would be Piceno, Italy. This stay was shorter than its time in Croatia . Once robbers began to come and steal from the pilgrims travelling to the home, it disappeared once again - this time landing on a hill not far from the town. This resting place did not last long either - the two brothers who owned the land began to quarrel over who would own the property, and, unable to resolve their dispute, began to exploit the home and the pilgrims it attracted for financial gain. Several months later the house had moved again - this time, to its final resting place: Loreto, Italy.
Upon its arrival in Loreto the church began to investigate the reappearing house in depth, sending 16 envoys to measure the dimensions of the house in each location. All of the measurements were exactly the same. Years later scientists continued to study the house and discovered that the walls of the Holy House were made from stone native to Nazareth and that the wood in the ceiling was also directly from the area. Even the mortar was identified as native to the land. These affirmative studies led to a massive preservation of the home, as well as a large influx in pilgrims.
Why do we protect this home? This is where the Incarnation took place, where the Angel Gabriel appeared, and where Mary and Joseph prayed with and raised our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a place of spiritual importance and wonder - a very powerful relic that we are lucky to still have. Many famous saints and popes have traveled here over time. There are accounts of exorcisms, healings, and other miracles unmatched taking place within its walls. God has protected this piece of our past to share it with us, to guide us, and to remind us of the reality of our faith. It is one of many relics that we can approach and learn more about, knowing that just like the history we read in our textbooks, the story of our faith is real.
One of my favorite descriptions of the home comes from Saint Therese of Liseux, which I will leave you with to pray over,
“I was indeed happy when on the way to Loreto. Our Lady had chosen an ideal spot in which to place her Holy House. Everything is poor, simple, and primitive; the women still wear the graceful dress of the country and have not, as in the large towns, adopted the modern Paris fashions. I found Loreto enchanting. What shall I say of the Holy House? I was overwhelmed with emotion when I realized that I was under the roof that had sheltered the Holy Family. I gazed on the same walls Our Lord had looked on. I trod the tround once moistened with the sweat of Joseph’s toil, and saw the little chamber of the Annunciation. I even put my rosary into the little porringer used by the Divine Child. How sweet these memories!”