presence of Mary and it was a special time for me. As I found out in the evening, a few hours after our Mass, Pope Francis arrived to the Basilica and he spent half an hour praying in the chapel where we had Mass. The purpose of his visit was to ask The Virgin Mary to guide him and the young people gathered for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janerio in Brazil.
The Basilica is also the resting place of Pope Pius V, who reformed the Roman Catholic Liturgy after the Council of Trent. The structure of Mass that was celebrated until the II Vatican Council came from this pope.
When St Eugene de Mazenod was staying in Rome he visited this basilica many times. In fact in his diary one can find this sentence being repeated like a refrain: "Although I prayed at Santa Maria Maggiore this morning I returned to the Basilica again. Something draws me to this church." He had great love for this church, not simply because it is beautiful but it is the most important catholic church dedicated to Mary. It is the main Marian shrine of the Catholic Church, even if we talk more about Lourdes and Fatima. However what drew Saint Eugene to Santa Maria Maria Maggiore weren't his private sentiments but his understanding of the Church: if it is the church of the Holy Father it is also the church for the whole Catholic Community. If the popes have honored Mary here for centuries, it is where the Catholic World joins her Holy Father to express our love for Mary and to pray for her intersession. St Eugene was always very sensitive to all the gestures and words of Supreme Pontiffs.
Another thing that drew St Eugene here were queues of people for Confession. Obviously he saw it as the sign of Mary's prayers. She always draws us closer to her Son Jesus and it is Jesus who welcomes sinners and forgives them at Confessions. This thing haven't changed. At Santa Maria Maggiore there is always a number of priests in the confessionals waiting for people and from what I saw the Virgin Mary works very hard on those who come to her church as the priests have always somebody confessing sins. I also took up the opportunity and after praying the Rosary before the main altar with the Crib of Jesus I joined the queue to clean my poor soul. I was most impressed with the priest. He was offering confessions in a few languages. Isn't a powerful sign, that somebody with such an intelligent mind spends hours in the confessional to hear people's sins? Without knowing he also gave me great consolation that I took as a gift from heaven. He told me that for my penance I was to offer the first Mass after this confession for myself. When I went back to the altar with the crib I simple said: "Thank you, Mother Mary." When I go to all these holy places I feel that it would be stingy of me to pray for myself. I also have so many intentions I have been asked to fray for. So I didn't dare to offer Mass for myself. What made the penance I was given so consoling was that the next Mass I was to say at St Peter's Basilica at Vatican where so many saints are buried. What the priest told me to do reminded me that a penance isn't a punishment or paying off for our sins but it is the balm that The Lord pours on the wounds coursed by our sins to heal us quicker.