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US seminarians begin Lenten pilgrimage to Rome's ancient churches
| February 17, 2010
| Father Matthew Gamber
Posted on 02/17/2010 11:11:16 AM PST by NYer
By Father Matthew Gamber
Deacon Greg Ihm, a seminarian from the Diocese of Madison, Wis., prays during an early morning Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 17. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) -- For seminarians at the Pontifical North American College, Lent did not begin with receiving ashes in the warmth of the seminary chapel; it began with a long, cold walk in morning darkness down one hill and up another to the Church of Santa Sabina.
Once inside the fifth-century basilica, they received their ashes Feb. 17 and began the college's 35th annual Lenten pilgrimage to the ancient churches of Rome.
The pilgrimage replicates the custom of the "station churches," which began nearly 1,500 years ago.
The Lenten journey will take the North American College's 225 students from their home on the Janiculum hill to one of Rome's ancient churches for a 7 a.m. Mass in English each day of Lent, except Sundays.
On some mornings it involves a quick walk down the hill to a nearby church, such as Santa Maria in Trastevere, but on other days it will be a full hour hike across town in chilly, late winter weather to a major basilica like St. Paul Outside the Walls.
"It took us about 30 minutes to walk this morning," Jake Strand, a second-year seminarian from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said Feb. 17. "We talked about what it must have been like for the apostles to walk with Jesus through Galilee and how we have to walk with him, too, and listen to him, which takes time and patience."
A church was designated as a "station church" because of its prominence in early Christianity or because it was constructed on the burial site of a saint or martyr of the early church. In long-ago Lents, popes would gather with the faithful of Rome at a different church each day and then walk together to another church for Mass, making a pilgrimage from one stop or station to another until Easter.
During the seventh century Pope Gregory the Great standardized the list of station churches and decreed on which day of Lent they would be visited. The goal was to strengthen the sense of community among the members of the church in Rome who had endured many centuries of hardship and persecution.
"It puts us in touch with our own Catholic roots," said Father James R. DeViese Jr. of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va. He and third-year seminarian Riley Williams of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass., helped organize this year's pilgrimage.
"It's a communal act of penance and prayer, a way for us to join together as Christians to prepare our souls for the sacred triduum" of Holy Week and Easter, Father DeViese said.
Williams recently organized the updating and republishing of "'Procedamus in Pace': A Guide to the Station Churches of Rome," which gives a historical overview and lists the religious and architectural highlights of each of the station churches.
"In making these journeys to various churches around the city, we are joined not only to the saints who lived and died here, but also by the innumerable multitudes who have worshipped in these same places," Williams said.
Msgr. James F. Checchio, rector of the college, said, "The station churches provide our men with opportunities to visit some of the oldest spots of worship in the city, built over the places of martyrdoms or the relics of the saints."
"The experience gets in their bones and stays with them," he said.
The station-church pilgrimage had been abandoned for hundreds of years when Pope John XXIII asked that it be revived in 1959.
The North American College began organizing its own pilgrimage in 1975, inviting the English-speaking community of Rome to participate; this year hundreds of laypeople, religious and priests joined the seminarians for the Ash Wednesday Mass.
Msgr. Checchio, who was the principal celebrant of the Mass, was joined by some 150 concelebrating priests.
The North American College seminarians take up a collection during the Masses and choose a special charity each year.
The 2010 Lenten station-church collection will be sent to Haiti to help rebuild the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince's seminary, which was destroyed in January's earthquake.
Msgr. Robert Gruss, vice rector of the North American College, said the station-church Masses are a "highlight experience" for many of the seminarians during their time in Rome. "Walking builds a sense of community not always found within the seminary walls," he said.
Deacon Peter Finney, who is preparing for ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said he has made the station-church pilgrimage during each of his four years in Rome.
"After studying in Rome, making the station churches really ties the whole thing together," he said. "Walking to the churches makes you feel you are on the way, you are on the journey of Lent."
TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Prayer; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; lent; pilgrimage; rome
posted on 02/17/2010 11:11:16 AM PST
To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; ...
posted on 02/17/2010 11:11:46 AM PST
("Where Peter is, there is the Church." - St. Ambrose of Milan)
I know our archdiocese has a couple of seminarians there!
posted on 02/17/2010 4:23:59 PM PST
("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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