AP Story on the Roman Station Churches

Speaking of my LENTCAzTs, which always spend a moment looking at the Roman Station church for the day….

Once upon a time I would be the celebrant for Lenten Station Masses in Rome for a confraternity dedicated to the Roman Martyrs, and therefore keeping alive the Roman Station tradition, called the Collegio Cultorum Martyrum. Great experiences.  Their Masses were always in the afternoons.  It was all very Italian, though many of the Masses (when I was celebrant) were in Latin.

But everyone knew that in the mornings, those churches belonged to the seminarians of the North American College.

Nicole Winfield of the AP has a story about the perennial practice of the priests and seminarians of the NAC going to these station churches every day during Lent.

Rome’s station churches revive ancient tradition

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Nicole Winfield, Associated Press – Thu Apr 14, 10:58 am ET

ROME – Every morning during the 40 days of Lent, a band of worshippers walk literally in the footsteps of early, persecuted Christians, visiting some of the world’s oldest churches in preparation for the most solemn week on the church calendar.

On Thursday as the sun rose over the cupolas and rooftops of Rome, fresh-faced American seminarians made their pilgrimage over the Tiber river and through the alleyways of Rome’s historic center to revive this ancient tradition that today draws ambassadors, college kids and ordinary folk alike.

They were heading to Sant’Apollinare, [Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent – really bad cold when I did that LENTCAzT – perhaps that is why I included a bit on the “prayers for the dying” from the Rituale Romanum.] one of the “station churches” of Rome, the nearly 40 ancient churches that centuries ago were designated to hold a rotating daily Mass during Lent, the period leading to Holy Week and Easter when the faithful mark the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The dawn processions take place every morning, a different church slated for worship each day.

At a time when most churches in Italy are empty — evidence of the dwindling Catholic faith in much of Europe [that and the fact that it is pretty early…] — the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College pack these 7 a.m. English services on a regular basis.

Starting in the mid-1970s, they began reviving the tradition and making a daily pilgrimage to each church on the Lenten circuit, paying tribute to early Christians who risked their lives to worship. [Don’t forget the Collegio Cultorum Martyrum!]

The tradition caught on with a wider group. And today, the Masses are often standing room only events.

“You think: ‘on this day for 1,300 years Christians have been going to this church on this day,'” said Deacon Riley Williams, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, who is in his fourth year at the North American College. “Going to this place where the saints died, it joins us to Christ.”  [And he isn’t kidding.  Many of these churches were built where saints died.]


Author and commentator George Weigel was in church as well, as he has been every day this Lent; he’s writing a book on the station churches due out in 2013. [Okay.]

“I think the whole notion of Lent as itself a pilgrimage is embodied in this walk through these historic churches, where you can touch the origins of Christianity in the West,” he said. [As LENTCAzT listeners know by this point in Lent.  This tradition must be revived!]

Faith aside, [?  Well… it’s AP.] the 40-day itinerary is a great way to see Rome, with daily pre-dawn walks through the Eternal City’s silent streets to visit some of the world’s oldest and most beautiful places of Christian worship, some of which aren’t open except on their station days.


Audrey Anderson, a 20-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota [Minnesota!  OOH-RAH!] on a study abroad program, did her own pilgrimage to get there, walking nearly an hour, but said she wouldn’t miss it.

“This trumps everything,” she said. “Thousands of people have been coming here for hundreds of years, [Yes.   But … it was essentially thrown away and withheld from a couple generations.] and the one thing that unites us is our Lord. It boggles my mind.”

If you liked that, Miss Anderson, try the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite with the whole nine yards.

It is good to have MSM focus on the Roman Stations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Patti Day says:

    How wonderful it would be to do a 40-day pilgrimage that included all of the Station Churches. God bless the 20 year old woman who walked an hour on her own to attend mass at 7:00 AM.

  2. wolfeken says:

    I hope Nicole Winfield, AP’s Rome/Vatican reporter, sticks around a while, while Rachel Zoll, AP’s American religion reporter, finds another beat to cover.

    Nicole is one of the most fair and balanced mainstream reporters covering the Church — it is always a pleasure to see how she approaches interesting subjects for the masses.

  3. GirlCanChant says:

    [Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent – really bad cold when I did that LENTCAzT – perhaps that is why I included a bit on the “prayers for the dying” from the Rituale Romanum.]

    Well, I’m glad you stuck with it, Father, because I think that was my favorite one, and I’ve listened to them all. :-)

    I would love to go to Rome one of these years and visit at least some of these churches. Listening to the podcasts might be as close as I’ll ever get to really being there.

  4. AvantiBev says:

    In our parish here in Chi town, (St. John Cantius) we not only have the Extraordinary Form every Sunday and at least one weeknight every week but our pastor, Father Phillips, posts a sign before our Lady’s side altar of the designated Stational Church for each of the 40 days of Lent.
    The whole nine yards at St. John C!!!

  5. EWTN Rocks says:

    LENTCAzT intrigued me but this sold me – I want to find a way to get to Rome next year during Lent to attend Mass at some of these churches.

  6. amenamen says:

    Does any diocese, in the USA or elsewhere, have its own set of local Station Churches?

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