Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

On the Station Churches Route: English-Speaking Catholics Revive Ancient Custom in the Eternal City

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

On the Station Churches Route: English-Speaking Catholics Revive Ancient Custom in the Eternal City

Article excerpt

Anyone traveling to Rome during Lent will not want to miss the tradition of daily Mass at the station churches, a practice that reaches all the way back to the fourth century when popes would visit each of the churches in Rome on fixed days.

The idea was that everyone in Rome would be able to gather around their bishop in worship at least once in a while, when he visited the church in their neighborhood. The same tradition developed in other major imperial centers such as Alexandria and Antioch.

Reviving that custom, English-speakers in Rome, led by the students, faculty and visiting priests on sabbatical at the North American College gather each morning at 7 a.m. at the station churches in Rome during Lent. Some brave seminarians at the college walk from the seminary on the Aventine hill to whichever church is on the schedule that day, often praying the rosary en route.

Most of us take the bus, but however one arrives, the Mass is a good start to the day, a great way to experience the churches of Rome as not just a tourist destination but a worship space, and an equally good way to connect with other English-speakers in the Eternal City.

A different priest is the main celebrant each morning, usually drawn from among the Americans on sabbatical at the North American College. In some cases, however, an American bishop attached to a particular church may celebrate, as has been the case in the past with Cardinal Francis Stafford at Santa Maria in Trastevere, for example, or Cardinal Bernard Law at the basilica where he serves as archpriest, St. …

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