February 23, 2020
One of the great Roman Catholic Traditions of Lent are the practice of pilgrimage to the Stational Churches. It is experiencing a revival after half a century or more of decline. Each day in Lent, the Pope or his delegate leads a penitential procession from one church in Rome to another, while singing the litany of saints. This daily practice has the effect of reminding the faithful of the pilgrimage nature of the Christian life; we are passing through this world to an eternal destination. This is also a way to bring the faith to the public square. Upon arrival Mass is celebrated at the Stational Church, dedicated to a saint whose relics are most often beneath the altar. In this way the communion of saint is kept before us. We are reminded that we are not alone in our pilgrimage, but that there are many who are already victorious in the struggle and wait for us at our destination.
At St. Peter in Volo, we participate in this tradition by a daily procession to a shrine set up in front of Mary’s altar. This shrine has the title of the Stational Church in Rome of each day and a reliquary with an actual fragment of stone of that church. During the procession we sing an abbreviated version of the Litany of Saints ending with the saint of the Stational Church. This observance here at St. Peter’s reminds us as Roman Catholics of our Roman heritage, that it was through the Apostle’s Peter and Paul that we have received the Faith. I hope you will join me on pilgrimage this Ash Wednesday, and with the Holy Father at Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.