Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 11, 2007

In anticipation...

I am on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this weekend and next weekend. If all has gone well, our group should be in Galilee until Tuesday when we go to Jerusalem for the remainder of our time. If you would like to follow our progress and see us on our journey, visit Steve Ray’s blog at Steve is a local Catholic apologist from the Ann Arbor area and has been to the Holy Land more than 40 times; he is our guide for the pilgrimage. He also has several videos that explore Scripture through the geography of Israel and the surrounding area, and his videographer is accompanying us on our pilgrimage. Every evening, they will post a short video clip and greetings from the pilgrims to the website, so please check in on us every day!

Since I don’t have the time to dedicate to beginning our next Father of the Church until I return from pilgrimage, I thought we would explore some of the different Lenten traditions that prepare the Church for Easter in different ways. Of particular interest is the Roman practice of the “Station Churches,” which dates to the third century.

In the early Church, the Pope would travel, accompanied by large numbers of the faithful, to a different church in Rome for every day of Lent. A special Mass was celebrated at each of these churches by the pope, as an expression of the “pilgrimage of Lent” but also as a way to prepare each portion of the city for the great celebration of the Paschal Mysteries at Easter.

During the 14th century, owing to the Avignon Papacy, the practice fell into disuse, but was been restored most recently by Bl. John XXIII in 1959. The pope no longer travels to every Station Church every day of Lent, but he nevertheless begins Lent by celebrating Mass and distribution Ashes at Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, and celebrates the most prominent of the Liturgies at their respective stational church.

The people of Rome, however, are well aware which church is to be visited each day, and the parishes and monasteries that are honored with the title of Station Church are always filled with great preparations for their particular day. For some time now, the American seminarians studying at the North American College in Rome have developed their own Station Church pilgrimage, and walk each day of Lent to the ancient Station Church and celebrate a 7 a.m. Mass before their day of studies begin. Some of these churches are a great distance from the College, so the students had an added austerity for the Lenten season.

Unlike Ordinary Time, every day of Lent has its own particular readings and Mass prayers: the Opening Prayer, the Prayer Over the Gifts, and the Prayer After Communion. Some of these Masses even retain a mention of the particular grace or virtue connected with the Station Church, but often go unnoticed. Such an abundance of grace is offered to us through the Lenten season; by reflecting on the daily readings and prayers, we are strengthened in our penances and self-discipline and better prepared to celebrate Easter.

The Station Churches also give us the encouragement of the martyrs and the great saints of the early Church, reminding us of the eternal happiness that awaits us in heaven. No matter how great our trials or suffering on this earth, Christ desires to share eternity with us, and the season of Lent helps us better prepare for that eternal celebration of Easter as well.

Next week, even though we will still be on pilgrimage, I will briefly outline the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a preparation for receiving this Sacrament during Lent. This season of repentance allows us to ask God for His Mercy and to receive it with confidence through the ministry of His Church.

May God bless you all, and be assured of my prayers for all of you while I am in the Holy Land.