Thursday, February 23, 2012

Onward, Christian Soldiers

One of the most endearing and uniquely Roman customs experienced during my seminary days was early morning Mass in the "station churches" of Lent. A holdover from an earlier age, they reflect a time when there was a roving Papal liturgy: Mass, preceded by a penitential procession, in different parish churches of the Eternal City each day.  An article on Zenit from yesterday has me fondly remembering those brisk walks to Mass before classes (and most often before sun-up), and that today would be the day to visit one of my favorite of Rome's hidden churches: San Giorgio in Velabro.

The soldier saints in the stunning medieval apse fresco (St. George on the far left, St. Sebastian on the far right) are a great illustration of the newly-translated Collect (opening prayer) heard at the beginning of yesterday's Ash Wednesday Mass:
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
You can follow the "march" of this daily Lenten pilgrimage at a distance (or even up close--maps are included!) on the website of the Pontifical North American College.

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