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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blogging the Stations

On the feast of the Apostle St. Mathias,
when the Lenten Station is only commemorated at Mass,
it may be of interest to recall the following
about Stations:

Station days
were those days on which in the early Church fast was usually observed until the Hour of None (between midday and three o'clock). The weekdays of Lent were Station days. as were all Wednesdays and Fridays. St. Ambrose says: "Our fasts are our encampments against the attacks of the devil; they are called 'stationes' because we remain standing" (stantes).

Station churches are the designated churches to which the faithful walked in procession and, standing, assisted at the celebration of holy Mass. Thus the tomb of a martyr, designated as a Station church, became the object of a local pilgrimage to which the faithful went in a procession; the celebrated basilicas of Rome were also Station churches. The church from which the procession began from was called the Collecta, the assembly point.

The keeping of the station churches has nearly been abandoned but their trace is still to be found in the Missal for every Mass of Lent, Easter Week and the great festivals. Pope Benedict XVI keeps the Lenten Station of St. Sabina for the distribution of ashes at the beginning of Lent.

The church in which the Pope would offer Mass on a great festival, and not therefore days of fast, was also called a Station church (e.g. Easter Sunday has the Station at St. Mary Major).

Spiritual Pilgrimage to the ancient Station churches of Rome is the goal of our Lenten posts. Each day in the Roman Missal has its own Station church assigned to it from antiquity. Recalling the ancient Station is edifying: the mind is soon lifted above the difficulties of fasting, the soul finds encouragement to persevere in prayer, self denial, almsgiving and fraternal charity.

We may think of the many thousands of holy Catholics who in ages past each day visited the Stational church and are now in heaven; we unite with them in the Mystical Body of Christ that knows no separation of space or time. These, our ancestors persevered through a good Lent and saved their souls. We take courage from them to persevere through an honest Lent in the hope of the same reward. We are of the Roman rite, this is our ancient tradition sanctified by countless saints and holy penitents; it is there for us to use if it is for our spiritual advantage.

We may also meditate with fruit on the lives of the saints associated with the daily Stational church and implore for graces of which we stand in need. Most of these saints are martyrs; every one of them, young or old, priest or layman overcame his burden of suffering through the grace of God but not without their own strenuous personal efforts; they are our models for Lent.

1 comment:

Peter Simpson said...

Thank you for this background information. I am really enjoying your Lenten series of posts.

On a slightly different note, I have a question! We have your calendar proudly displayed in the sacristy at St Columba's Culloden (though I should add we follow the Modern Roman Calendar). Last Sunday, one of our young altar servers asked me the meaning of the symbol (not the fish!) for some of the Fridays in Lent (19 February, 26 February, and 12 March). I was tempted to make something up, but fortunately thought the better of it, and said that I would find out. Will you please enlighten me?

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