Site Where Nicene Creed Was 1st Proclaimed in Rome

Seminarian Reflects on This Week’s Station Churches

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By Ann Schneible 

ROME, MARCH 22, 2012 ( English-speaking pilgrims from across Rome – roughly 200 in number – can be found trekking through the city in the early morning hours, coming together to celebrate Mass at one of the Lenten station churches.

Nearly every morning, priests, religious and lay persons from around the city join the priests and seminarians from the Pontifical North American College, who organize the Lenten station church pilgrimage every year.

This week in particular, the station church pilgrims were joined by seminarians and priests from the Venerable English College.

ZENIT spoke with Tony McGrath, a seminarian at the VEC. McGrath is in his fifth year in Rome, studying to be a priest for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, England.

ZENIT: Could you speak about your experience participating in the station Masses this week?

McGrath: This week, I’ve been to Quattro Coronati, to San Lorenzo in Damaso, and today to Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. They’re all very beautiful churches. In fact, the church today and the church on Monday (Quattro Coronati) I’ve never visited before, so it’s nice to see both beautiful churches. It’s good to see these churches that you wouldn’t usually see. [We also] helped to lead the liturgy this past Tuesday at San Lorenzo in Damaso, which is our parish church [located] around the corner from the English College.

ZENIT: As a seminarian from England, how is it for you connecting to Rome through the visitation of these churches?

McGrath: You might know that our seminary was founded in the 16thcentury as a response to the Reformation, when it became illegal to train priests to practice as a Catholic priest in England. For the last few hundred years we’ve had that presence of a seminary in Rome. Coming here as a student, we do feel a connection to the universal church, to the pope, and to the history of the Roman church.

One of the things that strikes me about the station Masses is this historic element that from the early days of Christianity, there have been these station Masses celebrated in different places around the city. And it’s a continuation, or re-founding, of this tradition.

What I like particularly about the station Masses, at least the English-speaking one, is the time in the morning. You see many of the seminarians, laity, priests, all making their way at 6:20, 6:30 in the morning to these churches throughout Rome, at a beautiful part of the day when there’s not much noise and the sun is shining.

ZENIT: What is your impression of the station Masses from the perspective of Lent?

McGrath: It’s only during this week that I’ve been able to go to the station Masses. But what strikes me is seeing many other people, because there are maybe 200 people present at these station Masses, and it strikes me that a lot of these people are spending every day during Lent, journeying across Rome at 6 o’clock in the morning, to go to these station Masses. I think for them this is definitely part of their Lenten journey.

ZENIT: What was your impression of today’s station Mass, which was celebrated at Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti?

McGrath : Little did I know, as was explained at the end of Mass, that the church is built on the site where Pope Silvestro lived in the fourth century and, so we’re told, it is the place where the creeds of the Council of Nicea were first proclaimed in Rome. [I was touched by] the importance of that, the fact that the Church around the world every week proclaims that same creed, that same faith.

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