Beginning Ash Wednesday, we begin observance of the Lenten Roman Stational Churches. Each day, our Mass begins at the shrine representing the Stational Churches of Rome set up on Mary’s altar. The shrine designates where that day’s papal liturgy will take place, thereby uniting our Lenten Eucharistic sacrifice with the Church of Rome.
The practice of the bishop, his clergy and people processing to different “stational churches” for Mass during Lent dates from fourth century Jerusalem. Eventually, Christians in Rome and other major cities also began to practice this custom. Pope St. Gregory the Great standardized the Stational Churches in Rome around the year 600 and since that time they have, with few exceptions, remained the same.
The faithful observed the “stations” by first gathering with the clergy of Rome at a specified church in the city called the collecta (“gathering place”). They then walked in procession to the shrine of an apostle or martyr at the stational church, the daily statio (“standing place”), designated for that day. The word statio derives from the Latin verb sto, “to stand” and signified how early Christians gathered and “stood with” the local clergy, bishop, patriarch or the Pope himself in this special procession and liturgy. Statio also was a Roman military term meaning “military post,” to which St. Ambrose once made reference in a sermon when he said, “Our fasts are our encampments against the attacks of the devil.” Statio, therefore, also means a vigilant commitment to conversion and prayer.
The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have a deep devotion to the Lord’s Passion and because observance of the traditional Lenten Stational Churches had been an integral part of Lenten observances here at St. John Cantius long before the community was founded, it has always played an important role in their own Lenten customs. It is one way to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s Passion during this sacred season.
The stational shrine on Mary’s altar has the name of the day’s Stational Church in Rome. The daily liturgy will begin with a procession to it accompanied with an abbreviated Litany of the Saints, much as the Holy Father processes with his clergy and the faithful of Rome to the day’s Stational Church chanting the entire Litany of the Saints.
You can also follow the Stational Churches of Rome on this website.