Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

As the Sundays in Ordinary Time count on, and as the number is higher each week (this coming Sunday is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, having missed the 24th due to the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), we are reminded that we are not only approaching the fall season, but we are also getting nearer the end of the Church’s liturgical year, with its consideration of the “last things,” reflections on the “end times” and, frankly, our own mortality. We always live in the shadow of eternity, and the Church’s liturgy serves to teach us that very truth.

However, sometimes the death of a loved one that comes unexpectedly and seemingly suddenly can remind us of the necessary preparations to always be ready to meet the Lord. An unexpected death is also a time to reflect on the goodness of God reflected in our families and friends. Such is the case with Bishop Cirilo Flores. His vigil service is scheduled for Tuesday of this week in San Diego and his Mass of the Resurrection the next day, also in San Diego. We are going to have a Mass of the Resurrection for him on Sept. 24 at St. Norbert Church in Orange at 10 a.m.

I was blessed to know him for several years before I was assigned here to Orange, and I always found him to show the love and goodness of God to all he met. He gave me good advice in a number of situations over the years, and was very supportive and helpful upon my nomination as bishop. From our recent discussions, I know that Bishop Brown truly appreciated his support and ministry.  We had several good reflections over the past two years in our work together in Sacramento at the California Catholic Conference, over the appreciation of the University of Notre Dame at their support for Catholic Grade schools, and we had mutual admiration for the efforts of the Neocatechumenal Way in their outreach and evangelization efforts. Over and over I have heard of his goodness and ministry in the Diocese, especially at St. Anne Church in Santa Ana, St. Norbert Church in Orange and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra. And I know that these are but a fraction of the stories of his ministry here in Orange. His life was recently described on the well-known national blog “Whispers in the Loggia” as a “beautiful life.” I couldn’t agree more. As we mourn his passing in these days, our prayers and reflections of gratitude accompany him with the angels into eternal life. May the words of the Lord found in the Ordination Rite, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord,” greet him as he enters into the fullness of life with Christ, the promise of which he received at his baptism.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

When I was a priest graduate student at the Angelicum  and living  at the Casa Santa Maria dell’ Umilta of the North American College in Rome in the early 1980s, we would gather in the chapel of the “Casa” for Mass and morning and evening prayer. We would all look up above the high altar at a painting that pictured the apostles gathered around an open tomb filled with beautiful flowers. This is a famous painting and reflects a legend surrounding the end of life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story is that at the time of her death, she was buried. All were present except Saint Thomas, just as on the evening of the Resurrection. He later returned and wanted to see her body. When the apostles went back to the tomb and opened it, the body was gone, and in its place were beautiful flowers. This account has legendary characteristics, but it nevertheless reflects a belief that was already present in the life of the Church: that at the end of her life Mary simply “went to sleep” and was taken body and soul into Heaven. This dogma of Faith, therefore, was not a sudden idea of Pope Pius XII, but was a belief that was clarified through the centuries through the life, teaching and worship of the Church. One of the very earliest homilies on this teaching comes from a bishop whose name was “Theoteknos,” the bishop of Livias on the left bank of the Jordan. He says, in part, that “It was fitting that the most holy body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full of glory…should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory with her soul pleasing to God.”

The articulation and clarification of this belief is concurrent with the writing and development of the canon of Sacred Scripture and reminds us how Scripture and tradition are “intertwined.” The belief in the Assumption is a reflection of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and our hope in the gift of eternal life. Reflecting on this mystery, the well-known catechist and Norbertine Father Alfred McBride notes that “One of the unique contributions of Pope John Paul II to modern thinking is his theology of the body. He stresses its unity with the soul. We are more than a frail and tenuous union of body and soul; we are embodied souls. Deep within the body are the longings of the soul. Two elements are mysteriously united in one reality, the human person. His thinking extends and deepens our understanding of the Assumption of Mary and our appreciation of the Assumption of Mary and our understanding of the future resurrection of our bodies. Seen this way, the Assumption of Mary is a canticle of praise for the fullness of the human person, an embodied soul.” Because this is a reflection of the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, it is liturgically equivalent to a Sunday, and that is why it is a Holy day of Obligation.

On another note of current importance, both places of pilgrimage associated with this mystery of Faith, Ephesus and Jerusalem, are found in a place of the world that we know too well is marked currently by violence and flight of refugees, which affects us all. Let us continue to inform ourselves of these events, and pray for peace, especially on August 17, as Pope Francis has requested.

Coming up this Saturday on the Christ Cathedral Campus

I would like to take just a few moments and thank and commend the efforts of the Catholic Medical Association of the Diocese of Orange and the Women of Endow (group of Catholic women already here in the Diocese which the Orange County Catholic has already written about) for their upcoming workshop tomorrow, August 9, on the Christ Cathedral Campus.  It is timely because it reflects the writings of Saint John Paul II on suffering in his encyclical “Salvifici Doloris” and also is reflective of the teaching of the soon to be beatified Pope Paul VI.  It is still not too late to attend.

As their advertising says “This unique retreat allows participants to step away from the busyness of their lives to reflect with Pope Saint John Paul II on the message of joy and hope in suffering.  When we suffer in union with Christ, it can be a source of innumerable graces and blessings, a powerful means through which our lives are transformed and made holy.  During this retreat will explore the various ways that we experience suffering in the world, its origins and our quest for its meaning.  Pope Saint John Paul II will show us how it is only in Christ that we can hope to find any meaning and purpose in our experience.”

Thanks to all who helped to sponsor and plan this day, especially the Catholic medical Association of the Diocese of Orange, the Women of Endow, and our Diocesan Natural Family Planning teachers.  Given the fact that the Church in the United States recently marked “Natural Family Planning Week” and the upcoming Beatification of Pope Paul VI, their involvement is especially appreciated.

This event will be held tomorrow, August 9, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Catholic Cultural Center on the Christ Cathedral Campus, 13280 Chapman Avenue, Garden Grove, California.   This event also reminds us how the Christ Cathedral campus is a place of welcome for gatherings, for evangelization, teaching, and living our Faith in many ways.

In Christ,

+ Bishop Kevin Vannin_the_christian_meaning_of_suffering


Summer holidays – Days of Faith and pastoral life

I have not been able to write a “blog” entry for a while, so now that the great days of Confirmations and graduations have passed for this year, I am able to spend more time on writing and reflection on my blog.  I thank all for their patience.

The days of summer seem to be framed and celebrated around the triad of three great civic days:  Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.  I will be reflecting on the Memorial Day at the moment.  In a few days I will write on the Fourth of July and toward September I will write a reflection on Labor Day.

These days are great days connected with the history of the United States of America.  However, more often than not, now their original significance seems to be lost in the distance and the focus is on free days, holidays, and festivities.  While these are good things, we must never forget the original meaning and intent of these days, which in fact, are anchored in the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western culture, and in particular here, in the United States of America.

I remember that when I was growing up in the Midwest, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.”  It was a time for us to gather at Calvary cemetery in Springfield, attend Mass celebrated by the Bishop, and then visit all of the family graves, decorating them with fresh flowers.  Many graves had American flags placed on them as well, and flags were posted on the homes in the neighborhood.  Later on the name was changed to Memorial Day, as the day was intended to honor Veterans.  My father is a proud Veteran of World War II serving in the Pacific Theater for all of the War.  Many of my high school classmates are veterans of Vietnam.

In the intervening years, I have continued to celebrate Masses in the cemeteries and  parishes of the Diocese wherever I have been stationed, and I am grateful to say that I have continued that here.

While the festivity of the day is important, let us never let the memory and the “why” of this day recede from us.  There has been a lot written in recent months on the plight of our Veterans who seem to have been forgotten, and their sacrifices taken for granted.  Many are homeless.  I would like to recall the words of Saint John Paul II in this regard: “Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the many necessary conditions of peace.  I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council:’ All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and in, carrying this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace.”

Whatever opportunity, great or small, to help and acknowledge our Veterans in this service to our country, and to thank them, should never pass us by.  It is a great response of Faith and gratitude.  In this regard, I wish to especially acknowledge Fr. Bill Barman of our Diocese, whose care and advocacy for our Veterans is a reminder of their service to our country and the thanks and care for them that we should now return.

Our gathering in prayer at our cemeteries will be repeated here again near All Souls Day, and is also an opportunity to reflect on the communion of the Saints and the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and the dead.

In Christ,

Bishop Kevin Vann



“To all in Rome”

As I have just returned from my time in the Holy Land with Bishop Dominic and the grand gathering of members of the “Neocatechumenal Way”, and the double canonizations of  now Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, I turn to the opening words of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (written short years before his own martyrdom in Rome c. AD 64-67) where he says “To all in Rome, beloved of God and called to holiness, grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord  Jesus Christ.”

My experiences in Rome this time, in the City where I literally “grew up” as a priest in the company of so many priests and great friends from around the world, showed in every way the “beloved of God” in the city these past days.  From the Mexican families in the airport in Tel Aviv who were singing and praying together with young people from the United States, to not being literally able to walk just a few short blocks, to the Mass of Canonization where truly, the sun came just at the moment that John Paul II and John XXIII were declared to be numbered among “the catalog of the Saints”.  It was a day when “all in Rome” met the “gift of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” in the liturgy of canonization and the lives of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

My earliest memories of Pope John XXIII were seeing him on my parents black and white television set, and on the occasional time when we could watch television on my grandparents color TV set!  I remember my parents, very much involved in our parish of St. Agnes in Springfield, Illinois through the “Confraternity groups”, parish societies and the parish school, having a very good sense and appreciation of him.  In later years, I got to know him through his journal entries entitled Journal of a Soul, which chronicled his life from his first years in the minor seminary in Bergamo through his election as Bishop of Rome in l958.  This book is still very much worth and read, because one can get a first-hand sense of who Pope John XXIII was, rather than filtered through any other lens.  There is one particular entry in this book where the then Papal Nuncio to Bulgaria, (which was not an easy assignment by any means) was reflecting on doing the will of God when he said that “Let the readiness of your will be seen in works done to carry out the will of the Lord, as this is made known to you day by day, and do not show readiness merely by heaving fervent sighs.” I also came to know him during my years of seminary study in St. Louis and a course in the documents of the Second Vatican Council that I took with Sister Zoe Glenski DC, and all of his photos, as well, that are all over the city of Rome!

I arrived in Rome, thanks to my assignment to study Canon Law at the “Angelicum” by the late Bishop Joseph McNicholas of Springfield, Illinois, in the fall of l981.  He was still recovering from the assassination attempt earlier that year in May.  Yet, I quickly learned that he, in addition to his life as the Vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter, was very much involved in the life of the parishes of the city of Rome, taking his role as the Bishop of Rome very seriously.   He inspired me that a  Bishop is first and foremost  a pastor, a parish priest. This was a major point just made by no less by the secular Italian paper “Il Messagero”.    He was everywhere in the city, and these were also the days of “Solidarity” and great concern of Russia invading Poland.  These were the days and nights of processions through the streets of Rome with candles and hymns.  In that time period, I met him in January of l982, and just a few weeks later in a nearby parish Church to the Casa Santa Maria, when he said to me “You were in my chapel”.   His example and faithfulness to the Lord inspired so many young priests like myself who were studying in Rome at the time.  In his own words as well, in a remembrance of his fifty years of priestly ordination he says in the preface to the book Gift and Mystery “What I relate here, above and beyond the external events, belongs to my deepest being, to my innermost experience.  I recall these things above all in order to thank the Lord.  ‘Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo!’ [roughly translated from Latin  as ‘forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord’] I offer this to priests and to the people of God as a testimony of love.

In the many conversations that I was part of while I was in Rome, the theme that came again and again was that what united these two Saints is their key involvement in the Second Vatican Council, and not any current “lens”  or observation that is proffered.  This is clearly illustrated for me in a souvenir edition of the Holy See’s  newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. A picture in their shows all of the Bishops of Poland together with Pope John XXIII two days before the Council.  It was not sure whether they were going to be able to leave Poland or not for the Council.  (Later Pope John Paul II this was not to be taken for granted.)  Then Auxiliary Bishop Karol Woytla is in the photo with Pope John XXIII.

In this council which John XXIII called, Bishop and later Cardinal Woytla was to be one of the major architects of a document which was born from the work of the Council and not in any of the preparatory schemata.  This is “Gaudium et Spes” or “The Church in the Modern World.” (It should also be remembered that another major architect of the Council was then Father Joseph Ratzinger, theological expert for Cardinal Frings of Cologne.  )

I offer these reflections for the “Web log” as a testimony of gratitude and love for the past days in Rome and for the lives of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II in my life and ministry as a priest, pastor and  Bishop.

+Kevin W. Vann

Spiritual Postcard from The Eternal City

The Fifth Gospel

As Bishop Dominic and I prepare to leave the Holy Land this evening, the accompanying photo says it all: It is looking down the Mount of Beatitudes, toward the Sea of Galilee at sunset. In the lower right of this picture is an ancient Terebinth tree that the Bedouin people in this area say was the tree near which our Lord sat when he taught the eight Beatitudes to his disciples. Galilee, I have found this time , can truly be called the “Fifth Gospel,” as it was so named by Father Bargil Pixner, OSB, in his book “With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel.” Father Bargil was a very famous archeologist whose ministry , along with the Franciscan friars, has helped to uncover many sites where our Lord taught and prayed, thus reflecting the authenticity of these sites and making the words of our Lord in the Gospels come alive.

For example, this morning we prayed and sang in the Third Century synagogue in Caparnaum. However, because of the excavations and research there, we could see the black basalt foundation of the original synagogue where our Lord preached. The synagogue was built on the original foundation. Right next to the synagogue, as described in the Gospel, are the ruins of Saint Peter’s home. This has been authenticated by Second Century graffiti and an early Church built over the ruins of the home. We celebrated Mass in a beautiful new contemporary Church built over these excavations by Pope Paul VI.

We were able to visit Tabgha earlier this week, where Third Century mosaics mark the place of the first miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. All of these places are very near where we were staying. We saw the ruins of “Chorazin” and the “Way of the Sea” mentioned in Saint Matthew’s Gospel. We spent the day in Jerusalem yesterday and were able to pray for all of you at the sites marked by the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre for Calvary and the Lord’s tomb. We saw the Kidron Valley, which echoes the words of Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

All of these places show us the living Word of God and they sing and cry out to us of the Lord who loves us and indeed has risen as he said.

Bishop Dominic and I are here with bishops, priests, married couples, and men and women from around the world. Some are from areas where to be a Christian means risking one’s life. The Neocatechumenal Way, who sponsored this week, led us in a reflection and prayer on the Gospels, as a time of preparation for the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

Now, off to Rome, and I will write another letter from there. Father John Moneypenny and I will be doing a video postcard from there as well.

A blessed Easter Week, and thanks to all who worked so diligently and for such long hours for Holy Week and Easter in our parishes, institutions and at diocesan events.

Mount of Beatitudes, toward the Sea of Galilee at sunset

Mount of Beatitudes, toward the Sea of Galilee at sunset

Renewing our Commitment

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

In an effort to raise awareness of the suffering caused by child abuse and neglect, Congress and the President designated April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983. Since that time religious, public service, philanthropic and other organizations that care deeply for the welfare of children have marked April as a special time for highlighting and renewing their commitments to the care and protection of children and young people.

As your Bishop nothing is more integral the Diocesan Bishop’s mission of teaching, governing, and sanctifying in the name of Christ than to provide the utmost care for those who need it most. From counseling the needy to extending financial aid to caregivers, our Church and Diocese are committed to the physical, spiritual and social well-being of everyone we encounter. This is particularly true for the children we seek to support, guide and care for, and in fact who are entrusted to us by the Lord Himself, who in St. Mark’s Gospel  (Mark 10:13-16) says “let the children come unto me and do not hinder them.”

It is important to me and our diocese that we mark this national observance again this year  by recalling and reinforcing our steadfast commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments for children in our schools, parishes and other facilities. The Diocese of Orange takes this task very seriously, as does the wider  Church.  We employ a comprehensive background screening for all adults likely to be in contact with children – already over 60,000 have been vetted. This process allows for the collection of a wide variety of past screening data, including extensive backgrounds checks and fingerprinting, and is designed to enhance already in-place diocesan policies. We recently had another session on safe environment training  on our Christ Cathedral campus for our parish staff and volunteers.  Later on this summer we will undergo our annual audit by the Stonebridge firm. [Ryan, Check this wording out with Shirl].

Our diocese additionally requires all clergy, employees, and volunteers to undergo Safe Environment Training. In 2011 alone, the Diocese trained 288 priests, 101 deacons, 1,630 teachers, 2,311 school employees and more than 19,000 volunteers. Our schools and Religious Education classes at parishes and diocesan centers also provide Safe Environment education for children. This procedure is suited to their age and level of understanding. In 2011, nearly 64,000 children participated in this critically important awareness program.

Please join me in recognizing the tireless efforts put forth by those involved in the development and implementation of all initiatives for the protection of children and young people.  This vital aspect of life and ministry is often in addition to other ministerial and apostolic duties.  Keep them in your prayers and remember that care for others is a duty and a gift. By sharing our concern and becoming responsible for the safety and well-being of those who come into our care is a spiritual act we can be proud of, every day.  And, above all, if you know that they are engaged in this work, please thank them personally, and pray for them and support them.

The Church has committed herself to protect children and remains vigilant in protecting and caring for our most cherished resource as an integral and necessary part of our mission of proclaiming the Gospel.  Much has been done, but more needs to be done. Until abuse is no longer a part of society, I and our Church will continue these efforts to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults.

Catholics and Evangelicals

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I was recently reading several reflections from both Pope Benedict XVI and Francis.  These particular reflections had to do with the esteem and regard that Evangelical Churches had for Pope Benedict XVI and his teaching, and the esteem that Pope Francis has for the Evangelicals.  These  can be found on the internet, and in fact are mirror images I believe of the same reality, of working and ministering together for the common good in the world in which we live:  bringing the Gospel to areas in our lives and ministry which we have, and are able, to share in common.

We recently had this same experience (just this past Friday in fact) in our Diocese when the Diocese of Orange, Saddleback Church, and the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) planned for and held a day entitled “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church.”

One can easily access the reflections and times of prayer that were held at Saddleback Church that day.  Evangelical and Catholic speakers (clinicians, social workers, medical doctors)  alike were able to teach and share how we as people of Faith can bring the message of the Gospel to those who struggle with mental and emotional difficulties.  One of Pastor Rick Warren’s  and my hopes were how to make the resources of the Faith community available to those who are often on the “front lines” , when presented with the suffering and at times seemingly hopeless situations of those and their families who come to us in our daily lives and ministries.

There were over 3000 people present that day from many parts of California and beyond.  It was a providential and blessed day when Catholics and evangelicals were able to meet, reflect, pray and study together for the benefit of those who struggle with such pain and isolation, day in and day out.  It was a time for when the reality of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection could help to bring light and hope to those who struggle in the darkness. There already has been , for  years, much good work and ministry “behind the scenes” in this area, but this event helped to bring a sense of solidarity to all who were gathered together, and to let it be known, as well, the good that was already being done and for that to be shared!

As we reflect on this event in the days ahead, we need to thank all who were involved in the hours of planning for this day:  the staff of Saddleback and the Diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance for Mental Health.  Thank you to all of the prayer leaders, especially the Norbertines from St. Michael’s Abbey who chanted Evening prayer for us, and led us in singing later on in the evening.

Knowing that as St. Paul said “one plants and another sows”, let us pray for the Warren family in the days ahead, and pray as well that the work and prayer of that day will continue to bring good fruit to all in the days and years ahead.

Bishop Kevin Vann and Pastor Rick Warren

Bishop Kevin Vann and Pastor Rick Warren

Co-Hosts of Gathering on Mental Health and the Church(L to R) Steve Pitman, President of NAMI OC; The Honorable Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange; Kay and Rick Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church.

Co-Hosts of Gathering on Mental Health and the Church(L to R) Steve Pitman, President of NAMI OC; The Honorable Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange; Kay and Rick Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church.


The Vincentian family and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

It seems to me that often the terms “care for the poor” and “social justice” are found in many documents, which certainly make one reflect and think.  However, they do not seem to go much further than that.  Just this past week, however, I was reminded of a family who has lived care for the poor which is anchored in a Eucharistic spirituality.  This is the Vincentian family.  I had the blessing to visit with some of the Daughters of Charity , who are part of the Vincentian family, this past weekend at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim.  The Sisters and I spoke about some of my professors in the seminary in St. Louis who were Daughters of Charity who had a great and lasting impact on me to this day.

Within the same time period, I had the blessing to visit with Peter Andres, who is the President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council in Orange County.  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded by Frederic Ozanam ni the 1830s when he was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris.  He was being taunted by atheist students who said that Catholics had no care for the poor.  Frederic thought of St. Vincent de Paul, who in the 1600s had founded the Congregation of the Mission to train priests and care for the poor.  With St. Louise de Marillac he founded the Daughters of Charity.

And so he founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to do just that, minister to the sick and the poor, as the mission of all Catholics, especially the laity.  When he wrote his rule he said “We must do what is agreeable to God.  Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel.  Let us to the poor.”  And so he did!  I should note that when he began the Society he was only 20 years old and he did this with six other students!

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has done great work here in Orange County, and I would encourage membership in this, to learn about this great family in the Body of Christ, and to be able to live and practice love and justice with others!  This is nothing new , and has been a part of the life of the Church in many ways, but especially since the foundation of the Society.  Mr. Andres and I are working to strengthen the local councils of the Society and to increase their outreach.  If you are interested, please contact Peter L. Andres at pandres@svdpoc.org.

As the Rule of the Society says “The vocation of the Society’s members, who are called Vincentians, is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love.  Members show their commitment through person to person contact.  Vincentians serve in hope.”

          The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is also a way to ensure that the Lenten practices of “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving” have a permanent place in our lives and spirituality !

Blessed Lenten days to all!


The Lenten framework for our lives revolves around prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as a way to lead holier lives which  more in tune with the call of discipleship following after the Lord.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving can take various forms of sacrifice and penance.  Some of these we are more faithful than others.

May I offer another point of reflection for Lent on what is entitled “The Stational Churches”, all of which can  certainly lead us to greater prayer with the entire Church in this season.  In the early centuries of the life of the Church we know that public worship was not always possible due to persecution.  After Christianity was tolerated or recognized as a religion by the Roman Emperor, Christians were able to worship publicly.  They often then, gathered in homes or Roman basilicas that had been turned into sites of Christian worship.  These become known as “Stational” or stopping places for worship, especially during the season of Lent as it grew and developed.  These especially became important when the Bishop of Rome gathered with the early Christians in these sacred places, eventually for the entire season of Lent.

The stational Masses were arrived at by walking.  One can find the list of the stational Churches in the Missal prior to the Second Vatican Council.  The place of the stational Mass is listed each day of Lent.  Lent, then, in Rome BECAME a place of daily walking in pilgrimage to early morning Mass, which of itself then involved prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Like many customs which unfortunately fell into disuse in the late l960’s and early l970’s, the Stational Churches became forgotten to many, except for Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday.  That is the Dominican Church on the Aventine Hill.

​In the early l980’s a revival of the Stational Churches occurred, due in large part to seminarians from the North American College.  The priests and seminarians would gather at around 5:30 AM or so outside of the Seminary on the Gianiculum or the Casa Santa Maria and would walk (or take the bus) to these historical places of worship for Mass.  I tried to do this each of the four years I was in Rome, and the stational Church where I was the main celebrant was San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso, which is the Servite Church!  One got the sense that one was indeed worshipping with the Christians of every time and place! The stational Masses have continued to grow in popularity.  As an example of some of the stational Churches are, for example, San Giorgio in Velabro (near the Palatine Hill) on Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Saints John and Paul on the Coelian Hill on Friday, Saint Augustine (where Saint Monica is buried) on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, and the First Sunday of Lent, St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome (and indeed of the whole world).

If you are ever in Rome during Lent, I would recommend that you inquire as to the place of the stational Mass on the day that you visit.  The Visitors Office of the North American College would be most helpful in this.  You can always use one of the search engines on the internet to find out more.

The history and concept of these stational Masses is even now mentioned in the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, where it says “It is strongly recommended that the tradition of gathering the local Church after the fashion of the Roman ‘stations’ be kept and promoted, especially during Lent and at least in larger towns and cities, in a way best suited to individual places.  Such gatherings on of the faithful can take place, especially with the chief Pastor of the Diocese presiding….”

Either from a distance or in person, the Stational Masses represent a living, historical and even “transcendent” way of living the call of Lent to penance and holiness, and being “stationary” in the midst our own walk of life to embrace or strengthen the call to holiness in our lives, and to leave sin and darkness behind!

Next Lent, God willing, perhaps we can have, as the Roman Missal suggests, our own Stational masses here in the Diocese of Orange.


San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso

San Marcello on the Via del’ Corso


San Giorgio in Velabro

                  San Giorgio in Velabro