Lay Centre community members prepare for Easter with prayer and pilgrimage

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Lay Centre community members prepare for Easter with prayer and pilgrimage

By Stefanie Bross

Through Rome’s ancient traditions and spiritual practices, members of The Lay Centre’s residential community have embraced the Lenten journey with reverence and anticipation.

Among these traditions is the Roman stational liturgy, organized each year by the North American College. All are welcome to join in the celebration of Mass each morning through Lent at 7 a.m. at a different Roman church, dedicated to a saint or martyr. This daily pilgrimage holds deep significance for those involved.

“For me, making the pilgrimage of the station churches is having a concrete experience of the People of God, and the People of God on the way,” said Maria Rocha, a student of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) living at The Lay Centre. “Visiting, day after day, for 40 days, a different church, whose history has been marked with the presence of the saints, provokes and reminds me that Jesus, in his mercy, wants me to belong to this history, the history of his people, the history of his Church. And I’m called to return to the One who is the centre of this history: Jesus.”

“After the papal basilicas of St. Peter and St. Mary Major, I would choose St. Clemente as my favourite church,” she said. “By God's providence, it is one of the neighboring churches to The LayCentre. The main reason is because I'm always reminded of Pope Benedict XVI's words about the 12th-century mosaic (that illustrates the words of St. John: “I am the vine and you are the branches.” 15:15), which no matter how many times I look at it, is always new!” 

"It's like starting each morning of Lent with a little daybreak pilgrimage, each day to a new church,” said William Cooper, a graduate student at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology. “As it turns out, that's both a discipline and a grace! You even get to know a few of the other pilgrims along the way.”

He said he found solace in the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

“It’s not the oldest or the most beautiful of the station churches, but to invoke those two saints during the eucharistic prayer, then descend to the crypt after Mass to venerate them at the oldest altar in the city — mica male!” he said.

Community members also embrace other traditional practices to prepare for Easter, such as praying the Way of the Cross on Fridays (picture) in the beautiful garden in which The Lay Centre is located. 

Additionally, residents gather to close each day with Complines, the night prayer of the Church, which provides a tranquil moment for reflection and communal worship.

On March 10, some residents went on the one-day walking pilgrimage of the Seven Churches of Rome. The 20-km itinerary extends to the Roman countryside and the catacombs, with stops at some of Rome’s magnificent basilicas. Conceived by St. Philip Neri in the 16th century, it is among Rome’s oldest Lenten traditions.

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