Monday, March 7, 2011

Evening Activities on March 7

Tonight, the priests of the ITCE were invited as guests of the Paulist Fathers who staff the "American" church in Rome, Santa Susanna. Most major countries in the world, or at least language groups have a church in Rome for the language speakers they represent so that religious services and ministry can be provided for that community.  The American Church is a famous church which is among the many ancient "house" churches in Rome. Before 319AD when Christianity was decrimininalized, Christians worshiped in private homes. These were often wealthy citizens who had homes large enough to accomodate many people. These homes were often the site of the murder of Christians, or they were dragged out to their deaths. These homes later became the sites of early churches which were built to commemorate these early martyrs for the faith. Santa Susanna Church is one of those. Susanna was the daughter of an important official in the emperor's government. The emperor decided that she would be his wife. She refused to marry the emperor. She was taken into the Senate chamber are was ordered to place even a tiny bit of incense before the statue of the Dionysius. When she refused, she was released, but a short while later, soldiers came to her house and she was beheaded. This was how Roman citizens were executed. Crucifixion and stadium deaths were kept for slaves and foreigners. He family buried her on the property, as were many of the Roman martyrs. And so the church that bears her name is built on the site of her grave. During Lent, as we visit many of the station churches, they will be "house" churches. I will tell you about them as we celebrate Mass there.

The sanctuary of Santa Susanna
The side chapel of the 11th century Icon of the Madonna
Chapel of St. Genesius, patron of actors. Genesius was an actor who performed plays that mocked the Christian faith. As he prepared and performed his plays, he studied Christianity and during a performance had a conversion experience. He was baptized. The audience thought he was truly mocking the faith. One day they realized that he was not mocking but praising. He was arrrested and put to death. His relics are at Santa Susanna church.
As we were walking towards Santa Susanna for our soiree with the Paulist Fathers, Msgr Jim Dixon, Miami FL, and Fr. Steve Barber, sj. and I walked past the church of St. Mary of the Angels. It was already too dark inside for any good pictures. It is a very large church. It has a marvelous pipe organ with 77 ranks of pipes - that means about 5500 total. The basilica has a great deal of modern art inside alongside the baroque interior. But what caught my eye was a "crucifix" on the bronze doors in the entrance. I found it very interesting and thought I would share a photo with you.

Bronze door by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj. It is his depiction of the resurrection. The glorious body of Jesus victorious over death and conquering the cross. Jesus is portrayed as a youthful, handsome young man to show he is eternally cleansed from suffering.
We had a wonderful dinner with the Paulist Fathers. They were gracious hosts.

Tomorrow will be day 2 with Fr. Brodeur. I will post some thoughts about his lectures tomorrow. This morning was very much introductory material, and heavily theological and technical. Tomorrow we will get into the letter to Philemon. There will be some reflections on that material for you.

Good night everyone.