Thursday, October 9, 2008

Confessions at Santa Maria in Trastevere

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to help out, along with eleven other priests here in town, with confessions for a group of pilgrims from Bismark, North Dakota.  They were in town for the diaconal ordination of some of their seminarians studying at the North American College.  (That takes place today - October 9th).  It was great being able to exercise again my priestly faculties.  What a great gift confession is - the personal experience of the forgiveness that Christ won for us on the Cross.  My favorite teaching about confession  is found in the catechism paragraph 1470:

 "In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life.  For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin." The reality is that we will all have to face judgment one day - But in God's mercy He has given us this sacrament as a sort of 'Installment Plan' :)

Anyway, here is a picture of the Facade of Santa Maria in Trastevere with two of my fellow Casites in the foreground (nomenclature:  Casite - n. one who dwells at the Casa Santa Maria. pr. like Hittite or cenobite):

The Wikipedia entry for Santa Maria in Trastevere:

The basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome, perhaps the first in which mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s AD.

This is the queen of the churches in Trastevere. The inscription on the episcopal chair says that it is the first church dedicated to the Mother of God, although actually that privilege belongs to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In its foundation it is certainly one of the oldest churches in the city. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope St. Callixtus I (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, an asylum for retired soldiers. The area was given over to Christian use by the Emperor Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers, saying, “I prefer that it should belong to those who honor God, whatever be their form of worship.” In 340 Pope Julius I (337-352) rebuilt the titulus Callixti on a larger scale, and it became the titulus Iulii commemorating his patronage, one of the original twenty-five parishes in Rome; indeed it may be the first church in which Mass was celebrated openly. It underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries. In 1140-43 the church was re-erected on its old foundations under Innocent II[1] The richly carved Ionic capitals reused along its nave were pillaged from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.[2] When scholarship during the nineteenth century identified the faces in their carved decoration as Isis, Serapis and Harpocrates, a restoration under Pius IX in 1870 hammered off the offending faces.[3]

The 13th-century mosaics in the apse are attributed to Pietro Cavallini.

The predecessor of the present church was probably built in the early fourth century although that church was the successor to one of the tituli, those Early Christian basilicas that were ascribed to a patron and perhaps literally inscribed with his name. Though nothing remains to establish with certainty where any of the public Christian edifices of Rome before the time of Constantine the Great were situated, the basilica on this site was known as Titulus Callisti, since a legend in the Liber Pontificalis ascribed the earliest church here to a foundation by Pope Callixtus I (died 222), whose remains, translated to the new structure, are preserved under the altar.

The present nave of this Romanesque church, rebuilt by Pope Innocent II (1138 –1148) and rededicated to the Virgin Mary, preserves its original basilica plan and stands on the earlier foundations. The 22 granite columns with Ionic and Corinthian capitals that separate the nave from the aisles came from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, as did the lintel of the entrance door.

Inside the church are a number of late 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291) centering on a "Corontation of the Virgin" in the apse. Domenichino's octagonal ceiling painting, Assumption of the Virgin (1617) fits in the coffered ceiling setting he designed.

The façade of the church was restored by Carlo Fontana in 1702, who replaced the ancient porch with a sloping tiled roof— seen in Falda's view (upper right)— with the present classicizing one (below right). The octagonal fountain in the piazza in front of the church (Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere), which already appears in a map of 1472 [1], was also restored by Carlo Fontana. The image of Mary on the façade is believed to be the earliest iconographic depiction of the Virgin nursing Jesus.

The church keeps a relic of Saint Apollonia, her head, as well as a portion of the Holy Sponge. Among those buried in the church, are the relics of Pope Callixtus I and the body of Lorenzo Cardinal Campeggio.

Here is a picture of the interior - it is very beautiful!

I got to use a traditional confessional, a.k.a. 'the box' - very fine indeed!

Near Santa Maria in Trastevere is the famous Communita di Sant'Egidio whose main apostolate is serving the poor.  

From their website:

The Community of Sant'Egidio began in Rome in 1968, at the initiative of a young man, who was then less than twenty, Andrea Riccardi. He gathered a group of high-school students, like himself, to listen to and to put the Gospel into practice. The first Christian communities of the Acts of the Apostles and Francis of Assisi were the first reference points.The small group immediately began going to the outskirts of Rome visiting the slums, then crowded with many poor people, and they began an afternoon school (its name was "Scuola Popolare" -People's School-, nowadays "Schools of peace") for children.  Since then the community has increased. It is now in more than 70 countries in 4 continents. The number of community members is also constantly growing. There are about 50.000 members as well as many more who are permanently co-operating in the service to poor people and in the various activities of Sant'Egidio without being part of the community in a strict sense. There is also a large number of persons reached by the various activities of service that the community performs.

I believe they serve meals to over a thousand people a day at their soup kitchen here in Trastevere.  What a beautiful gift this community is to the church and to the world!

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