EWTN recently visited the offices of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan to film a series of one-minute Lenten reflections. After listening to his many insights about Lent, we wondered if there were any practices he had found particularly helpful in his own Lenten journeys. So, after filming this series of reflections, which we call “A Lenten Journey With Timothy Cardinal Dolan,” we asked! (Note: Look for these spots to air on EWTN throughout the day during Lent. You will also find them on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ewtn beginning March 5.)
“I had the honor of living in Rome for 11 years,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Rome has a Lenten practice that dates back 15 or 16 centuries! It’s called the Lenten Station Churches of Rome. Each of the 40 days has a designated church as the goal of pilgrimage. When I was a seminarian, and when I returned to the North American College as rector, we did that as a whole college.
“It was a great act of prayer that we would worship at these most sacred sites that have been the gathering place of Christians on that particular day in Rome for 16 centuries! That was the prayer. It was also a penance. We had to get up a lot earlier. We had to walk through Rome in the rain and the wind and the drizzle. That was a penance. It was also an act of love and service because we would gather people with us in hospitality. We would try to bring the sick in, the poor in, and try to give a good example of friendship and reconciliation to everybody.
“Those Lenten station churches for me provided an extraordinarily memorable Lent, fulfilling each of those three mandates we have from Jesus himself for a good Lent: prayer, sacrifice, and service to others.”
Wow! Outside of moving to Rome for Lent, how can we make this idea relevant for those of us who live elsewhere?
Here are a few suggestions:
Make a virtual pilgrimage. Papal Biographer George Weigel’s latest book is “Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches,” www.Bit.ly/Mtm2sA. There is a “chapter” containing only a few pages for every day of Lent. While each day contains a wonderful description of a particular Station Church, what you really get is a discussion of the day’s Mass readings and the Office of the Readings and how you can apply them to your Lenten pilgrimage.
- Make a pilgrimage to your diocesan churches. How many churches have you visited in your own diocese? Weigel’s book notes that: “In the station church pilgrimage’s early form, the statio [station] appointed for each day was not the church buliding…but the martyr buried at that site.” Every Catholic church in every diocese of the world is named after Our Lord, Our Lady or a saint. Why not visit some of them and reflect on that saint’s contribution to the Church? How might you incorporate a key teaching of that saint into your own life? (Get tons of information about “Saints and other holy people” at http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/.) You might want to begin or end your Lenten pilgrimage at your diocesan Cathedral. To find churches near you, check out your diocesan website or go to www.masstimes.org, where you will find a list of all the Catholic churches near you. (It doesn’t cover the whole world, but it does cover many countries.) There’s so much to be learned!
- Read about station churches online at www.ewtn.com. Go to the search box at the top of EWTN’s website and type in “Station Churches.” Up will pop a list of articles from “EWTN News” and “The National Catholic Register.” It’s a great way to learn more about your faith – and, who knows? It may just lead you on a Lenten pilgrimage to other interesting articles and books!
So these are just a few ways you could make the Cardinal’s favorite Lenten practice work in your own hometown. Got some ideas yourself? Please share them!
And don’t miss the rest of Cardinal Dolan’s interview about how to make a good Lent in next week’s issue of “Wings,” EWTN’s free e-newsletter. Sign up at www.ewtn.com. (Scroll down towards the bottom of the right hand side of the web page and enter your email address.)
God bless Family!