Stational Churches in Lent: A pilgrimage

Historically, on particular days the faithful of Rome would gather (or collect together) with the pope at a designated church called the ecclesia collecta. After the recitation of a prayer there, the assembly proceeded to another church referred to as the stational church. In procession, they chanted the Litany of the Saints. At the stational church, as the pope began the celebration of Mass, he gathered the petitions of all the faithful into a unified prayer called the “collect”.

As one might expect, the practice of observing the Roman stational churches did not unfold all at once, but developed gradually over centuries. For example, in Constantinople, Milan and Rome the Church did not initially celebrate the Eucharist on the Lenten weekdays. The prayers, readings, and psalms offered on the Lenten weekdays, which eventually gave birth to the Divine Office, concluded with the Orationes Solemnes (Solemn Prayers”. Mass was not offered. By the close of the 5th century, Lenten weekdays evolved from a synaxis (Greek = “gathering”, a continuation of the Jewish synagogue service, into Eucharistic synaxis — the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Over time, the Roman Missal eventually designated 86 stational days using 45 stational churches in the course of the liturgical year, with stations assigned on solemnities such as Easter and Christmas. Most of the stational liturgies, however, occur during Lent. Pope Pius XI in 1934 made the most recent modification to the list of stational churches, adding Santa Agatha and Santa Maria Nuova. Rome’s stational liturgies slowly developed into this highly organized system, not only designating a specific church for each day of Lent, but also assigning specific liturgical propers.

Just as we have in previous years the Stational Churches and their Collects will be published here…