Station Passion Sunday: Statio ad St Petrum

Basilica_of_Saint_PeterLook down in mercy, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
upon Thy family; by Thy governance
may we be outwardly protected in body;
by Thy favor may we be inwardly
strengthened in heart and mind.
Through Our Lord…

At Rome, the Station is in the basilica of St. Peter. The importance of this Sunday, which never yields to any feast no matter what its solemnity may be, requires that the place for the assembly of the faithful should be in one of the chief sanctuaries of the holy city.

Today is called First Passion Sunday, the beginning of the fifteen-day preparation for the solemnity of Easter. As such, today had special significance for the Roman catechumenate. The Passion and Cross of Our Lord should be foremost in our minds and hearts during this season, but especially in those about to be baptized. Considering its importance, it comes as no wonder that San Pietro has been today’s station since the fourth century. Instead of a general description of the basilica (which can be found on “Saturday after the First Sunday of Lent”, perhaps a visit to the altars and tombs of Saint Peter’s contemporaries would be apposite today.

Simon and Jude: We know little about these two apostles except that which we read in the Gospels. Simon is surnamed “the Cananean” – i.e. “the Zealot.” Jude, also called Thaddeus, was the brother of James (usually regarded as James the Less, the traditional author of the canonical Epistle of his name and bishop of Jerusalem). After Pentecost the lives of Simon and Jude become somewhat obscure. Western tradition tells us that Simon, after preaching in Egypt, joined Jude in Mesapotamia and that they went as missionaries for some years to Oersia, suffering martyrdom there. They are accordingly commemorated together in the West on October 28. In the old Basilica of Saint Peter, their relics were conserved in a chapel dedicated to them where, as today, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.

Petronilla: (in the Chapel of Saint Michael) Roman martyrology says that “At Rome, St. Petronilla, Virgin, Daughter of the Blessed Apostle Peter…refused to wed Flaccus, a nobleman, and accepting three days’ delay for deliberation, spent them in fasting and prayer and, on the third day, after receiving the Sacrament of Christ, gave up the ghost.” This tradition is perhaps an interpolation of the apocryphal Acts of St. Peter (2nd century) which speak of a daughter of the apostle, stricken by paralysis and healed by her father. The catacombs of St. Domitilla do give fourth-century evidence that a martyr named Petronilla did exist, and she has been venerated since the earliest times. This is also known traditionally as an altar specially associated with France, the “Eldest Daughter of the Church,” since Petronilla is said to be the daughter of the Prince of the Apostles.

Processus and Martinian (north transept): According to tradition, these martyrs were the wardens of Saints Peter and Paul when they were confined to the Mamertine Prison. They, along with forty others, were converted by the apostles. It is said that a miraculous flow of water sprang from the rock to enable St. Peter to baptize them. The officer in charge, Paulinus, tried to persuade Processus and Martinian from their new faith and afterwards subjected them to cruel tortures when they refused to worship Jupiter. In the ninth century, Paschal I translated their relics from their tomb and basilica on the Via Aurelia.

Draw near to us, O Lord our God,
and with everlasting succour aid t
hose whom by Thy sacrament
Thou hast called to newness of life.
Through Our Lord…