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A Peek into our Daily Roman Walk

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Mar 01, 2016

Two weeks ago I shared our plan for our daily Lenten journey following the Roman stations. I thought I would share our progress and what it looks like in our home.

My sons are ages 8 and 12 and are at an age of transition. The daily countdown calendar to Easter doesn't make as much as an impression as it did when they were younger, so I was looking for different ways to mark the days of Lent. Following along the Roman Stational churches daily provides a way to count the days of Lent but gives options for expansion. The boys both really love this new Lenten practice and have already asked to do this again next year.

The practice challenges them and piques their interest in so many areas. They learn and say  the Italian names of the churches and saints, look up the churches to find photos and diagrams and learn the history of the church, the art and architecture. They are interested in following the progress on the map, counting the days of Lent and seeing how the journey would progress in Rome. I hear comments like, "This would be a long walk if the Pope went to Mass on this day!" The boys are recognizing the "hills" and districts of Rome, the four major basilicas, the other kinds of churches, like titular, minor basilicas and minor papal basilicas.

The Latin comes into play, as they learn different words in Italian, such as "mura" meaning "walls" and understanding why some churches are called "outside the walls." They are beginning to see the pattern of more important churches are reserved for Sundays and special feast days, including the Lenten Ember Days. Our dinner conversations have been full of questions and speculations and rich discussion. I leave room for growth, for personal reading and further research. Some days we are just putting in a pin, other days inspire more digging.

For our large map I enlarged the small ones found in my old St. Andrew Missal. There were two different versions, but this one with a grid has made it easiest to find each church. I just opened the images to my browser and printed it 200% and pieced the map together and then taped it to a black foam board which is about 20" x 30". Our map is 17" x 19" inches. The tape is messy, but it doesn't block the view.

My eight-year-old immediately wanted his own smaller map to follow along, so I made other copies that they could color and track privately.

The close-up photo of the map shows how each day is marked with a numbered map pin.

Amazon carries the numbered map pins, but I also found a map store in North Carolina that was less expensive and since I live on the east coast, it was very quick shipping for me. I bought two numbered packs, 1-25, and 25-50. I would have bought purple but there was not that option, so I settled for red.

To accompany our map journey we use a variety of books. We refer first to George Weigel's book Roman Pilgrimage first for the name of the station church and basic information and connection with the day's Liturgy. If we have difficulty finding the name or matching the Italian equivalent, we look further into the missal or Pius Parsch's The Church's Year of Grace (Volume 2) or A Catholic Guide's to Rome by Frank J. Korn to get more clues for the Italian name.  

For further reading we turn to some other titles, such as The Pilgrim's Guide to Rome's Principal Churches has many of the station churches, but not all. Each church featured has a diagram, color photos, history and description of the interior and exterior. A Catholic's Guide to Rome was originally written for pilgrims during the Holy Year in 2000. There are no color illustrations but the book provides great details grouping churches together by regions or types, and highlights particular churches. The appendix contains a list of all the Lenten Roman Stations. The final book, A Literary Companion to Rome, provides more of a walking tour of Rome, breaking it down in sections from a more secular viewpoint. 

The other tools we are using are a full current map of Rome, so we can see the actual distance and location of the churches in relation to the present-day Rome. The second tool is the internet, especially the sites I listed in my previous article that provide succinct information and can help in some of the current event questions, such as some temporary closures, or changes to a church, like Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is no longer a monastic church of the Cistercians since 2011. Also Google Maps street view provides a pilgrim's eye view of the outside of the church. 

Even though it's imperfect with our map being a little "untidy" and having to use multiple resources, this little practice of following the Roman stations has been such a blessing. The further we go in Lent, the more all our family wants to physically be there in Rome and walk as a pilgrim to all the station churches. Just as the Jews say "Next Year in Jerusalem", our family echoes this sentiment to go to Holy Mother Rome as soon as we can. We say with our hearts: "Next Year in Rome."

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, home schooler, and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org's liturgical year section. See full bio.

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