Today as we remember those first Martyrs of Rome it is especially poignant and significant for us as we walk the same roads they did-while facing similar challenges in the culture of our times that has so much in common with the pagan ages before. Our Office of Readings this morning contained advice from Saint Clement I of Rome to the Corinthians, which resonates still. He wrote from before the year 100 AD, “Let us leave behind the examples from times of old, and come to those who struggled closest to us; let us consider the noble models of our own generation. It was through jealousy and envy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostles . . . with their holy lives gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures.” It is significant to our fidelity to our consecration that we also endure the tortures-but also stick together in our faith. Good example makes quite a difference.
Our morning was a quiet one of gathering strength or wandering the city. Those who stayed home caught up on daily chores or a little extra rest. Those of us who went wandering found ourselves thinking “What a surprise” in different churches such as San Giovanni along the Tiber. Sister Daisy ran into friends who are Apostles of the Sacred Heart, gathered for their General Chapter, while Sister Mary and Sister Jeanette discovered the Church of the Stigmata of St Francis just three blocks from the Domus.
Our afternoon revisited our liturgical morning as we walked past the glories of ancient Rome’s gathering places, triumphal arches, the Colosseum, and monuments to long forgotten conquerors on our way to a tour of the Basilica of San Clemente of Rome by Father Pius, OP. Father proved an excellent professor, treating us to the stories behind the mosaics and frescoes-bringing alive so many details. We journeyed from the 12th century in the upper basilica to the 4th century lower church to the deepest foundations which include a pagan Mithraeum alongside what may have been a coin minting operation for Rome. We were awed to come in contact with the relics of St Clement, but also St Ignatius of Antioch and St Cyril, brother of St Methodius, who is the apostle to the Slavic peoples.
In reflecting on today’s saints-both in the liturgy and in our pilgrimage, we look to the faith and strength of those before us and around us, and to the Lord from whom all graces flow.
Beautiful and meaningful mosaic behind the main altar at St. Clement's
Father Pius explaining the frescos in the chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Sisters venerating the relics of St. Clement
Sistes venerating the relec of St. Cyril
Group photo in the chapel of St. Cyril