I hope the First Friday in Lent has been a good one for you thus far. The station church for today was Santi Giovanni e Paolo. It is a church built over several Roman ruins, including the house of the patron saints of the church. Saints John and Paul were soldiers in the Roman army in the mid 4th century and served in the Imperial Household. Christianity had been made legal over a century before, however during what turned out to be the ends of their lives Julian the Apostate rose to power (360). Julian resented the Christian faith and was very much taken with the old pagan traditions, religion, and philosophy. Saints John and Paul were forced with the decision to accept the old pagan religion or face death. They refused to give into the wicked Emperor and were put to death in their home. Julian died in 363 and afterwards a cult developed around the martyrs Saints John and Paul.
In the late 4th and early 5th century a Roman Senator built a basilica over their house. Likely completed by 410 the basilica was further decorated in the mid 5th century. The basilica suffered major damage in the late 11th century during an attempt by the Pope to re-enter the city after he had been expelled. St. Gregory VII did not of course order a destruction of the basilica, but the Norman army he had enlisted to help him return was very interested in pillaging. By the end of the century the basilica had been rebuilt.
Between the 15th and 18th centuries the church was renovated several times with the current interior coming into form between 1715 and 1718. In the 1850’s a sacristy was added along with a chapel dedicated to St. Paul of the Cross (founder of the Passionist order). The church is run by the Passionists. From 1948 to 1950 a restoration/renovation of the church was carried out by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, His Eminence Cardinal Spellman. The façade was returned to its medieval appearance and the interior was restored with the addition of chandeliers that had previously hung in Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Santo Giovanni e Paolo is currently the Titular Church of the Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of New York, His Eminence Cardinal Egan.The church contains a couple of places of interest. The most striking thing you notice when first entering is the beautiful chandeliers. That is what the above picture is looking at. On the first chapel you pass on the right side of the Church is a chapel dedicated to Saint Saturnius, martyr, and it contains his relics.
In the nave is a spot marking the place where Saints John and Paul were martyred. That is what this is a picture of. Finally under the main altar are the remains of Saints John and Paul.
In today’s readings the responsorial psalm is “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” This is taken from Psalm 51. In this psalm we see that God cannot refuse a heart that is contrite and humble. The opposite of humbleness is pride and we know that pride is the great sin of the devil. He refused to submit to God and be humbled as a creation of God and instead in his pride said that he could be like God. In his pride the devil chose to spend eternity separated from God instead of submitting to God and spending an eternity of bliss. We to are faced with that decision. Will we choose to either humble ourselves and accept the grace that God has given us or we will choose to try and make it our own way and spend an eternity frustrated and separated from God.
If humbleness is what we desire how are we to go about it? There is no better place to look than God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. And how appropriate it is on a Friday in Lent to spend time in contemplation on Our Savior’s Passion in which we see true humility carried out. First Christ humbles himself by doing his Father’s will even though he wished very much that cup would pass and then in the ultimate act of humility he allows himself, that is God himself, to be crucified by man for man’s sins. It is in this ultimate act of humility that we are redeemed, our ransom paid and our guilt washed away by the blood of the spotless lamb. During this Lenten season let us ponder how we can be more Christ like in our humility. Let us strive to submit ourselves more fully to God and one another in humble service.