Today’s station church was Santi XII Apostoli. The earliest known record of a Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome goes back to one built by Pope Julius I in the mid fourth century. That basilica was built near Trajan’s column. A successor to that church was begun by Pope Pelagius I in the mid sixth century. It was built on the present site of the basilica and was dedicated by Pope John III in 570. It was at this time that the relics of the apostles Saints Philip and James the Lesser were placed under the high altar. Saint Philip preached in Greece and Syria and was martyred by crucifixition. Saint James the Lesser was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and was martyred by being beaten to death by clubs.
The first basilica was Byzantine in its architectural structure, which makes sense since at the time Rome was under the control of Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. The basilica got along just fine until an earthquake in 1348 which heavily damaged it. Pope Martin V started a restoration in 1421 and this was followed up by more extensive restorations during the pontificate of Sixtus IV from 1471 to 1484. The basilica is currently staffed by Franciscans and they arrived here in 1463.
The high altar depicts the martyrdoms of Saints Philip and James the Lesser. It is the largest altar piece in all of Rome. Above the fresco is a depiction of the expulsion of the rebellious angels from heaven. The ceiling is painted with scenes depicting the glory of the Franciscan Order. The basilica also hosts the remains of the martyrs Saints Sabinus, Clement, Eugenia and Claudia. In the crypt opposite the remains of the two apostles is the remains of the martyrs Saints Diodorus, Marcian, Chrysanthius, and Daria. This basilica is the titular church of His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Scola who is the current Cardinal Patriarch of Venice and if an election were being held tomorrow for the next Pope he would certainly be on everyone’s top ten “most likely” list.
In today’s readings we hear the Prophet Ezekiel comments on what the Lord will do with the wicked man who turns away from sin and does what is right and just, “None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him.” As we go through Lent and the exercise of returning to God in our actions and in the deepest recesses of our heart we can most certainly take advantage of the Sacrament of Confession and reap the rewards of what the prophet Ezekiel pronounces. Reflecting on today’s reading from Ezekiel reminded me of the story of Saint Mary Alocoque who made famous the devotion of the Sacred Heart. On telling her spiritual director that she was receiving visions from Jesus he told her to ask Jesus the next time what some of her sins were so he could see if this was a true vision. She returned to her spiritual director with Jesus’ answer which was, “I do not remember them.” Such is the most glorious mercy of Our Savior who died for us in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Perhaps it would be good on this Friday in Lent to meditate on God’s mercy displayed most perfectly in Christ’s Passion. God the Father sent his only son to die for us so that our debt would be paid and that we may have eternal life with him. Glory be to God.