Cycle of Lenten Station Masses begins … but what is a ‘Station Mass’?

Archbishop George

Each year Archbishop George observes the tradition of travelling around the diocese to celebrate the “Station Mass”.  The practice of stational liturgy stems back to the late second, early third century when the Bishop of Rome would celebrate the liturgies of the church year at various churches within the city.  In doing so the bishop would be a uniting force for the many cultural groups in Rome, drawing them together as the Body of Christ.  As Christianity became the religion of the Empire in 313, the stational liturgy took on the significance of remembering particular feast days at churches with a special link to that celebration.  A good example of this was the practice of celebrating Christmas at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where a relic of the manager was venerated.  As time passed, the churches in Rome took on extra significance as they became the homes for the relics of the Early Christian Martyrs, and they were the home of the early Christian Church.  When someone visits Rome to this day, they can feel the spiritual presence of the Early Church, and they can tangibly see and touch our history.

By the time of the late fifth century the scheduling of stational liturgies became more structured, with a form of ‘liturgical calendar’ of celebrations being developed showing when and where the pope would celebrate Mass.  On the run up to Lent, the basilicas outside the walls of the city of Rome were visited to form a ‘ring of prayer’ around the city before the penitential season began.  During the season, the stations were held in different parts of the city.  Then once the Easter season had arrived the stations took on a form of ‘litany’ beginning at St. Mary Major then St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, St. Lawrence, the Apostles, Martyrs etc.

The typical format of liturgical stations saw the pope and people gather in one church known as the collectum.  From there, the group would move in one great procession to the church where Mass was to be celebrated, known as the statio.  The term station comes from the practice of fasting where a comparison was drawn between the fasting on the days when pope and people would come together for these Masses and the guard duty of soldiers.  The seriousness of both was not to be undermined as the Christian took to ‘spiritual warfare’ during Lent.  The term statio was applied to the actual Eucharistic celebration (with the pope) on these fast days and then became more widespread having been applied to any major celebration held in the city on a certain day.

As time progressed the order of the stations changed.  The current order of the stations in Rome was fixed by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.

The practice of having stational liturgies within Dioceses outside Rome expresses solidarity with the Bishop and people of Rome.  As the Diocese of Rome recalls the history of the Christian Church in these days, we join them spiritually recognizing that that history is also our history as one in Christ.  As the Bishop of Rome (the pope) travels through his city fasting, praying, and meeting with his people, drawing them together and uniting them, so Archbishop George travels the Diocese of Cardiff to join with the people under his care and making the Lenten journey in solidarity.  As we are in solidarity with Archbishop George, and Archbishop George is in solidarity with Pope Francis, we stand in solidarity with Pope Francis and the people of Rome.

This Lent the Station Masses will be held according to the schedule below.  All Masses start at 7:00pm.  You are all invited and actively encouraged to join in these celebrations and gather as a truly Universal Church as we make our Lenten journey.

  • 11th March – Cardiff Deanery – St. Philip Evans, Llanederyn
  • 18th March – Newport Deanery – St. Mary’s, Stow Hill, Newport
  • 26th March – Pontypridd Deanery – St. Dyfrig’s, Treforest
  • 1st April – North Gwent Deanery – All Saints, Ebbw Vale
  • 8th April – Herefordshire Deanery – Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Hereford
  • 15th April – Bridgend Deanery – St. Mary’s, Bridgend
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