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Blog Post - September 15th

The Seven Sorrows of The Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Sorrows)| S. Nicomedes of Rome| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection

Our Lady of Sorrows

Both Calendars

For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September.

The principal biblical references to Mary's sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon's prediction about a sword piercing Mary's soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus' words to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary's sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment.

St. Ambrose (December7) in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son's wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed but offered herself to her persecutors.


John's account of Jesus' death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary's role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke's account of Jesus' conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus' Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.


"At the cross her station keeping,

Stood the mournful mother weeping,

Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart,

his sorrow sharing,

All his bitter anguish bearing,

Now at length the sword has passed."

(Stabat Mater)

Saint Nicomedes of Rome| Pamphlets To Inspire

Today in the Latin Calendar we also commemorate S. Nicomedes of Rome, Early Church Martyr.


"At Rome, St Nicomedes the martyr. Pope Boniface V (619-25) honoured his body, hidden in a cemetery on the Via Nomentana, by building a sepulchral basilica. Period unknown."

The saint was a Roman martyr about whom nothing is known. No legend was written for him, although he occurs as a character in that of SS Nereus and Achilleus. There he is described as a priest flogged to death after refusing to sacrifice to the gods, but this legend is fictional. It was quoted in the old Roman Martyrology, but has been deleted.

The first possible mention of a church arises in the 5th century, when there existed a titulus Sancti Nicomedis. However, the main data comes from the 7th century pilgrimage itineraries. Three of these mention the saint's shrine, and the Topographia Einsiedlensis gives the useful detail that it was on the right side of the road when leaving the city.

Pope Adrian I (772-95) restored the church, which in the Liber Pontificalis is described as ecclesiam beati Nicomedis, sitam foras portam Numentanam. This gives the further detail that the church was outside the present Porta Pia, so archaeologists have been looking for the catacombs here since the start of the 17th century. The results have been confusing.


Antonio Bosio wrote that he found catacombs in the expected location, but gave no details and nobody else noticed. Hence, it is uncertain what he actually discovered.

Unfortunately, serious archaeological interest only began when the area was about to be built over. Giovanni Battista De Rossi conducted investigations which he finished in 1864 and wrote up the following year. The locality which he examined was then the rural Villa Patrizi, soon to be redeveloped for what is now the Via dei Villini. He found a hypogeum and a small set of catacombs, and also the foundations of an apsidal building which he identified as the church of Pope Benedict. Epigraphs that he found are of the late 2nd and 3rd centuries.

De Rossi transcribed the most important one, which probably came from a ground-level mausoleum:

Monumentum Valeri Mercuri et Iulittes Iuliani et Quintilies Verecundies, libertis libertabusque posetrisque eorum at religionem pertinentes meam. Hoc amplius in circuitum circa monumentum lati longe per ped[es] binos quod pertinet at ipsum monument[um].

("The monument of Valerius Mercurius and Julitta Juliani and Quintilia Verecundia, for their freedmen and freedwomen and successors belonging to my religion. The further area around this monument for two feet in length and width pertains to this monument.")

This indicates that the little set of catacombs was a completely private family affair. Freed slaves counted as part of the family under ancient Roman patronage rules.

No overtly Christian artefacts or decorations were found in the excavation, and it is impossible to decide which religion is referred to in the epigraph above.

The building work that followed at the end of the 19th century destroyed the apsidal ruin, and also the hypogeum (apparently), but left the catacombs intact. They are under a convent building put up in 1900, the Convento Notre Dame des Oiseaux.

De Rossi's hypothesis that the little set of catacombs were those of San Nicomede was generally accepted, until the right side of the Via Nomentana immediately outside the Porta Pia was itself developed. A massive office building was finished in 1918, initially for the Italian State Railways and later functioning as part of the accommodation of the Ministry for Transport.

The digging of the foundations revealed a set of catacombs on two levels, allegedly with thirty or so passages. Very unfortunately the timing of the project did not allow for archaeological investigations, and this was before the Vatican was given privileged ownership of the city's catacombs in 1929. The upper level was reported as destroyed for the foundations, and the lower level sealed off.


The Via Nomentana catacombs seem to have been destroyed without any plan or survey being made.

The little set of catacombs on the Via dei Villini illustrate the semantic distinction between ipogeo and catacomba. In the literature the former is often used as referring to private burial places underground, and the latter to those belonging to the Church. However, all catacombs began as private enterprises and the distinction is better served by focusing on whether the complex has a set of passages with loculi. Under this definition, the Via dei Villini site amounts to a very small set of catacombs.

De Rossi describes them as having their original staircase entrance, leading to a wide passage lined with masonry which ends in a cistern. Along the right wall of the passage is a ceramic water pipe, made from amphorae joined up with their bottoms broken off and which turns down a conduit to the right which has a small cross-section. This set of excavations De Rossi thought, with justification, to have been part of the underground services of an ancient Roman villa pre-dating the catacombs.

When the underground complex was taken over for funerary use, perhaps in the late 3rd century, three cubicula were excavated off the main passage. Two are to the left, and one on the right which used to be richly decorated with marble work. This led De Rossi to surmise that the shrine of St Nicomedes was here.

Further down the main passage, the pipe conduit on the right had some loculi excavated into its sides, and a short side gallery with further loculi was also excavated.

Daily Meditation

Embracing Simplicity:

Sisters (nuns) pray a lot. They work at working together. They try their hardest to live simply – sometimes without much choice, due to real poverty. All of them embrace simplicity as a radical commitment to Gospel values, and offer that faithful witness to the rest of us.

Quote by S. Padre Pio:

Be strong and overcome everything with your constancy.

Divine Mercy Reflection

Reflections on Notebook Four: 237-262

We continue to the fourth notebook that Saint Faustina filled with reflections and revelations from Jesus. As we enter into this notebook, allow yourself to seek God in the silence. This chapter begins with Saint Faustina revealing that she was experiencing a “dark night” (Diary #1235). She lacked the sensory feelings of closeness to God. By analogy, it would be as if you were in a dark room filled with treasures and someone told you that all the treasures of this room were yours. You could not see them but you trusted the person who spoke about all that was around you. Knowledge of these treasures filled your mind even though the darkness hid them from your eyes.

So it is with God. Saint Faustina loved our Lord with all her heart and with every beat of her heart. She knew His closeness and love. But it appears that she could not sense this through her human senses. This gift of darkness allowed her to enter into a relationship with God on a spiritual level far deeper.

Seek this depth of relationship with God as you read through this chapter. Move beyond a desire to feel close to God and allow yourself to become close to God. He wants to enter your heart on a much deeper level than you ever knew possible. Be open to the newness of a relationship shrouded in darkness and allow the Lord to communicate His Mercy to you on this new level of love.

Reflection 258: The Closeness of God

Where is God? It’s easy to think of God being in Heaven or some far off place, looking down upon us and guiding all of creation in accord with His holy Will. This is true, but it’s not the full picture. God is perfectly “transcendent” in that He is way beyond us and beyond the created world. But He is also perfectly “immanent” in that He lives within us. When you pray, seek Him especially within your own soul. Remember that when you receive Holy Communion, God makes your soul a tabernacle. He enters in and remains within unless He is excluded on account of sin. Seek His divine presence within your soul and you will discover the intimacy of His abundant Mercy (See Diary #1302).

Reflect upon the image of a tabernacle. Within that sacred dwelling the full glory of God exists in veiled form. But He is there, alive, radiant and glorious. Now see your soul as this tabernacle. See Him coming to you to make His dwelling within you. God desires to fully live within you, making your heart the place of His gentle repose. Spend time today seeking our Lord within. Talk to Him, listen to Him, and commune with Him. Let your heart become alive and radiant with His holy presence. For within your heart is the presence of God.

Lord, I thank You for coming to me and making my heart Your dwelling place. I thank You for Your perfect love and care and I pray that I may discover Your divine presence in my life more fully each and every day. I am Yours, dear Lord, make my soul radiant with Your eternal glory. Jesus, I trust in You.

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