Rome: A Pilgrimage with Mary


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Rediscovering a Lost Marian Church

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By Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC (Jun 15, 2019)
Father Joseph Roesch, MIC, is the author of the book Rome: A Pilgrimage with Mary (Marian Press), which takes the reader on a pilgrimage through the major churches of Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Below, he shares with us a story about a church in Rome, which has a special connection to the Marian Fathers.

There's a unique church in Rome, Italy, that contains a monument entrusting it to the Marian Fathers in perpetuity called "Santi Vito e Modesto" (Saints Vitus and Modestus). This church and the adjoining monastery served as headquarters in Rome for the Marian Fathers for about 20 years at the end of the 18th century, before Napoleon expelled all of the foreign religious communities from Rome.

This church has an interesting history, one that I think you'll find meaningful. It dates back to the 15th century. It replaced another church of the same name from the eighth century that had fallen into ruin, not far from the present structure. It is located a short distance from the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, down a short alley from the Redemptorist church that contains the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The church is actually dedicated to three Roman martyrs, Sts. Vito, Modesto, and Crescenzia. Modesto was the teacher of Vito, and Crescenzia was his nurse as he grew up. They introduced him to the Christian faith, but Vito's father wanted him to deny that faith. Instead, the three of them fled to an area south of Rome called Lucania, where they were martyred.

The church contains an image of the Immaculate Virgin Mary that had been commissioned by the Marian Fathers and painted by the Polish artist Franciszek Smuglewicz (1745-1807) and placed in the church in December of 1781. The image, which shows signs of aging and includes some tears that have been repaired, is very dear to the Marian community.

The altar dates back to 1483. It's adorned with a fresco that depicts Sts. Sebastian, Margaret, and Vito, with Our Lady and the Child Jesus sitting between Sts. Modesto and Crescenzia. Above them, under the arch, Jesus the Savior blesses everyone. There is also an image from the 19th century of Our Lady giving the Rosary to Sts. Dominic and Catherine of Siena. Also, a stone marker is imbedded in the wall upon which a number of martyrs, including St. Vito, were believed to have been beheaded. Saint Vito is a patron of those who have been bitten by dogs with rabies because during his lifetime, he restored to life a baby that had been torn apart by wild dogs.

The Arch of Gallieno, which contained the Esquiline Gate in the wall of ancient Rome, stands next to the church. The arch in its current form dates back to the third century A.D., having replaced an older gate in the same location, probably from the fourth century B.C.

The Marians returned to Rome at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the church was eventually offered to the Community, we were not in a position to take it back at the time.

Some archeological excavations have been made under the church, and some of the Marians who died in Rome during that 20-year period are buried there.

To order Rome: A Pilgrimage with Mary, visit ShopMercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426. (Product code: TH-ROME)

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joemary - Jun 25, 2019

this is an inspiring history...