Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Way.

Today's memorial offers Jesuits an opportunity to remember one of the Society's earliest corporate apostolates, the Church of Santa Maria della Strada in Rome. Even before the Society of Jesus won the approbation of the Holy See in 1540, Ignatius and his companions were admired for their apostolic zeal and performance of good works. One locus of the early Jesuits' ministry was a small church dedicated to Our Lady of the Way (Madonna della Strada), where Ignatius and several of his fellows would often preach and celebrate Mass. One of Jesuits' admirers was a secular priest named Pietro Codacio, who in 1539 became the first Italian to enter the Society of Jesus. Father Codacio became the pastor of Santa Maria della Strada the following year, and at his request the church was formally placed under the Society's care in 1542. As the church's patroness, Our Lady of the Way attracted the devotion of the early Jesuits as well as many of the faithful. When the Church of Santa Maria della Strada was razed to make way for the monumental mother church of the Society, the Church of the Gesù, the image of Madonna della Strada enshrined in the old church was preserved in a chapel adjacent to the sanctuary. As the Society of Jesus spread throughout the world, the image and name of Madonna della Strada spread as well. Many Jesuit chapels have been named Madonna della Strada, helping to further strengthen the Society's bonds of devotion to Our Lady of the Way. Today's memorial helps remind Jesuits that we are pilgrims, inspired by a founder who chose to be called "the Pilgrim" and following a savior who had no place to lay his head. Our Lady of the Way, pray for us. AMDG.


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