I’ve been quite busy at work lately, so I’ve had to defer some of the more involved posts I’ve planned. Lest too long a gap fall between posts, I shamelessly borrow today’s theme from New Liturgical Movement. To wit, today is the feast of the Roman martyr St. Pancratius, who is also known in English-speaking countries as Pancras. Pancratius has one of those awesome martyr-names, like Perpetua and Felicity. His name comes from the Greek for “all-powerful.” When the Roman authorities put him to death at the age of fourteen, I’m sure he didn’t seem all-powerful. But such is the paradox of martyrdom.
I have a few personal anecdotes regarding St. Pancratius. First, the grandfather of one of my high school classmates was named Pancratius. They called him Panky. Apparently he was named after a priest.
Secondly, I have worshipped at the Basilica of St. Pancratius (San Pancrazio) in the Roman neighborhood of Monteverde Vecchio. It was the summer of 2007, when I attended Fr. Reginald (Reggie) Foster’s spoken Latin class. Reggie’s Carmelite friary is just down the road from San Pancrazio.
The Basilica of San Pancrazio is the station church for Low Sunday, aka Divine Mercy Sunday, aka Dominica in albis depositis. It took the latter name because Low Sunday was the day new converts took off the albs they’d started wearing at their baptism during the Easter Vigil. As recently as the 1950s, Monteverde Vecchio was a rural area where sheep and cattle grazed. I wonder what it was like for new Christians to cross the Tiber, ascend the steep slope of the Janiculum, exit a gate in the Aurelian walls, and trudge over to San Pancrazio on their first Low Sunday. Quite the contrast from the splendor of St. John Lateran and its baptistery down in the city. I suppose it’s a fitting transition from the exuberant afterglow of Easter to the more subdued life of Christian discipleship. A demanding life, and one that sometimes requires martyrdom.