Young, Rich, Beautiful & Martyred

First, find your way to this ancient church on the Vimian Hill, at 160 Via Urbana. Then, notice that you must step down off the street level to enter the Basilica of St Pudentiana. This is because you are going down to the level of the street in ancient Rome, and you may be forgiven if you get a chill up your spine. You are about to step into a church literally built on the house of an ancient Christian martyr. The beautiful young Pudentiana was martyred in the second century AD during persecutions of the Christians under the  Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161).

The story of the Roman sisters, Pudentiana and Praxedes, dates to the very first Age of the Christian Church. Pudentiana was a daughter of wealthy Roman Senator Pudens, a kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy (II. Tim. iv. 21). Legend has it that Saint Peter himself visited this house in the time of the girls’ grandparents.

Pudentiana was a daughter of the wealthy Roman Senator Pudens, kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy

Pudentiana and her sister Praxedes were among the earliest members of the Church, and both of them consecrated their lives to Jesus Christ. Upon their father’s death, the two sisters distributed their fortune to the poor, and devoted their time to good works, fasting and prayer. It was through their influence that their entire household, which consisted of ninety-six persons, was baptized by Pope Pius I.

In consequence of the decree issued by the emperor Antoninus (see our story on ‘Communion, Roman-Style’), which forbade the Christians to offer sacrifice publicly, Pope Pius celebrated Mass in Pudentiana’s house, and the Christians assembled there to assist at the celebration. She received them with much charity, and provided them with all the necessaries of life.

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You are about to step into a church built on the house of an ancient Christian martyr. Legend has it that Saint Peter visited this house.

At the age of sixteen, Pudentiana was arrested and martyred on the fourteenth of the Calends of June (by our calendar May 19). She was buried in her father’s tomb, in the Priscilla Cemetery, which is on the Salarian Road.

Pudentiana’s house was willed to Pope Pius, and is now one of the most venerable Churches of Rome. Her relics lie under the high altar, according to ancient Christian tradition, which held that any place that contained the remains of a martyr was itself made sacred. This is the origin of the Catholic practice of venerating the relics of saints.

norcia2012 024HALLOWED GROUND’: Ancient Roman Christian tradition made any place containing the relics of a martyr sacred, because by their death for the Faith they were certain to be in heaven.

This is the origin of the Catholic tradition of consecrating churches with saints’ relics under the high altar.

 

Togas in the Backyard

Dorothy GillI must confess: I’m not a particularly energetic, clever or imaginative homeschooler. I just have attitude. 

And while I’ve been at this for over 20 years, like the Velveteen Rabbit, I sometimes sit still in the bracken of stacked teacher’s manuals and hope that the other homeschool moms won’t notice.  As they hop sideways, on their hind legs and whirl round and dance, I am longing to join them, but am keenly aware of my lack of artistic legs.   So while scope and sequence recommendations and Common Core standards do not intimidate me, I have always longed for the creative flair.   

Above all, teaching history requires imagination.  While I generally detest for-classroom text books with their “read the chapter, answer the questions approach,” left to my own devices I can never seem to fully launch into the “living history” method that homeschooled kids love.

This is where belonging to a homeschool support group really pays off.  With all sorts of talented homeschoolers —   left-brain, right brain, and menopause brain — you are sure to find people who will complement your strengths, compensate for your deficiencies and create magic for your students. 

Ancient History assignments had my kids merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day. We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?) 

Birthed in the crucible of necessity, the modern homeschool co-op harnesses this diversity (sorry, I usually avoid this word)  and yields a blend of arts & crafts, literature, research, home-ec,  drama, composition and public speaking — all rolled into performance art.  They don’t teach history to your kids, they invite them to discover history.

I experienced textbook-free, blended-age learning in an Ancient History co-op with families from Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon. My first clue that I was onto something special was my kids asking, “When do we get to go to co-op?”  They were actually begging to do history!  Soon, they became the enforcers of the schedule, hounding me for assistance as they prepared for the Big Day each week. The younger kids would listen to stories read out loud and maybe draw a picture while the older ones would work on reading a novel or encyclopedia article.  Their Ancient History assignments had them merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day.

My math brain boggled at the cornucopia of offerings: carpentry, cooking, plays, painting, pottery, sewing, singing, sculpture, science, weapon making, architecture and games.   No one mom could hope to teach such a series of classes, and not collapse in exhaustion.  And yet, joined together, the burden was light as our kids experienced a culture distant in both time and space in a way that no text book could compete with.  It was memory-making magic.

pax1CONSTRUCTING CATAPULTS AND ARMOR TO DEFEND ROME FROM THE BARBARIANS: An Ancient History co-op in Portland, Oregon.

In studying Ancient Rome, we examined the five century development of the Republic and worked through the Pax Romana.   But instead of only reading, we immersed ourselves. Tarquin brutally ruled over all in the household chores one day, which led to Brutus leading his overthrow, and the tension between the patricians and plebeians which led to a workers strike and no dishes getting done until terms of tribune representation were agreed upon.  We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?)  and constructed catapults and armor.

When our Ancient History adventure was over, we celebrated. The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”   We ate with our fingers off a common platter, dipping figs in honey and bread in olive oil.  

We will never forget these lessons and memories that our co-op adventures have brought us.  And while my legs remain as inartistic as ever, to my kids I am a dancing real homeschool mom.

The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”

pax2pax3ROMAN ‘SLAVES’ PREPARING FOR A BACKYARD FEAST: AnAncient History homeschooling co-op by parishioners at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon culminated in a ‘feast’ for all who taught their kids about the legacy of ancient Rome.

 

by Dorothy Gill

Simple. Seasonal. Catholic.

For Sunday dinner after Mass, impress your friends and family with the real thing: New York Italian lasagna with roasted seasonal vegetables, smothered in Aunt Josephine’s sauce. This recipe is Mediterranean, low in polyunsaturated fats and vegetarian – not vegan – and extremely good for you. If you want to make it even more delicious … Read more