Upon his arrival, he witnessed an ecclesiastical climate that was characterized by corruption, vice, and decadence. However, it was in the Catacombs of San Sebastiano (St. Sebastian) where Neri spent hours in quiet contemplation and intense prayer.
There was perhaps no better place. After all, the silence of the catacombs (the burial site of Christians who died for their faith, among them once the remains of Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as St. Sebastian) provided a stark contrast to the squalor and vice of the streets above.
The catacombs, in a sense, were representative of the evolution of the Church’s life in Rome — persecution and dominance, faith and apostasy, splendor and squalor. Neri’s spiritual exercises stood at the intersection between the ancient and the old — a return to the earliest traditions of the paleo-Christian age, for it was this martyr’s…
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