23 June 2014

A visit to the skull of Saint John the Baptist

With the praying of first Vespers this evening, we have entered (or will soon enter) into the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the patron of the parish to which I belonged as a boy. Consequently, this day - and the memorial of his passion on August 29th fills my heart with many happy memories of people whom I have loved and who loved me.

Many of my fellow parishioners under the Forerunner's patronage were models of Christian living and gave me a clear example of faith, hope, and love to follow. In fact, it is because of my fellow parishioners that I was able to discern the Lord calling me to share in his priesthood, especially through their encouragement and prayers.

At the same time, though, both of these two days also fills my heart with a certain grief over what has been lost. St. John the Baptist parish was merged in 1999 with St. Rose of Lima parish to form All Saints parish while continuing to use both churches. All Saints parish merged with Immaculate Conception parish in 2006 to form Blessed Sacrament parish and the church of St. John the Baptist was sold. It is a sadness I still carry with me.

Still, I consider Saint John the Baptist to be one of my principle patrons - together with Saints Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Damien of Molokaii, Marianne Cope, and John Bosco. Since tomorrow I will be in Belgium visiting the birthplace and tomb of the Leper Priest, I decided this evening to visit the church of San Silvestro in Capite (which is dedicated to Pope Saint Sylvester I, who baptized the Emperor Constantine), just a few minutes' walk from the Casa Santa Maria, to pray evening prayer in the chapel that houses the skull of Saint John the Baptist:

To the right of the church is the post office that always gives me so much trouble
The initial church was built in the eighth century over the remnants of a temple dedicated to Sol Invictus (yes, the Sol Invictus we inevitably hear about before Christmas) to house relics of the martyrs that at the time were being translated from some of the catacombs. How fitting, then, that it also houses the skull of the great witness to marriage:

While in the chapel, I especially remembered my fellow parishioners who were so very good to me and showed me how to follow the wisdom of Saint John: "He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease" (John 3:30). I do not always succeed in this, but still I try.

In one of his sermons for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony of Padua says:
Note that Elizabeth conceived in the seventh month, September, and gave birth birth in June. Even so, the soul conceives in the 'seventh' (the sabbath), that is, in stillness, by devotion of mind; and she bears her son, good work, in June, called 'Siban' in Hebrew, meaning 'rightness of gift'. The gift of grace which she conceives in her mind, she brings forth in rightness of action.
While in the desert, Saint John devoted his mind to the will of the Lord and emerged to call everyone to repentance, even an adulterous king who would later take his head. Let us ask Saint John to intercede for us, so that we, too, always bear witness to the truth, no matter the cost.

No comments:

Post a Comment