We are in Rome and plan to visit the bones of St. Bartholomew, St. Peter, and St. Paul.
We take the bus, then walk to Tiber Island to visit the relics of St. Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John). The apostle St. Bartholomew (probably) went to India, Ethiopia, Armenia, and Mesopotamia to spread the Gospel. He sometimes traveled with St. Jude. He may have been crucified but a major tradition states that he was martyred by being skinned alive. Medieval portrayals sometimes show him holding a knife and his own skin. His remains were brought to Rome in 983 and the Basilica of San Bartolomeo was built to store them. His head is in Frankfort, Germany; an arm is in Canterbury, England.
We arrive at The Church of Saint Bartolomew.
I approach the altar and sit to meditate. Some chairs have been set up to the left and right of the altar. I move to a chair to the left of the relics, very close to their bathtub-like container. I am almost within reach of the altar top.
I decide to reach out and touch the cloth covering the altar top. Exactly at the moment that my hand touches the relic container I feel and see flash bulbs go off and I am surprised. A surge of emotion passes through me. I feel the presence of St. Bartholomew! I look at the candles. St. Bartholomew is with me.
I pass into a deep mental state. I am in touch with him. I pray that you will find inner peace. He agrees to help.
Later I spoke with Karen about what I had experienced. She said that some tourists had set off flash bulbs in the back of the church but she does see how this was connected to me. She was surprised that they did this because they would not have been able to see the front of the church from there. I look at my video but there is no sign of a flash.
I am not advocating belief in spirits. I am not advocating disbelief in spirits. I advocate finding your own inner way.
I purchase a St. Bartholomew medallion from the gift shop.
“Maybe you had a stroke,” Karen says. “That would explain the flashes of light.”
“I feel okay,” I reply. “Actually, I feel better than normal. St. Bart will cure whatever problems might come up.”
“Apparently you’re on first name basis with St. Bartholomew now,” she notes.
We went to the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica de San Giovanni in Laterano), the church with the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul. It’s a long walk and we see many young couples in love on the way. Rome is a romantic city.
The basilica is said to have the holy umbilical cord and wood from the table used during the Last Supper (Europe was filled with fake relics during medieval times and various Roman churches harbor these objects). The heads (skulls) have been in the basilica since the 9th century.
The church is crowded and some men are putting down carpet in front of the saintly relics. It is noisy inside.
I struggle to get through the crowd to approach the altar. Eventually, I find a chair and attempt to meditate.
Afterward, I ask a young nun about the objects held by the main altar apostles.
She draws a diagram as part of her explanation of the altar figures. St. Peter holds keys; St. Paul holds a sword — because he used to persecute Christians before being blinded temporarily by a spiritual light on his way to Damascus. As a result, he converted to Christianity. We discuss Pope Francis, a man with love in his heart. The nun was so kind-hearted and helpful to me! I did not feel anything special while meditating but I perceived a special sanctity within this woman.
St. Peter and St. Paul had some major disagreements during their lives. St. Paul changed the basic doctrines of Christianity to fit the needs of Gentiles and St. Peter was opposed to this, probably. Some scholars suggest that the conflict became so intense that they refused to talk to each other. I think it is ironic that their skulls ended up side by side for so many hundreds of years.
It is hard to specify the factors that contribute to two people getting along. Some traditions suggest that St. Peter lacked imagination (he was a rock, Jesus said) and that St. Paul wanted to be in charge. Karen feels that St. Paul opposed and suppressed women. Paul put in place policies that restricted women’s roles within the church.
Men and women sometimes have similar problems as those of Peter and Paul. They are on different frequencies. They have power struggles. Of course, when they connect everything works out.
I photograph a statue of St. Bartholomew, holding his skin.
He holds his skin and has a knife in one hand, symbols of his martyrdom. His mortal skin is not the same as his spiritual skin. St. Bartholomew has been connected hospitals and medicine. When I worked in the psychiatric hospital, I discovered the power of love and compassion. Connection brings healing.
My daughter, son, sister, brother, lover! We read your blogs. They are wonderful. We share our love for you. Maybe some day we can get together in this lifetime.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 42):
“The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to two.
Two gives birth to three.
Three gives birth to all things.
All things have their backs to the female
and stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony.
Ordinary men hate solitude
but the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.”
I light the candle that I brought back from Finestarre, the end of the earth. I now have a traveling altar: Bernadette and the lady at Lourdes, a St. Peter/St. Paul medallion, a St. Bart medallion, and the paper given to me by the compassionate nun. I pray for your inner peace and I know that St. Bart will help.