We went to the Vatican Museums in Rome and then the Basilica of St. Peter, where we visited the relics of St. Peter, St. Thaddeus (who is also called St. Jude), and St. Simon the Zealot, all three apostles of Jesus.
We saw magnificent paintings, such as Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement (note the image of St. Bartholomew, in the lower-right center, holding his own skin. He seems tranquil).
The cathedral has a main altar containing the relics of St Peter. The altar is below Lorenzo Bernini’s magnificent canopy. The sun was shining through a window, creating a glorious beam of light, shining through the altar. I struggled to walk through the crowd, surprised that so few people seemed to notice the beauty of the sunbeam.
One guy takes a photo while his friends laughed. I continue walking.
Below the canopy and altar, down some closed-off stairs, is a golden box, containing the headless relics of St. Peter (his head is the Basilica of St. John Lateran which we saw the day before). I was thrilled to see the gold box. It is remarkable to be so close to something so powerful, the relics of a man so central to the beginning if Christianity.
In December, 1950, Vatican archeologists discovered graffiti indicating an area where St. Peter’s bones might lay. The inscription stated “Here lies Peter.” Although later scientific analysis revealed that the original possible Peter relics were the bones of three different people and some animals, alternate relics were wrapped in ancient, valuable cloth with golden thread and these bones were headless. In 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that these relics were those of St. Peter.
In 2013, Pope Francis allowed the box containing these relics to be viewed.
I turn to the left from St. Peter’s altar and approach the altar containing the relics of St. Jude and St. Simon the Zealot. St. Jude (Thaddeus) is associated with lost causes and he is also the patron of hospital workers. He used to hang out with Simon the Zealot, the brother of James the Less. These apostles are regarded as obscure, mentioned only a few times in the four Gosples.
Beneath the altar of St. Joseph are the relics– St. Jude and St. Simon the Zealot. The word “zealot” means he was considered zealous, a term used to distinguish him from Simon Peter (St. Peter). The political Zealot movement did not exist until 30 or 40 years after the events of the Gospels.
Simon and Jude were thought to have traveled to Egypt and Persia together and now they are mixed together in an urn.
There is a sign saying that photography was prohibited but Karen is determined to get a photograph of the urn. We have come a long way to visit these apostles.
“You are on a mission from God,” she explains. There is power in these relics and we send this power to you.
Scholars argue about the discrepancies that exist among the lists of apostles within the four Gospels. Simon the Zealot was said to be a cousin (translated as brother…same word) of James the Less and also a cousin of Jesus. It would be interesting to do a DNA analysis of the bones of St. James the Less and Simon the Zealot, because this could provide insights regarding the relationship between these men and also shed light on the DNA of Jesus.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 43):
“The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value on non-action.
Teaching without words,
performing without actions,
that is the Madter’s way.”
I meditated before these bones but have nothing more to say about them. These bones teach without words, perform without action. We visited the bones of St. Thomas in Chennai, India, in 2008. We walked from Lisbon to Santiago, Spain to visit St. James (the Greater). We visited St. Mathias, St. Phillip, St. James (the Less), St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Bartholomew, St. Jude, and St. Simon (the Zealot) in Rome. We have told you the story of this.
Now, we will travel to Salerno, Italy, to visit St. Matthew and to Amalfi, Italy, to visit St. Andrew. There is power in this. I pray for you and my prayers are answered.