Wednesday, September 06, 2006


It has been a tiring, but rewarding day. This afternoon I took a visitor to the church of the Twelve Apostles in the centre of the city. It's a church I love , even apart from its history. Somehow it never ceases to be a surprise. Perhaps it's because I've never been there when the lighting has been the same as on a previous occasion. As a result, it's always old and yet always new.

Under the main altar is a 'confessio', steps leading down to what I can best describe as a sort of crypt, but which was actually a Roman villa and which is still virtually intact. It's covered with beautifully preserved early Christian frescoes, including a lovely one of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The Romans couldn't bring themselves to portray the Cross, an all too true horrific reality in their daily lives. This beautiful crypt, with its graceful pillars and alcoves that would have been graced by statues, encloses the tomb of the Apostles Philip and James the Less. There are also the tombs of a couple of other early Christian martyrs, about whom I know nothing.

As far as I can gather, the villa was a sort of 'safe house' during the persecutions. The tomb of the Apostles was kept inside the house so that people could call in to pay their respects, ostensibly as visitors to the householders, but actually retaining a degree of cover for the real purpose of their coming. Seeing its structure today, it is very easy to imagine people being able to slip in and out without attracting too much attention. The main street, visible today, was only a couple of yards away from the tombs.

It is a special privilege to be able to step back in time and, for a few moments, revisit the very foundations of all that I believe. Admittedly, by being in Rome, I have a very precious means of doing that, but I don't need to actually go to a particular place. My real foundation is inside my heart. My real foundation is my God.

God bless,
Sr. Janet