Them Bones, Them Bones

Santa maria.jpeg

Massimiliano Floridi, deacon at the Church of Santa Maria of Capella teared up.  His church the old Jewish quarter of Rome, Trastevere is one that most tourists don't even mark on their maps to visit.  The discovery was beyond words.  And maybe that's what makes this such a good mystery.

Recently a workman pried up a marble slab next to the medieval altar only to spy two clay pots.  Of course he could tell they were old.  So he called in an expert at reading the markings on the sides.  Everyone was shocked when the names were Cornelius, Callixtus and Felix--the names of three very early popes.  And then there was one more.  Peter.  Seriously?  Like the real St. Peter?  Uh-uh.

But are they really the bone fragments of the head-strong Cephas?  It's hard to say because after World War II and just up the road under the famed Seat of Peter within St. Peter's Basilica there was found a little casket with the words "Petros eni", or "Peter is here" written upon it.  Those remains were examined in the 1960s and experts decided that they belonged to a man in his early sixties who lived in the first century AD. No certainty, just possibility.

Did they get identification wrong?  Probably not.  It seems that the Popes actually doled out the fragments of the saints.  And just before the Crusades there was actually a rivalry for who got to wear the Pope's Mitre.  So, it has been taught that Pope Urban actually hid parts of his most precious stash in a church in Trastevere.  More specifically, the Church of Santa Maria.

Provable?  No.  Possible?  Absolutely!  Isn't it time for a trip to go exploring for ourselves?


Unseen Hands


        At first I thought I got some bad curry.  Then I noticed water in my glass was sloshing up the sides.  Lee Ann came in and asked if I was feeling the earthquake.  I had felt tremors in California, but nothing like this.  We rushed down the stairs from our third floor walk-up in case the building was bending and getting ready to collapse.  Once outside we noticed our little SUV was rocking and pitching noticeably in our driveway.  And it didn't quit.

      As it turns out, the epicenter was in Nepal.  600 miles away from us.  Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country worth your frequent-flier miles.  But not then.  Since it is a country of steep-sided slopes, falling homes cascaded down hillside after hillside like angry deluges of rain water. And the world responded with convoys of planeloads and trucks packed full of essential blankets, food, fuel, and tools necessary to build again.

      A different sort of earthquake has struck.  The Nepalese personality is the most apt caricature of a population.  Gracious, welcoming, and kind.  And even though there had been bouts of oppression against non-native faiths in the past, the generous spirit of the place usually reigned.  Until last week when a fearsome ban against not only re-thinking one's faith, but also changing allegiance became the law.  Now it appears that even inviting open discussions sets one up for long imprisonments and onerous fines.  

     What's behind the militarism towards alternative faith?  Think with a map in your hand.  A powerful neighbor who has an economic hegemony is not only flexing its muscles within its own borders, but it extending its stretch across the dotted border lines.  Theirs are the unseen hands.  

      So visit this gorgeous place.  And when you do, pray for it.  And for wonderful men and women who as they keep smiling and feeding their neighbors must weigh on loyalty to the commands of their land and their devotion to their lord.  

Better Enjoy the Taj Mahal Soon


The city of Agra doesn't have a lot going for it.  Only two possibilities.  The first is the Red Fort where the builder of the Taj Mahal was imprisoned by his son because he was afraid Dad was going to fritter away his inheritance on a duplicate, black mirror image of the grand building across the river.    It's not bad.  And then the truly staggering, almost translucent Taj Mahal itself.

If visiting Agra was on your bucket list, you'd better move it up to the top soon because it may not be there long.  Here's why:  The fiercely nationalistic political party (the BJP) and its revolutionary philosophical arm are trying to minimize or eradicate all things they feel muffle the triumphant Hindu narrative.  Since the Taj was created by a love-sick Muslim visionary and not a Hindu, its story must be radically re-written or its physical structure re-cast.

Here's a link to an insightful and accurate article.   It not only explains what's going on with the Taj, but a fascinating window into Indian politics.

So... if you're interested in seeing it soon, as well as so many other wondrous displays you simply can't see anywhere else, let me know!