From 'Mementoes of the Martyrs' : "...which provoked a Frenchman who was there to comment on the strange ways of the English, "those who are for the pope are hanged, those who are against him are burned:"                                               Saint John-Paul II wrote: "The fact that one can die for the faith shows that other demands of the faith can also be met."                                                 Cardinal Müller says, “For the real danger to today’s humanity is the greenhouse gases of sin and the global warming of unbelief and the decay of morality when no one knows and teaches the difference between good and evil.”                                                  St Catherine of Siena said, “We've had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues - I see the world is rotten because of silence.”                                                  Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”                                                Brethren, Wake up!


Tomorrow, 23rd February, is the third Feast of our beloved Patron, the First Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist, given in the Martyrology, but sadly not observed as a Feast in our Missal.

The story is by nature complicated, but in a nutshell, following his Martyrdom, Herodias forbade the burial of the Saint's body and Head together. Tradition relates that Saint John's body was buried in Sebaste, near Mount Nablus. Herodias is thought to have thrown the Head onto a dung heap at Machaerus, Herod's Palace where her harlot daughter danced. Some then recount that the wife of Herod's Steward took the head and reburied it on the Mount of Olives. Other stories exits, that it was buried in Jerusalem.  Some time in the 5th century it was found through the working of miracles around it, and Holy Mother Church is of the view that this Head is now in Rome, at the Church of San Silvestro in Capite. The Orthodox believe the head was taken to Constantinople, where it was again lost during wars. It was found a second time, around 450, translated to Constantinople, and in some accounts Walter de Sarton bought it thence to Amiens Cathedral during the Fourth Crusade, where it is still venerated. In 850 Patriarch Ignatius reportedly saw a vision of the resting place of the Head, and again took it to Constantinople, where it remains. Catholics are free to believe whatever part of all this they wish. Scepticism of conflicting historical records should not however diminish our duty of veneration to our Holy Patron, whose life and witness is clearly attended in Holy Scripture and by Tradition. It is perfectly consonant with doctrine and piety to venerate all three Heads, each is a sacred object, the subject of long veneration.

As our readers will most probably know, from early times, certainly by Rhodes, the Order had a relic of the Hand of Saint John. This survived Napoleon, and was taken to Russia by 'Grand Master' Tsar Peter, but was lost during the Second World War. It had accompanied, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Icon of Our Lady of Philermo, now discovered in Montenegro. Again, we may believe what we wish.

The Church of San Silvestro in Capite is five minutes' walk from the Grand Magistry of our Order in Via dei Condotti. All members of the Order with their heads screwed on straight would do well to visit it regularly when they are in Rome, it will bring Order to our crazy world.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

The painting above is Caravaggio's 'Salome with the Head of Saint John'