ST. PAUL’S BASILICA HOSTS BODY OF ST. TIMOTHY
As I entered St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls yesterday afternoon to attend Mass offered by the bishops of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in Rome for their ad limina visit, I glanced at one of the side altars and noticed a beautiful glass case that held the body of someone clad in red vestments. It had not been there last week when I went to another Mass with U.S. bishops.
Mass was about to start so I did not explore any further but I did go back afterwards and was astonished and delighted to see that the figure was St. Timothy, one of St. Paul’s most beloved followers and disciples! I sat and prayed a while and took some pictures and, as I was about to leave, I saw that a number of priests were hearing confession and, on my way to a confessional, I saw an entire exhibit on St. Timothy whose body is on loan from its resting place in the cathedral of Termoli, Italy.
A gentleman from Termoli (nicknamed the Timothean City) who had accompanied the body and the exhibit, told me the story and gave me two small booklets about Timothy.
I remarked that the saint had not been in the basilica last week and he said it had only been a few days and that this Sunday, January 26, St. Timothy will be in St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope Francis’ Mass for the first Sunday of the Word of God. It will stay in the basilica for a brief period so if you are in Rome as you read this column, go as soon after Sunday as you can (or go Sunday afternoon).
Tuesday was a day of real grace in so many ways, including confession, my last act of the day.
Here is Timothy’s story from the Termoli website:
Timothy, martyr Saint and Patron of Termoli, together with St. Basso, was a disciple of the Apostle St. Paul. The life of St. Timothy is described in the same sources that narrate the life of St. Paul. Its relics, together with the relics of St. Basso, are housed in the Cathedral of Termoli and there is no doubt about their authenticity.
For more than seven centuries, the Church of Termoli has honored St. Timothy and venerated the relic of the skull preserved in the bishop’s palace. He is still a little-known Saint, although he has been cited many times in the New Testament, especially in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles of Paul, who also addressed to him, according to tradition, two letters.
Paul remained attached to Timothy for the rest of his life, considering him as a person capable of representing him in delicate circumstances of the life of some young Christian communities (Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Corinth) to correct errors and suppress controversy, teaching them the effectiveness of divine inspiration. From about 35-40 years old, he was also bishop of Ephesus, the most populous capital of the Roman province of Asia on the western coast of Turkey, where he died a martyr because he was opposed to the vulgarities and disadvantages of some pagan cults; for this reason it is often represented with the palm of victory received from God.
On May 11, 1945, a small burial recess was found during work in the crypt of the Cathedral of Termoli. The burial recess, covered by a marble tombstone, was placed near the right apse of the church. On the lower side of the commemorative plaque there was the following Latin inscription: “In the name of Christ. Amen. In the year of the Lord 1239. Here rest in peace the body of the blessed Timothy disciple of the blessed Apostle, hidden by the venerable Bishop Stephen together with the Chapter of Termoli”.
Studies and research recognized the relics of St. Timothy as authentic. In honor of the Saint a church was also erected in the center whose main entrance is on Corso Fratelli Brigida. The church of St. Timothy was built by the Bishop Oddo Bernacchia in 1954. It has a neogothic structure with a single nave and it was built on the design of engineer Ugo Sciarretta. The church was one of the first churches built in reinforced concrete without central columns, for this it is cited also in the history books of art. The central location of the church in the city suggests to inhabitants and visitors the possibility of spiritual comfort every time (they visit). In fact, during the summer time the church remains open until midnight to give the opportunity to visit the exhibition about Timothy.
The celebration in honor of St. Timothy takes place on May 11. In 2017, in order to highlight the closeness between the diocese of Termoli-Larino and the Orthodox religion that Timothy venerated, there was also an Orthodox celebration. Like all the years, the event ended with the procession along the streets of the city and the joint participation of Orthodox bishops who arrived in Termoli specifically for the celebration.