( – In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b).

Here is a video I did for “Joan’s Rome” on the Roman basilica named for this Apostle: (10) Joan’s Rome – St. Bartholomew – YouTube

Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).

Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.


Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary—without thereby being demeaned—to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word Made Flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.

The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God. (franciscan media image)

(JFL: His depiction in “The Chosen” is very interesting, if you have followed this TV series – he is called in Season Two)



For a well-balanced presentation of Pope Francis’ motu proprio on the Traditional Latin Mass that abrogated most previous norms on this Mass, read this by Abp. Augustine Di Noia, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:


This is one of my favorite feast days for a number of reasons! A few years ago I began to research Mary Magdalene’s life and story immediately after I visited the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, very close to my home, where there is a reliquary containing bones from the left foot of Mary Magdalene. I’d gone to San Giovanni a number of times before learning of the relic, principally to attend Mass and it was only one day when I decided to actually visit the church, its side altars, etc, that I discovered the reliquary! A priest there gave me a small booklet to read on the relic and that, and additional research, led me to the following story, a truly amazing tale.

San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini – St John the Baptist of the Florentines – is known as the regional church for expatriates from Florence whose patron saint is John the Baptist. There was a flourishing expat Florentine community in Rome in the mid-15th century, featuring the bankers and artists for which the city was famous. This community was concentrated on a bend of the Tiber river where the church stands today.

San Giovanni was built for the first Medici Pope, Leo X, who started a competition for the church’s construction. Great numbers of famous artists participated in the project but the building was on-again off-again for a few centuries. Two of the most celebrated artists are buried here – Carlo Maderno and Francesco Borromini.

However, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini is most well known for its relic of bones of the foot of St. Mary Magdalene that rests in a shrine to the left of the main sanctuary.

Historians seem to agree that Mary Magdalene died and was buried in Ephesus and that, given historical vicissitudes, her body – or parts of it, what we will call relics – was brought to Constantinople, then to the south of France and, finally Rome. How the relics got to the south of France seems to be the biggest mystery – not all legends agree.

One story, in fact, says Mary Magdalene lived in a cave in the south of France where she died.

In any event, the historical account found in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini says her body was sent by ship from Sainte Baume in Provence to Rome where her left foot was removed according to the Greek tradition that this is always the first foot that rises when you enter the after life. Her foot came to rest in St. Peter’s Basilica with other passion relics. For many years, pilgrims who came to Rome to visit the tomb of Peter would first stop to venerate the foot of St Mary Magdalene who was the first person to enter the tomb of the risen. This foot was first kept in a precious reliquary made by master silver- and gold-smith Benvenuto Cellini.

More historical vicissitudes and the foot finally came to rest in San Giovanni dei Fiorentini – but only in 1984   – where it was buried away in a closet, to be discovered only in the year 2000 when San Giovanni began work on its Museum of Sacred Art! You really want to see Mary Magdalene’s foot and the Museum next time you are in Rome.

Indeed an amazing story! And here’s another one….

The Sunday before Memorial Day 2018, after the 6 pm Mass in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini I had one of the most moving and amazing experiences of my life. Ambassador Callista Gingrich and her husband Newt were also at this Mass and I asked them afterwards if they knew the church housed an astonishing relic – the left foot of St. Mary Magdalene.

I brought them to the shrine and explained the story, which I had recently researched for one of my “Joan’s Rome” videos. As we were about to leave, the sacristan came up to me and, with a huge smile and holding a key in one hand, asked if we’d like to see the relic up close. Well, of course we wanted to!

He opened the shrine and then – the truly amazing moment of the evening! He took the Cellini reliquary out, showed it to us and handed it to me! What is not visible when the reliquary is inside the shrine is the glass-covered opening that reveals the bones of Mary Magdalene’s foot!

Photos by Amb. Gingrich:

A close-up of the reliquary. On top of the foot is a small opening, protected by glass and suitably covered by a kind of seal, under which are the bones of St. Mary Magdalene’s foot.-



I am holding the reliquary –



Today marks the 39th anniversary of the day Pope John Paul was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the start of a Wednesday general audience. In a separate column later today, I post my memories of that day. Stay tuned!


In his second general audience catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis this morning said, “we now consider its essential characteristics. Prayer involves our entire being yearning for some ‘other’ beyond ourselves. Prayer is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some ‘other’. It is an ‘I’ in search of a ‘You’.”.

“Specifically,” said Francis, speaking from the library of the Apostolic Palace, “Christian prayer is born from the realization that the ‘other’ we are seeking has been revealed in the tender face of Jesus, who teaches us to call God ‘Father’, and who wants personally to enter into a relationship with us.”

The Holy Father explained that, “In his farewell discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus no longer calls his disciples servants but friends. When we commune with God in prayer, we need not be fearful, for he is a friend, a trusted ally. Whatever our situation, or however poorly we may think of ourselves, God is always faithful, and willing to embrace us in mercy.

Francis highlighted God’s love, “We see this unconditional love on Calvary, for the Lord never stops loving, even to the end. Let us seek to pray by entering into this mystery of God’s unending Covenant with us. This is the burning heart of every Christian prayer: entrusting ourselves to the loving and merciful arms of our heavenly Father.”

After the catechesis in Italian, monsignori from the Secretariat of State gave summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, a well as greetings from the Pope in those languages.


During today’s weekly general audience, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray to Our Lady, reminding everyone that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (vaticannews)

“Today we celebrate the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Pope Francis in his greetings to Polish-speaking listeners at the weekly audience. “We turn our thoughts to the apparitions and its message transmitted throughout the world,” he added.

Pope Francis also recalled the attack on the life of Pope St. John Paul II in 1981. He pointed out that his predecessor experienced “the maternal intervention of the Holy Virgin” in sparing his life.

The Pope also said that Monday, May 18 marks the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth. He said that he will celebrate his morning Mass that day on the altar over the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Let us thank God for giving us this saintly Bishop of Rome,” he said, “and ask him to help us: that he might help this Church of Rome to convert and strive ahead.”

Pope Francis then went on to pray for peace in the world, the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and the spirit of penance and conversion for the world through the intercession of Our Lady.

The Holy Father invited the Italian-speaking faithful to have constant recourse to Our Lady’s help, so that everyone might persevere in the love of God and neighbor. He prayed especially for the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Invitation to pray the Rosary
In his greetings to Portuguese-speaking faithful tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis urged Catholics to try to live this month of May with a more intense and faithful daily prayer. He pointed out that the prayer of the Rosary is one of the desires repeatedly expressed by Our Lady at Fatima: “Under her protection, the pains and afflictions of life will be more bearable.”

Love of neighbor
Addressing German-speaking faithful, Pope Francis noted that the many examples of the love of God for us are a “strong invitation to love all the people we meet,” especially in this time of social-distancing due to Covid-19. He prayed that the Holy Spirit might fill us with charity and joy.

Our Lady of Fatima
Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three Portuguese children – Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, in a cove near Fatima, in Portugal. In those apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to pray the Rosary for the world and for the conversion of sinners.

Pope St. John Paul II visited Fatima three times – in 1982, 1991 and 2000. During his 2000 visit, he beatified Jacinta and Francisco. The liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated annually on May 13.



Did you ever meet Pope John Paul II? In Rome or during a papal trip? Do you have some great memory or story about that meeting? Perhaps you know someone who had an encounter – a moment that embraced the Pope’s sense of humor, his humanity, his kindness to newlyweds, his enthusiasm and love for young people, his love and concern for the suffering. If so, send me that story at:


Today, October 22 is the feast day of the much-loved St. John Paul II. Elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978, his pontificate was inaugurated six days later on October 22.

For almost 27 years, millions followed this robust, dynamic, peripatetic pontiff, the first non-Italian in well over 400 years, as they continued to do even when his health was in a clear state of decline. He traveled the globe, meeting tens of millions, and millions more came to Rome for a weekly audience, the Sunday Angelus, a special event, a papal Mass or for Holy Week liturgies.

For all who knew or met him, John Paul II was the Catholic Church’s equivalent of a rock star. He initiated World Youth Day and the young of the world flocked to hear their spiritual “grandfather” speak of the beauty of the faith, of vocations, of serving the Church that Jesus founded. And they answered in good numbers. It was always wonderful to hear the Vatican, in its post-WYD reports, announce the number of aspirants to the priesthood and religious life that came from a particular WYD.

John Paul’s clarity of teaching was a true and lasting gift to the Church. His writings on the defense of life, justice and human rights, his teachings on marriage, his penetrating analysis of human love and responsibility, his urging of peoples to create and embrace a “culture of life,” his look at the meaning and value of human suffering, his examination of man’s capacity for good and evil, his clear denunciation of the separation of faith and reason…I could go on and on!

I wrote about the John Paul papacy for many years for many publications, including the National Catholic Register (for which I was the first Rome bureau chief!). I covered his being shot in St Peter’s Square, his long convalescence and the trial of the Turk who tried to kill him, Mehmet Ali Agca. And many, many more events.

Then, one day, I was asked to work for the newly established Vatican Information Service, part of the Holy See Press Office. I was privileged beyond telling in those years, including being appointed a member of four Holy See delegations to United Nations conferences in Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing and Istanbul.

I was privileged to meet Pope John Paul on a score of occasions in those years. And to make chocolate chip cookies for him on perhaps that many occasions!

Working for the Vatican in the final months, weeks and days of John Paul’s papacy and life was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and certainly one of the saddest.

My mind’s eye recalls hundreds of special moments during that historical papacy. And fortunately, the camera of L’Osservatore Romano photographer Arturo Mari captured a goodly number of those moments.

The first time I met Pope John Paul was for Mass in his chapel in December 10, 1985.  Some day I will be telling that surprising story!

The last time was December 14, 2004, in the Apostolic Palace when Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls brought the entire staff to meet the Pope to mark Joaquin’s 20th anniversary as head of the press office. And lots of occasions in between!

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That 2004 December morning, before we left for the papal audience, I learned how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Polish. I wrote my phonetic version of the Polish words on a post-it note that I kept in my hand and when I met John Paul, I expressed my Christmas wishes in Polish. Navarro-Valls later told me that was the loveliest thing I could have done, saying I was the only one for whom the Pope raised his head (he had suffered mobility problems for months)!

Thanks for the memories, St. John Paul! Totus tuus!