Over the last year we have been celebrating here in Rome, the Anno Paolino or rather, the Year of Saint Paul of Tarsus. This is to mark the bimillenium (that’s 2000 years to the rest of us) of his birth. And so, all of the churches around most of the Christian world have devoted programs surrounding this great man, his writings and so on.
And so it came as such a befitting ending to this year of celebration that it was announced that it is, in fact, Saint Paul who is buried underneath the altar of Saint Paul Outside the Walls; purportedly, the place where he was lain following his martyrdom by beheading. An altar of sorts had sprung up outside the walls, and the place was heaped in legend. ‘Til one day, they built the magnificent Basilica to St. Paul.
But they never knew for sure if someone was really resting in peace around those parts. So, in what can be nothing short of a miracle, there they were, working away – even on Sunday – having seemingly turned their plowshares into light sabers -- to uncover the truth behind the body at Saint Paul’s. And, lo and behold! Right on schedule (even if calendars may have changed somewhat since his time), there we were, on the Feast Day of Saint Paul and the last day in the Anno Paolino, we got the word straight from the Pope's mouth about this magnificent discovery. Doesn’t get much more apropos than that.
Although one could comment, in the marketing-challenged world that is Italy, it might have made a bit more sense to dish the dirt (figuratively) at the start of the Pauline year, and not the end...may have gone a long way to bringing in more hordes of pilgrims.
But, funny thing about those lasers and carbon dating equipment, though. They can’t quite peg the Shroud of Turin to be the Medieval rag that it is ("results inconclusive"), nor can they quite figure out if the tears of blood cried by the statue of the Madonna each year in Naples is really kool-aid, but, as for Saint Paul, it's pretty definitive—even though the body was not exhumed for the purpose.
The Lord does, indeed, work in mysterious ways.