Today we honor the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Our Lord. According to Fr. Zuhlsdorf*, the feast began as the feast of the translation of St. John’s head to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite** (St. Sylvester “in the Head”) in Rome. This basilica was the occasion of a serendipitous event when I was studying Latin with Fr. Reginald “Reggie” Foster, O.C.D., in Rome during the summer of 2007.
I was wandering around the Eternal City a few weeks into the class. Having already visited all of the main pilgrim churches (St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, etc.), I muttered to myself, “I’m surprised I haven’t run into a head of St. John the Baptist. There’s supposed to be one in Rome.” I then looked up and saw a basilica I’d never noticed before, and said, “Really, *another* basilica? How many of these are there? Oh, well, ‘when in Rome.'” Upon entering, I discovered the shrine where they preserve what is purported to be the relic of St. John’s head (definitive proof is lacking).