I arrived at Termini Station in Rome. It was the year of the Jubilee. I wanted to follow the instructions that the Catholic Church imposes on the occasion of the Jubilee. Besides doing a good deed, like giving alms, a pilgrim is asked to visit the catacombs and all four patriarchal churches.
Leaving from the side exit of Termini Station, I walked to the Basilica of Saint Mary the Greatest, and then I kept walking on Merulana Street and visited the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran. From there, I took a bus to the catacombs. When I arrived at the Vatican, I headed for the basements. I meditated for a few minutes before the tomb of Pope John XXIII and made an offering for his beatification.
It was already late. To complete my Jubilee, I needed to visit the Church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. I took the subway and got there in time, a few minutes before the basilica closed.
After having admired the harmonious and austere colonnade outside the church, I went in and stopped briefly to have a look at the splendid mosaics on the ceiling.
While I was admiring the drawings, a gray-haired guy about forty-five years old, with a southern Italian accent, came up to me.
“What about dividing the cost half and half?”
I was surprised by his asking and had a quick look at him to make sure he was a good guy. He wore casual clothes and looked very self-confident. Soon, I recovered from my astonishment.
“If we insert some coins into the slot of this telescope, we can see the mosaics on the ceiling closer.”
“Yes, of course!”
We inserted the coins and admired those gorgeous mosaics. Then, the stranger told me something about the basilica.
“It stands on a place where it is believed that Saint Paul was buried. This basilica is the biggest after Saint Peter’s. The emperor Constantine erected a small building in this place, but the subsequent emperors demolished it to build a new basilica, which lasted until a disastrous fire. This basilica was rebuilt similar to the one before the fire. Under the altar, there is the tomb of Saint Paul.”
“I would like to confess. Have you seen any priests who hear confession?”
“Yes, I saw one near the door on the way out.”
We walked together toward the priest, but he refused to listen to me because it was too late, and the church was about to be closed. Actually, the priest was tired because he had heard confessions all day long, and for him it was enough! So, my new friend and I went out of the church and walked down the street.
On the way, we talked about the Jubilee, morals, and religions.
“There is too much theology in your mind. You should use your heart not your brain!” the stranger said.
“Maybe you are right.”
“Once, I knew two exceptional persons. One of them was Padre Pio, a Franciscan friar with the stigmata in his hands just like Jesus. He bore the signs of Jesus’s passion for fifty years until his death when the stigmata disappeared, and his hands returned to be normal. He had the ability to read people’s minds. He was able to be present simultaneously in two different, distant places. Another remarkable person is Natuzza Evolo. Like Padre Pio, she can read people’s minds. She lives in Paravati, Calabria.”
We said goodbye, and then, he headed for the subway station. I kept hanging about the area. After about half an hour, I saw him again, sitting on a bench, waiting for his train.
“You are here again! Well! Since we meet again and not by chance, I want to give you this gift.”
He took from his pocket a sheet of paper, a little bit crumpled, with writing on the front and back and handed it to me. Meanwhile, the train arrived. Getting on the train, he waved his hand to me and smiled from ear to ear.
The train left. I have never seen that man again in my life, but the precious sheet of paper is still with me. I sat on a bench and unfolded it. It contained a list of forty-four titles of books. Later, just to be on the safe side, I made some photocopies.
The first book in the list was, The Book of Mirdad; the last, Dogen and Soto Zen.
The listed books range over many subjects: literature, philosophy, meditation, cultures, and religions. There are books about Sufism, Gurdjieff, Saint Augustine, Plato, Osho, and so on. The titles are handwritten, so difficult to decipher. Some are almost impossible to read. Yet, there is a bookseller in my hometown who helped me to read the titles. Finally, we deciphered all the titles except two.
From time to time, I give a copy of the list to some friends of mine. So far, I have read more than half of the listed books. I hope to read all of them before the end of my life.
At Termini Station, I collected my baggage from the checkroom, and I then took a train to Paris.
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind