The Catholic Defender: A Roman noblewoman named Matrona Lucilla
April 22, 2020
During St. Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 20:2, Romans 16:23) while still in Greece, St. Paul was seeking to visit Rome. Acts 20:4 we see St. Paul ending his third missionary campaign in Jerusalem bringing tithing from other lands for the poor (Acts 24:17).
It wasn't long before St. Paul would have issues with the Jewish Authorities that near riots began to take place against him. St. Paul would literally be saved by Roman officials who took him to safety. Under a heavy guard of 470 Soldiers (Acts 23:23) St. Paul was taken to Caesarea confined in the palace of King Herod. After two years of interrogations St. Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen appealing to Caesar (Acts:11-12).
Roman 1:8 St. Paul states, "First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world." Imagine the expectation of the Roman Church to hear such praise coming from St. Paul who was preparing to make his way to Rome.
For about two years, St. Paul was under house arrest, there, he had much notoriety among the people. How St. Paul wanted St. Timothy to come visit him, he did have St. Luke and Onesiphorus who aided him while in chains.
St. Eusebius wrote about St Paul "After defending himself the Apostle was again set on the ministry of preaching…coming a second time to the same city [Paul] suffered martyrdom under Nero. During this imprisonment he wrote the second Epistle to Timothy." (Eccl Hist. 2.22.2)
Knowing his time was short, St. Paul wrote St. Timothy, "For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance." (2 Timothy 4:6-9)
Eusebius goes on to report “that in Nero’s time Paul was beheaded in Rome itself and that Peter was likewise crucified." (Eccl Hist. 2.25.5)
It is believed that St. Paul's martyrdom occurred during the reign of the Emperor Nero, the very same day, even the very same year (not for certain with different opinions) as St. Peter. According to St. Dionysius the Corinthian, he relates that St. Paul's death was "at the same time" or "about the same time."
If you were to go to Rome today, many around the world do everyday, you can see the traditional site believed to be where St. Paul was executed by order of Nero by beheading. This was because St. Paul was a Roman citizen.
St. Peter was crucified because he was a Jew. Peter did not believe he was worthy to die as Jesus did so they crucified him upside down.
The Abbey of the Three Fountains is believed where St. Paul's head landed three times before coming to rest. A spring sprouted up where the head of St. Paul had landed in those three places. Did St. Paul's executioner become a Catholic through the signs he witnessed? Considering many conversion took place because of the Apostles testimony of Jesus and the signs and wonders the Lord worked through them, it would not be surprising.
The contributions of St. Paul are vast as he became the "Apostle to the Gentiles" traveling the known Roman world changing human history. Two of his "Co-workers" would become future Popes (Linus and Clement) and two others (Timothy and Titus) would become Bishops. In St. Paul's travels he had been beaten, stoned, experiencing many hardships.
There were nearly 100 people named in the New Testament that were "Co-workers" with St. Paul who was made an Apostle by the Lord for our benefit. St. Paul was the primary author of 13 books (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus) and possibly Hebrews.
St. Paul's body was taken by the faithful to a nearby tomb owned by Matrona Lucilla, a Roman noblewoman who was an early convert to the Faith through the preaching of Peter and Paul. St. Paul, much like the Lord Jesus whom Paul served, was placed in a tomb much like Jesus was.
Over the site, Constantine build a large basilica much like he did over that place St. Peter died.
Giorgio Filippi, the archaeologist of the Vatican Museum, supervised and directed an effort after the report of Matrona Lucilla's tomb was rediscovered beneath Romes second largest basilica. There lies in a stone carved coffin what is believed to be the remains of St. Paul. Mr Filippi would continue, "For now we didn't open the sarcophagus to study the contents. Our aim was to unearth the coffin venerated as St. Paul's tomb, not to authenticate the remains..."
My Mother named me after St. Timothy who played a major role with St. Paul in spreading the Catholic Faith in the Roman world. What a legacy she gave me!