Tag Archives: Sts Peter and Paul

Symbols of Unity and Peace: Peter and Paul

Sts Peter and Paul 4th century Roman catacombsThe saints honored today reveal much about who we are as Christians. Remember Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and Peter as first bishop of Antioch before going to Rome to the first bishop there. Have you ever wondered why they go together? The image used here is an early 4th century image of  Peter and Paul together found in the catacombs of Rome. A friend, Fr Dustin Lyon, an orthodox priest friend offered the following detail on the apostles’ connection.

“[On icons] Peter and Paul exchange the kiss of peace. …The kiss of the first pope [bishop of Rome] and the ‘apostle of the people’ symbolizes the unity of the Church… It was a peace they had managed to establish at the Council of Jerusalem in the year 48, even though the former represented the Church of the Law (circumcised Jews) and the latter the Church of Grace (uncircumcised pagans). Yet at Antioch, when Peter avoids the Gentiles, Paul reprimands him, ‘I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned’ (Galatians 2:11). …They are both represented in all icons in which the apostles are gathered, even events at which Paul was not present.” (Alfredo Tradigo, Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), pg. 267).

The great Augustine, bishop of Hippo teaches:

“This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. ‘For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message.’ (Psalm 19:4) These martyrs realize what they taught: they pursued justice, the confessed the truth, they died for it… Both apostles share the same feast day, but these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and their confession of faith.”

Saints Peter and Paul

The annual liturgical observance of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is an exceptional day for the Christian Church, especially the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. These saints represent for us the founders of the Church in Rome (but in reality the church universal–the church to the nations). Martyrs both; Peter and Paul knew Jesus Christ in very unique ways; both called all of humanity to seek the Lord and to submit to the Lord of the Harvest, the Good Shepherd who cares intimately for each of us.

The sole American metropolitan archbishop –among 23 others– to have received the pallium is His Excellency Archbishop Leonard Paul Blair. Three other archbishops will receive the pallium at another time.

Pope Francis’ is typical of his concern for our encounter with the Lord, and our discernment of how we live what has been given to us (the gospel, tradition, magisterial teaching). He calls you and me to attend to the experience of the apostles in their struggle to follow the Lord faithfully and with conviction. In many ways Francis echoes what Father Carrón of Communion and Liberation taught us in this year’s annual Fraternity Spiritual Exercises (2014) regarding the essential of Christian life: Christ and His mission. “Following” Christ, belonging to Christ is often replaced by our sin and temptation. But as Francis adeptly reminds, we follow the experience of Peter and Paul.

The Holy Father’s homily follows.

Francis at the statue of St Peter June 29 2014On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis.  Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11).  When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church.  There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people.  While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8).  The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him.  Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains.  Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free.  Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid?  What are we afraid of?  And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security?  Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power?  Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security?  Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God.  Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation.  Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17).  Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion.  Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal.  Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17).  Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials.  He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning.  Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”.  He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles.  Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity.  Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13).  He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace.  The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter.  He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21).  But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22).  This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops.  Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me!  Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me.  Follow me without regard for the difficulties.  Follow me in preaching the Gospel.  Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders.  Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends.  Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Remembering the Church of Rome

Francis on SS Peter and Paul.jpg






May God grant us to achieve as soon as possible the full unity of all believers in Christ. May we obtain this gift through the Apostles Peter and Paul, who are remembered by the church of Rome this day that commemorates their martyrdom and therefore their birth to life in God. For the sake of the Gospel they accepted suffering and death, and sharers in the Lord’s resurrection. Their faith, confirmed by martyrdom is the same faith as that of Mary, mother of believers, of the Apostles and of the saints of every age.

Blessed John Paul II

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Today is a perfect day to pray for the Pope and our bishop. It is also a perfect day to pray for Christian unity and to pick up a good book on the Church’s history. Perhaps even pray with Matthew 16.

pietro-paolo.jpg

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that we may be sustained by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that, as through them you gave your Church the foundations of her heavenly office, so through them you may help her to eternal salvation.


From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop

The martyrs realized what they taught

This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message. These martyrs realized what they taught: they pursued justice, they confessed the truth, they died for it.

Saint Peter, the first of the apostles and a fervent lover of Christ, merited to hear these words: I say to you that you are Peter, for he had said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Christ said: And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. On this rock I will build the faith that you now confess, and on your words: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church. For you are Peter, and the name Peter comes from petra, the word for “rock,” and not vice versa. “Peter” comes, therefore, from petra, just as “Christian” comes from Christ.

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Apostles’ Fast 2013

Ss Peter and Paul coptic.jpeg

Recently on the Sunday of All Saints (26 May 2013) –the Byzantine Church observes a different feast of All Saints than do the Latin Christians– the Eparch (the Greek word for bishop) of the Melkites in the in the USA, Bishop Nicholas James Samra wrote to his people about preparing for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Yes, some Catholics do make preparations for other feasts!

One of the reasons I am drawing our attention to this matter is two-fold: 1.) being Catholic is more than merely following the Latin Church’s disciple — we can learn from others; and 2.) the discipline of those who belong to Christ is more than merely praying, fasting, and almsgiving for selfish reasons, that is, these spiritual activities are to break open our spiritual capacities. Remember what John Paul taught: Christians breathe with two lungs.

The liturgical feast of Ss. Peter and Paul is traditionally preceded by a period of concerted prayer and fasting. These saints –indeed, all of the apostles– are the pillars of our Church. In times past the period of fasting was significant while today it is much modified. The controlling idea is that before an important feast of the Lord, the Mother of God and some saints, the faithful are encouraged to prepare themselves to receive God’s graces in a worthy manner. We prepare by getting rid of sin and living virtuously: corporal and spiritual works of mercy are good things to do.

Bishop Nicholas recalls for us that the Monday after Sunday of All Saints the Byzantine Church begins a time of prayer and fasting leading us to the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June.  But now the preparation is modified to 10 days by the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Fittingly, the bishop notes: “We are given this “Apostles Fast” in order to fan into flame the grace of the Holy Spirit within us and to reflect upon the hardships endured by the Apostles as they preached Divine grace and truth to the world.”

Faith needs to be connected with reality. This is the context in which God acts. Several things in our own lives can and ought to be connected with life. Bishop Nicholas indicates that one good way to extrovert our faith by having some sense human ecology on the spiritual level is remember those suffering the effects of the war in Syria. Certainly, we pray for all but special attention to be paid to the Catholics and Orthodox peoples.

Hence, the proposal is to begin our spiritual discipline on June 19. I recommend that you make a confession of sin and receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope’s intention for June, and name the intentions. Select a charitable organization to to make a donation of funds.

Perhaps we can also use the Apostles’ Fast to pray for those living with cancer. I am thinking of my friend Jesuit Father Edward Oakes who is in need of a miracle due to his recent diagnosis of Type 4 pancreatic and liver cancer.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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