Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles ~ Feast day June 29
Saints Peter and Paul are the principle pillars of the Church founded by
Christ. Saint Peter was chosen by Christ to be his first Vicar on earth.
He was endowed with powers of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt
16:13-19) and charged with the role of Shepherd of Christ's flock (Jn
21:15-17). In St. Peter and his successors, we have a visible sign of
unity and communion in faith and charity. Divine grace led St. Peter to
profess Christ's divinity.
St. Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in about the year 64 AD. He was
buried at the hill of the Vatican; recent excavations have revealed his
tomb on the very site of St. Peter's Basilica.
Saint Paul was chosen to form part of the apostolic college by Christ
himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-16). Selected to bring
Christ's name to all peoples (Acts 9:15), he is the greatest missionary
of all time, the advocate of pagans, the Apostle of the Gentiles. St.
Paul was beheaded in the Tre Fontane along the Via Ostiense and buried
nearby, on the site where the basilica bearing his name now stands.
Peter (d. 64 & 67)
St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He
has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to
Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the
Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in
Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along
the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles,
chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and
John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a
dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was
cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover
before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.
And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly
Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail
against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on
earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).
But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering
details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations
person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter
also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.
Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests
a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in
doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body
cleansed. He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects
to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an
obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings
do" (Matthew 16:23b). He swears at the Last Supper that he will never
deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known
the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting
off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others.
In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives
him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter
to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17).
If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that
the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution,
the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started
preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic
of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly
appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and
Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save
humanity. Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he
carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law
without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the
parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the
children of the promise.
In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced
(among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.
Previous Holy Day
Next Holy Day