Saints Peter and Paul are two of the most well known Saints! They each played a special and important role in building up the early Church.
Saint Peter was a simple fisherman but then Jesus called him and Peter followed! Peter became the leader of the apostles and the very first Pope. There are many beautiful stories about Saint Peter. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration of Jesus; Peter witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles first-hand; and he even walked on water! Peter was also present during the Agony in the Garden. Saint Peter was one of the first to proclaim that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Many of us might identify closely to Peter because he was often impulsive, reckless, or confused. He was truly human! There is a beautiful quote saying,
“God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
Peter may not have seemed qualified but Jesus sees deeper than humans do. We often see only others’ surface value. Jesus sees deep into our hearts. Peter may have failed often, he even denied Jesus – three times – but in the end, however, he remained steadfast to Jesus, whom he loved very much, and eventually died a martyr. The Romans were going to crucify Peter, but when he realized this, he asked them to crucify him upside down because he did not think he was worthy to die in the exact same way as Jesus!
How good God is! He knows our hearts and if we turn to Him in repentance, just as Peter did, we will find mercy and healing. Jesus waits for us with open arms and asks us all with Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” and “Do you love me?” Let us always answer with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” With these two confessions comes the responsibility to live our lives for Jesus and, if necessary, give our lives for Him.
Apostle to the Gentiles
Saint Paul is a powerful testament to the power of Jesus and of the great love God has for each one of us. Paul – when he was still called Saul – persecuted Christians very much. One day, Saul was traveling and a great light from Heaven surrounded him. From this light he heard a voice say,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
This was Jesus speaking and soon after, Saul was baptized and received the name Paul. Paul spent the rest of his life bringing the Good News to the Gentiles.
Paul was dedicated to his work. All of the energy he had put into persecuting Christians, he placed into converting the Gentiles. God can take all of us, no matter what we have done, and work great things through us! Paul eventually gave his life for the truth he so strongly believed in. After a lengthy imprisonment, he was sent to Rome. Because he was a Roman citizen, he was beheaded just outside the walls of Rome.
There is a legend about the martyrdom of Saint Paul that says after he was beheaded his head bounced three times. It is believed that water sprung from each of the three places his head touched. Today, there is a Church around this site, known as the Church of Saint Paul at the Three Fountains.
Another legend says that Paul was also buried outside the walls of Rome where the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls stands today.
What We Celebrate
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul commemorates the martyrdom of these two great and powerful Saints. In the Latin rite, this feast on June 29, is a Holy Day of Obligation. In some places, this feast is a public holiday!
According to a legend, Peter and Paul were martyred on the same day, and so that is why they both share the feast day of June 29! Historically, it is believed that Peter was martyred in 64 AD while Paul was martyred in 67 AD.
This feast day is a wonderful day to pray especially for our Pope and for all of our Priests, Bishops, and missionaries. Making Christ known and loved throughout the world is not an easy job but it is a mission in which we are all called, in some way or another, to take part. We can ask for the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul in spreading the Gospel of Christ to all those we encounter!
The best way to celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is to go to Mass and/or say a special prayer for our Pope, priests, and bishops. They need our prayers much more than we may think! Catholic Culture has some excellent recipes and activities that children and families might enjoy. Catholic Cuisine also has a variety of recipe ideas not just for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul but for many other feast days as well!
We Are All Called
The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul should remind us of our call to be witnesses. Jesus calls all of us to love Him, follow Him, and bring Him to others. We must not be afraid to make Christ known and loved throughout the world just like Saints Peter and Paul did. They both gave their lives for Jesus in the ultimate sacrifice. These two men show us that it does not matter how much we have failed – it is never too late to turn towards Christ! He is the WAY that will lead us to Heaven and Eternal Life!
“Every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Oscar Wilde