Saints Peter and Paul
The feast of Saints Peter and Paul is a ceremonial feast in honour of their martyrdom, their service being held on the 29th June, and we at St Francis commemorate on Sunday the 30th
As early as the year 258, there was evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the anniversary these two saints on the same day, either because of their deaths being on the same day or close or because of the movements of some of their relics.
Together the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome, (the focal point or area for the Bishop of Rome or the Pope and for Catholic bishops and peoples around the world) also through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom there.
Peter who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee and was introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew, he was also a fisherman.
Jesus gave him the name Cephas which means ‘rock’ because he was later to become the rock on which Jesus would build his church.
Peter was a bold follower of Jesus. He was the first to recognise that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God and pledged his loyalty until his death, however he did make many mistakes, such as losing his faith when walking on water with Jesus and betraying Jesus on the night of his passion.
Yet despite these mistakes, Peter was chosen to lead Gods flock. The Act of the Apostles tells us about his role as head of the Church after the Resurrection and Jesus’s Ascension. Peter led the Apostles and became the first Pope, always making sure that the disciples kept the true faith.
St Peter spent his final years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually being martyred in the year 64.
By his own request he was crucified upside-down, because he said that he was not worthy do die as Jesus had done.
He was buried on Vatican Hill, and St Peter’s Basilica is built over his tomb.
(Saint) Paul was known as the Apostle of the Gentiles (persons who is not Jewish).
His letters are included in the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church.
Long before receiving the name Paul, his name was Saul, he was a Jewish pharisee (a member of a strict, ancient, Jewish sect) who persecuted Christians in Jerusalem, and Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St Stephen, (he was a deacon in the early church of Jerusalem, stoned to death, and was the first person of Christianity to become a saint)
Saul’s conversion took place as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there, as he was traveling, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven, he was blinded and fell of his horse.
He then heard a voice saying ‘Saul Saul, why do you persecute me?’ Saul answered, ‘Who are you Lord’? Christ said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting’.
Saul continued on to Damascus, where he was baptised and his sight was restored.
He took the name Paul and spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world.
Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome, where he was beheaded in the year 67.
He is buried in Rome in the Basilica of St Paul, outside the walls.
In his sermon in the year 395, St Augustine of Hippo said of Sts Peter and Paul, both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one, and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first and then Paul followed, and so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostle’s blood. Let us embrace what they believed in their life, their labor and their suffering, their preaching and their confessions of faith.
Just as a note, St Augustine of Hippo was a Roman African, an early Christian theologian and philosopher, his writing influenced the development of the western Christianity and Western philosophy.