Princes of the Apostles
We remember today the two Princes of the Apostles, St Peter and St Paul through whom the Church first received the Faith. Both died as martyrs in Rome about thirty years after the death of Our Lord, and for this reason we wear red vestments in remembrance of the shedding of their blood for the Faith.
St Peter was appointed by Christ to be the head of the Church on earth. Our Lord changed Simon’s name to Peter since Peter means ‘rock’. Hence after Peter had confessed JESUS to be “the Son of the living God”, Our Lord said to him, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” Christ is, of course, the Head of the Church but Peter became the visible head on earth after Our Lord’s Ascension, and the reigning Pope is Peter for us today. Hence the famous Latin saying, “Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia.” “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” The Papacy is the sign of the true Church, and Pope Francis is the 265th Successor of St Peter.
St Paul went off and preached to the non-Jews. Originally he had been a great persecutor of the Church until Our Lord one day spoke to him on the road to Damascus saying, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” And Saul said, “Who are You Lord?” And JESUS replied, “I am JESUS of Nazareth Whom you are persecuting.” Paul was converted and baptised. He then went on many missionary journeys and suffered a lot because of his preaching, and we, being Gentiles, in a way owe our faith to him.
Both Peter and Paul suffered terrible deaths in Rome. Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy to die in the same way as Our Lord, and Paul was beheaded. Let us be proud of the Faith they died for and be prepared to suffer for it ourselves. In these troubled times in the Church and in the world, let us pray that God will raise up many great shepherds like St Peter and St Paul who will inspire us and confirm us in that Faith. In the words of the old hymn: “Faith of our fathers! Holy Faith! We will be true to thee till death. We will be true to thee till death.”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC