A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC
July 29, 2016
June 30, 2020
The Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul
June 25, 2015
On Monday, June 29th the Catholic Church honors two Apostles, one who companioned Jesus in his ministry and one who became a believer after seeing Jesus in a vision. These two men are credited with spreading the Good News of the Jesus and founding many of the earliest Christian – Catholic - Churches. St. Peter, originally known as Simon, as seen here, is usually pictured with keys in hand; the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Son of Jonah (not of the Old Testament), he was the first disciple, along with his brother Andrew, to be called by Jesus as he walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A fisherman by trade, from the town of Bethsaida, he is considered to be the “first pope” of the Catholic Church. It was Jesus who said of Peter, “Upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church.” Matthew 16.18
Peter took on a leadership role, founded the Church of Antioch and later the Church of Rome. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus out of fear, witnessed the Transfiguration and preached on the day of Pentecost. He was martyred; crucified by the Romans for preaching Christianity. It is said he requested to be hung on the cross upside-down as he did not think himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ. To this day, the Pope of the Catholic Church wears the “Fisherman’s Ring” which of all Popes who have served the Catholic Church can be traced back to St. Peter; the rock. St. Paul, originally named Saul of Taurus, before his encounter with Jesus dedicated his life to the persecution of Christians in and around Jerusalem.
Though he was not one of the twelve he is known as St. Paul, the Apostle. It was on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus that he encountered the Risen Jesus in a bright light that blinded him for three days. After he recovered his sight he began preaching and teaching about Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and Son of God. Fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul. He is credited as establishing many churches people. Paul is credited with three major journeys but was not part of founding the church in Rome; it was already established by St. Peter before he arrived. St. Paul is said to have been beheaded in Rome at the “Three Fountains Abbey.”
In June of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI announced the results of excavation of the what was believed to be the tomb of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Using a probe rather than entering the tomb, they found pieces of incense, remnants of purple and blue linen and small bone fragments dated to the 1st or 2nd century. According to the Vatican these findings are consistent with the tradition that this is indeed the tomb of St. Paul. The tomb was inscribed in Latin with the words, “Paul, apostle, martyr.” You can come to know St. Paul well as you read his letters in the New Testament.