Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This week, on Monday, July 29th, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. One might think why they don’t have their own day, since they are such special individuals of the Church. The fact that both of them are celebrated on the same day comes from an long tradition, as early as the fourth century. Much is because both St. Peter and St. Paul are considered to be the two pillars of Church, and both of them are founders of the church of Rome, whether by their ministry or by their martyrdom. We know that St. Peter spent the last years of his life in Rome, ministering to the community of Rome. According to Tradition, he died in the year 64AD. After the famous passage of “Quo Vadis”, Peter returned to Rome after an encounter with Christ to face his persecutors, and upon his crucifixion, he asked to be crucified upside down, because he was not worthy to die like Jesus. St. Paul also ministered to the community of Rome. We read in his letter to the (community of the) Romans, how he was already in contact with them. After his arrest, St. Paul is brought to Rome where he was beheaded on the year 67AD.
What strikes me most about St. Peter and St. Paul is their conversion story. On one side we have Peter, a simple fisherman, an older man, probably rough, but with an immense heart. On the other side, we have St. Paul, bright young man, disciple of one of the most respectful Rabbi at his time, and with the greatest zeal. And still both of them were humble enough to change their ways. Through his betrayal of Jesus, Peter becomes a tender man, who cried for his sins and came to the realization that God loved him as he was. According to Jewish customs, when the cock crows in the morning, the person wakes up to say their morning prayer (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength…”). When the cock crowed, St. Peter realized that he was not loving God, and he began to cry. Tradition says that he cried so much repenting from his denial of Jesus that there were wrinkles. Saint Paul before his conversion, he was persecuting the Christians ferociously. But when he heard the voice of Jesus, he changed completely his beliefs. He would give up his very life for being a Christian. What is beautiful about these two saints is that a change, indeed, a radical change, is possible in our lives! During the quarantine, some parishioners have shared with me how they began attending (virtually) daily mass, praying the rosary as a family, discovering/deepening their faith. All that is wonderful and great, but maybe God wants to do more! He may call us to be his modern-day apostles, announcing to the whole world his love and his mercy, by our deeds and actions. Remember, we are not called to be good people, we are called to be AWESOME SAINTS, just as God is awesome and holy. Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us.
Father Steven Clemence