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Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

(1st c.)

St. Peter and St. Paul were the foremost Apostles of Jesus Christ; St. Peter was the leader of the Twelve, while St. Paul followed Christ after His ascension into heaven. Together the two saints are the founders of the Church in Rome through their apostolic preaching, ministry, and martyrdom in that city. They are the solid rock on which the foundation of the Catholic Church is built, and they will forever remain her protectors and guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God’s providential guidance that they transformed the capital of the Roman Empire into the heart of the Church, with the mission to radiate the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world. Both saints were martyred in close proximity to one another; Peter first, then Paul, though some traditions claim they were killed on the same day. St. Peter was crucified upside down and buried on the hill of the Vatican where St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. St. Paul was beheaded on the via Ostia and buried where the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls now stands. St. Peter and St. Paul are the patron saints of Rome and they share a feast day on June 29, a tradition going back to the earliest centuries of the Church.

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There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also  were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as  one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day,  consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their  faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of  faith, their preaching.”

Saint Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.), Doctor of the Church, from a Sermon on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

A Firm Foundation

A homily by Saint John Paul II, pope

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter made his profession of faith in Christ and this faith constitutes the firm foundation of the people of the New Covenant. The Church is not primarily a social structure; she is the community of those who share the same faith as Peter and the Apostles: the community of those who proclaim the one apostolic faith…. The Fathers loved to compare the holy Apostles Peter and Paul to two pillars supporting the Church as a visible construction. According to ancient tradition, the liturgy celebrates them together, commemorating their glorious martyrdom on the same day…. They both sealed with their blood the witness they bore to Christ by their preaching and ecclesial ministry…. Peter and Paul, each with his own personal and ecclesial experience, testify that the Lord never abandoned them, even amid the harshest trials. He was with Peter to deliver him from the hands of his opponents in Jerusalem; he was with Paul in his constant apostolic labors to communicate to him the strength of his grace, to make him a fearless proclaimer of the Gospel for the benefit of the nations….

If the witness of faith and the arduous struggle which the Apostles Peter and Paul had to undertake for the cause of the Gospel are considered in merely human terms, they ended in defeat. In this too they faithfully followed Christ’s example. Indeed, humanly speaking the mission of Christ, who was condemned to death and crucified, ended in defeat. However, both the Apostles, with their gaze fixed on the Paschal Mystery, did not doubt that precisely what to the eyes of the world seemed a defeat, was in fact the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan. It was the victory over the forces of evil won first by Christ and then by his disciples through faith. The entire community of believers relies on the firm foundation of the apostolic faith and gives thanks to Christ for the solid rock on which its life and mission are built.

May the Lord, who today gladdens us with the glorious memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul, enable us to listen to their teaching with a docile heart, preserve it with devotion, and transmit it with fidelity, so that the Gospel message may reach to the ends of the earth. Amen!

Credit: From Homily at Holy Mass of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1997; www.vatican.va. Saint John Paul II († 2005) reigned as pope from 1978 until 2005.

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Where Peter is, there is the Church. Where the Church is, there is Jesus Christ. Where Jesus Christ is, there is eternal salvation.”

St. Ambrose (340 – 397), Doctor of the Church
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St Peter and St Paul icon, hand – painted by Georgi Chimev

Saints Peter and Paul, Pillars of the Universal Church, pray for us.

Be not afraid!  And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.  Holy Family pray for us.  Amen.

The Holy Family, Murillo
The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities (c. 1675-82) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

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