Today, June 29, we celebrate the Feast of *Saint Peter and Paul,* the two great apostles of the Church, and martyrs for the faith.
Saint Peter, disciple of Christ, first Pope, and “rock” of the Church., was born Simeon, but renamed by Christ to reflect his special role in the formation of the Church. He later confirmed his “new” name, and endowed him with the powers of the keys of heaven.
Peter was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Like his younger brother Andrew, he was a professional fisherman and dwelt at Capernaum, where Jesus would stay, performing miracles, whenever he was preaching in that area.
Following the miraculous catch of fish that Christ used to make them “fishers of men,” together with his brothers John and Andrew, Peter felt the call to become the first of Jesus’ disciples.
Following his encounter with Jesus, Peter’s life changed dramatically. Peter occupied a privileged station as spokesperson for the group, and was present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.
Saint Peter was imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa, and was miraculously freed by an angel. Rather than turn from his apostolic mission, he returned to Jerusalem, travelled teaching the Good News, and returned to Rome. He was crucified by Emperor Nero on Vatican Hill, and his relics are now enshrined under the high altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Saint Paul was born in Tarsus, and was educated as a Jewish Talmudic student. He was the son of Jewish parents who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, was reared according to the strict religious-nationalistic party of the Pharisees, and enjoyed the high distinction of Roman citizenship.
He worked as a tentmaker, and actively persecuted the Church for years until receiving a divine message from the Lord on the road to Damascus. As a youth he went to Jerusalem to become immersed in the Law and had as a teacher the celebrated Gamaliel. He acquired skill as a tent-maker, a work he continued even as an apostle.
Following his conversion, Saint Paul went on to become the most prolific writer and preacher of the early Church, traveling throughout the Middle East and Asia Minor, converting many. Selected to bring Christ’s name to all peoples, he is the greatest missionary of all time, the advocate of pagans, the Apostle of the Gentiles.
The last years of the saint’s life were devoted to missionary excursions, probably including Spain, and to revisiting his first foundations. In 66 he returned to Rome, was taken prisoner, and beheaded a year later. His fourteen letters are a precious legacy; they afford a deep insight into a great soul.
*St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us.*