THE MISSIONARY LIFE OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL The beginning.
Matthew 4:1 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18 You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Conversion of St. Paul 25 January
St. Paul, known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, was born in the city of Tarsus, a Roman city, thereby giving him Roman citizenship. At his circumcision, he was given the Hebrew name Saul. At a young age his parents sent him to Jerusalem to be instructed in the Mosaic Law under the greatest Rabbi of his time, Gamaliel. Saul was an excellent student and as a Pharisee was respected for his great intellect and zeal for the Jewish faith and traditions. Because the Jews had a rule that their children should learn a trade along with their studies, Saul learned to make tents. This is a trade that provided him with the finances he needed later in his life to travel and evangelize. Because of Saul’s great zeal for Jewish law and traditions, he was very upset about his Jewish brethren who were following the New Way, as Christianity was first called. So, thinking that he was serving God, Saul became the worst enemy of Christians. He hunted them down and dragged them out of their homes, imprisoning them and even having them killed. In fact, Saul was a witness to the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. Because Saul was a leader, he stood by and watched as those stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at his feet. It’s very likely that Saul ordered Stephen to be stoned.
Saint Luke’s recording of this story in his book of Acts is not merely an historical account. While drawing his last breath, Stephen called out to God to forgive those that were stoning him. St. Augustine later declared that had Stephen not prayed, the Church would have never had the great Apostle Paul. For it was Stephen’s prayer that planted the seed which later helped Saul on his path to conversion.
Saul’s conversion occurred when he was on his way to the city of Damascus. He had gone to the high priest and the Sanhedrin for a commission to allow him to go where he knew there were many new Christians, to arrest them and take them back to Jerusalem for trial. The journey to Damascus took about two days by horseback. When he and his men were very near the city, they were suddenly surrounded by a light so bright that it knocked Saul to the ground. The account of what happened then is related in the book of Acts, chapter 9. “They heard a voice from heaven that said: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ And Saul said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground and when his eyes were opened he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
“For three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple there named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying. And he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.’ “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me that you may regain you sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.” From that time forth, Saul went on to preach about Christ. Because he was so well-known as a Pharisee and was now evangelizing for Christ, Saul began being persecuted by his Jewish brethren in the same way he had been persecuting the Christians. At some point he decided to start using his Roman name, Paul.
After spending some time with the disciples of Christ in Damascus, God called Paul to Arabia where he spent at least two years or more in the desert. It is believed that this is where Paul had visions much like the vision St. John writes about in his book of Revelation. The Lord prepared Paul to teach the Gospel, and when Paul returned from the desert, after a short stay in Damascus, he went directly to Jerusalem where he met with Peter, our first pope, and some of the other Apostles, to receive Peter’s blessing before he started on his ministry.
Paul spent the rest of his life traveling and spreading the Gospel of Jesus, establishing churches and teaching others to lead in his absence. Paul’s epistles to the churches that he established make up over one-fourth of the New Testament. He truly is the greatest missionary in Church history.
St. Paul preaching in Rome
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Paul was born into a Jewish home and was a recipient of an excellent education of scripture and other studies. His father was a Pharisee. Paul was infuriated by controversial teachings such as those by St. Stephen. He became one of the most influential leaders that led the persecution of the new faith.
When he was on his way to Damascus, a bright light flashed before him and struck to him to the ground. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
He realized that God was calling him to be a leader in this new faith. His name change to Paul is symbolic of his change of heart and new calling. He became one of the most influential leaders of the Church. His major works are Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Paul journeyed on three major missions and had a colossal impact at the Council of Jerusalem. He was believed to be beheaded during the reign of Nero.
St. Paul Shipwreck in Malta
Acts 28:Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.”But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. According to the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ Paul was being taken to Rome to be tried as a political rebel, however, the ship carrying him and some 274 others were caught in a violent storm only to be wrecked two weeks later on the Maltese coast, all aboard swam safely to land. Even though the actual site of the wreck is a mystery by tradition the event took place in and around St. Paul’s Bay and St. Paul’s Island, today a statue sits in commemoration of the event. The remainder of his time of the islands is also described by St. Luke, as is the welcome the survivors were given. “… later we learned that the island was called Melita.And the people who lived there showed us great kindness,and they made a fire and called us all to warm ourselves …”
This sequence of events has become particularly ingrained in the psyche of the Maltese people and predictably they feature strongly in the many religious works of art. Also, Malta is traditionally thought to have been among the first Roman colonies to have completely converted to Christianity. This is backed up by significant archaeological evidence found in the early Catacombs dotted around the country. Today, these events are celebrated annually on the 10th February, making it the first major feast day and national holiday in the calendar, which additionally provides all with some initial signs that spring is approaching. As is traditional with most local celebrations the day is a time for family gatherings and observed by religious ceremonies and processions, the main focus of which will be at the Church of St. Paul Shipwreck in Valletta.
1st Reading – ACTS 12:1-11 St. Peter in Prison
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. 2He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, 3and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. –It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.- 4He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. 5Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. 6On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. 7Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. 8The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
9So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. 11Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
Painting in the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Nadur. Gozo. Malta.
The Mamertine Prison (a.k.a Carcere Mamertino in Italian) is an ancient prison located in Rome at the foot of Capitoline Hill overlooking the ruins of the Roman forum. When it was built, this was Rome’s only prison - and not a prison like we understand them today. It was more like a dungeon where important state prisoners were lowered into, often prior to their execution. Consisting of two underground cells, it once held a room under the city sewers in the lower chamber. Historical sources have described it as dank and foreboding and inmates rarely stayed here for long periods of time. Today, a sign on the exterior of the building proclaims it was the prison site of Saints Peter and Paul as it is believed the apostles were both incarcerated here prior to their martyrdom. Titular painting at the Basilica of Nadur in Gozo, Malta, depicts St. Peter and St. Paul in Mamertine Prison.
Death of St. Peter
Peter died in Rome, by crucifixion, during the persecution of Nero in 67 AD. Saint Peter (r. AD 30; died between AD 64 and 68) also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, Simon ( saɪmən ), Cephas, or Peter the Apostle, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, and one of the first leaders of the early Church . According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero.
The Chair of Saint Peter
The Chair of Saint Peter, also known as the Throne of Saint Peter, is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the sovereign enclave of the Pope inside Rome, Italy. The relic is a wooden throne that tradition claims the Apostle Saint Peter, the leader of the Early Christians in Rome and first Pope, used as Bishop of Rome. The relic is enclosed in a sculpted gilt bronze casing designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed between 1647 and 1653. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as "a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity."
St Peter's Basilica in Rome The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican (Italian: Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano), or simply Saint Peter's Basilica (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), is a church built in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City, the papal enclave which is within the city of Rome.
History of St. Peter’s Basilica The story of St. Peter’s Basilica begins with the crucifixion of Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, in 64 AD. He was crucified upside down on a cross in Circus of Nero, and buried nearby on what is now the Vatican Hill. Emperor Constantine The Great built the Old Basilica between 319 AD and 333 AD on the grounds of the burial spot of St. Peter. Later on, in the 16th Century at the behest of Pope Julius II, the current St. Peter’s Basilica was built. St. Peter’s Basilica is currently a Papal Basilica and is famous for being the site of St. Peter’s Tomb and the Chair of St. Peter, which confers a spiritual authority to the Pope.
However, it is not the official Basilica of the Pope, but all major Papal functions and events are conducted here due to its sheer size and importance. St. Peter’s Basilica holds a lot of records including the largest church building in the world, second tallest building in Rome and the tallest dome in the world. Apart from that it is also conferred as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the wealth of art and culture it embodies and preserves.
Beheading of St. Paul
The beheading of St. Paul took place on the 29 June, 67 AD. near Rome.
2nd Reading – 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
St. Paul's Outside the Walls
At the beginning of the 4th century, with the end of the persecutions and the promulgation of the Edicts of Tolerance in favour of Christianity, Emperor Constantine ordered the excavation of the cella memoriae, the place where Christians venerated the memoryof Saint Paulthe Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65-67 A.D. Above his grave, located along the Ostiense Way, about two kilometersoutsidethe AurelianWallssurroundingRome.