THE IMPACT of Saints Peter and Paul— whose Solemnity was celebrated June 29—on the Mystical Body of Christ is considerable. By virtue of their heroic faith and heavenly intercession, they are an abiding presence among the disciples of Jesus Christ.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Peter, “the Apostle to the Jews,” is honored for his profound faith in “Christ's divine sonship,” which “will be the center of the apostolic faith” (442). He is also venerated for the authority entrusted to him: “Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve.” This ordinary fisherman “will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it” (552).
St. Paul, “the Apostle to the Gentiles,” is most noted for his thirteen epistles, quotes of which are sprinkled throughout the Catechism. His moving words regarding the supernatural virtue of charity—“ the form of all the virtues” (2346)—is an example: “… charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things!” (1825).
Sts. Peter and Paul are commemorated, not so much for any inherent goodness they had, but rather for what God accomplished through them. Weak men, Peter and Paul experienced the forgiveness of the Almighty, and by cooperating with His grace became the great evangelizers of the ancient world.
Peter and Paul set a standard for all followers of Jesus. These “superapostles,” buoyed by the Lord's assistance, attained a high degree of personal holiness, becoming exemplars of faith, hope and charity.
Even today, the Church relies on the example of Sts. Peter and Paul. They are truly men for all seasons; their astonishing perseverance and indomitable fortitude in preaching the Gospel never go out of date. Indeed, these two martyrs' witness is needed more than ever today, when sacrifice and lasting commitment are so rare.
Peter's keys and Paul's pen have helped the Gospel of the Redeemer to be better known and loved by people of all nations and all times. Continuing to teach the modern-day disciple of Christ to be generous and loyal in both joy and sorrow, Peter and Paul capture the essence of following the Master and spreading His Gospel, even at the cost of laying down one's life.
Father Charles Mangan is a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.