St. Peter the Apostle — Given the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

A multitude of groups claim St. Peter as their patron, including fishermen and clockmakers.

Raphael, “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes,” 1515
Raphael, “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes,” 1515 (photo: Public Domain)

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” ―Matthew 16:18–19b

According to Luke’s Gospel, Peter’s calling to apostleship occurred one morning after a long night of unsuccessful fishing. While Peter was cleaning his net, Jesus came along and encouraged him to lower his net again. Peter skeptically complied ― and remarkably, the net became filled with an unmanageable number of fish. Peter’s heart was immediately overwhelmed. His cautious belief in Jesus was solidified, and Jesus then commanded Peter to follow him.

Peter’s behavior appears outspoken (he has far more quotes in the Gospels than any other apostle) and fervent. He had a keen desire to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, yet his faith would sometimes waver. For example, at the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that Peter would one day deny him three times before a cock crowed. Peter was aghast and unbelieving until this bitter event did occur during the sham trial of Jesus. As the prophesied crowing reached his ears, Peter became inconsolable.

When Mary Magdalene announced to Peter that Jesus had been resurrected, he could not believe her. However, even with his doubts, Peter ran to the tomb. He was astonished as he viewed the emptiness. Shortly thereafter, Jesus appeared to Peter and a few other disciples and assigned Peter the chore of “feeding his sheep.”

At Pentecost, Peter and the other disciples became filled with the Holy Spirit and inexplicably began speaking in foreign tongues. When people nearby heard the unlikely voices and words, they accused the disciples of having had too much wine. This accusation prompted Peter to deliver a profound speech to onlookers. His sermon was so compelling that some three thousand people were baptized that day.

From then on, Peter led the Church with great conviction. His works were inspired, intense, and miraculous. He traveled to different places, dealing with both enthusiastic converts and hostile persecution, and ultimately settled in Rome. It was there that Peter was crucified (some say upside down) during the persecution of Emperor Nero in the mid-60s.


A Biblical Novena to St. Peter

St. Peter shares a feast day with St. Paul on June 29. A multitude of groups claim him as their patron, including fishermen and clockmakers. The novena-like devotional presented below can help you to study this first pope a little more. While spending a chunk of time with your Bible each day for nine days, try to tap into St. Peter’s great gifts to Christianity. If inspired, jot down some thoughts on how your life can connect to St. Peter’s each day. And, ask St. Peter to pray for you! 

  • Day 1) Matthew 4:18–22
  • Day 2) Luke 5:1–11
  • Day 3) John 1:35–42
  • Day 4) John 13:4–9
  • Day 5) Mark 14:22–42, 66–72
  • Day 6) John 21:15–17
  • Day 7) Acts 2:14–21, 37–41
  • Day 8) Acts 3:1–10
  • Day 9) Acts 10:1–49