Written by Kelsey Sweeney, friend of Stella & Tide
On June 29, we celebrate two well-known and influential saints in the Church and their martyrdom. Tradition says that both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred by Emperor Nero in Rome sometime between AD 64 and 68, although most likely not on the same day. While the men were very different from each other, these two apostles shared the same mission of spreading the message of the Gospel.
The Life of St. Peter
St. Peter is one of the best-known Apostles of Christ. He was one of the first called by Jesus to accompany Him on His public ministry journey. Peter was a humble fisherman known as Simon, but our Lord called him to discipleship, renaming him Peter which in Greek translates as rock. Peter’s new name was a symbol of his future role in the Catholic Church as a leader, preacher, and first Pope. Peter is often depicted in Catholic artwork as an elderly man holding a key and a book. Despite his position within the Church, Peter remained humble to his death. He was martyred for his beliefs and sentenced to death by crucifixion. In response to his sentence, Peter asked to be crucified upside down as he felt he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ.
Peter was an integral part of Jesus’ public ministry days and is seen in various memorable Bible passages. These passages show Peter’s character and make him very human; someone that is relatable for life today. We see Peter going through many of the same emotions that we go through in our own lives.
He is seen in the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus during a great storm which leads to the miracle of walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). In these verses, Peter is afraid and anxious, and he’s required to trust Jesus in order to survive. Peter also appears in the Gospel of Luke when he denies being a follower of Christ three times before the cock crows (Luke 22:54-62). Peter is frightened, upset, and remorseful throughout this passage. Again, we see Peter in the Gospel of John when Jesus appears after His Resurrection (John 21:1-20). Peter is joyful and accepts his future mission from Christ. All three of these stories offer us a glimpse of Peter’s true humanity, and we can all relate to his feelings in each situation, at least on some level.
The Life of St. Paul
St. Paul was also a follower of Christ and is arguably the most well-known writer of the early Catholic Church. Paul’s life before his conversion to Christianity was somewhat glamorous. He was a Roman citizen named Saul, and he held an esteemed position among the Pharisees. He was often involved in the persecution of Christians and was even present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Catholic Church. But Paul experienced a powerful vision on a trip to Damascus, which resulted in his conversion and subsequent baptism into the Catholic Church.
While Paul was not present with Jesus in the Gospel passages, we do get to know him through the New Testament, as he wrote many letters to various societies within the newly established Church. Paul traveled primarily through Europe and Asia bringing the Gospel to countless communities and establishing local churches. He remained in contact with each of these churches during his travels and wrote letters of instruction to help foster the faith and settle disputes among the people. Paul spent many years imprisoned for his teachings and was ultimately sentenced to death by beheading by the Roman Emperor, Nero.
A Common Mission
Saints Peter and Paul were both called to be missionaries, spreading the Good News far and wide. Both loved Christ and accepted His call to action wholeheartedly, bringing Him to countless people across the world. And after completing their missions, both were martyred for Christ in the city of Rome.
Peter and Paul likely could not have been more different. Yet both were chosen by God because of their differences, not despite them. Their strengths and weaknesses were used to glorify God and spread His message.
We have this same opportunity. We too are called to evangelize our neighbors and share Christ with those we come in contact with. It is easy to share with people that have similar viewpoints as our own, but what about communicating with people that have differing sentiments? We must bring the Word of Christ to others without fear, trusting that He will give us the necessary grace to open the hearts of our neighbors.
If we can accept that our differences may just be a part of God’s plan for our lives, then we can work together towards growing in our relationships with God, sharing our faith with each other, and using our talents to glorify the Lord in our own unique ways.