We celebrate today the two saints whom the church of Rome considers her founders, Peter and Paul. They came to the city and preached and died as martyrs there, probably during the persecution by Nero in the early 60s. Their burial places, marked by great churches, St. Peter at the Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls, are among the treasures of the city.
They could not be more unlike: Paul, the educated Pharisee from Tarsus, who came late to Christianity and like a runner raced from place to place in the Roman world to plant the faith. In the end, he believed God would give him “a crown of righteousness” for his mighty efforts.
Peter, the uneducated fisherman from Galilee whom Jesus called the Rock on whom he promised to build his church. He lived with the memory of his denial of Jesus three times and of being called three times again to shepherd the flock. Warily, he journeyed to Caesarea to baptize a Roman soldier, Cornelius. Then, he went to Antioch and Rome to tell the story of the One he had seen with his own eyes.
We ask for our church Paul’s zealous faith to embrace the world before us and Peter’s deep love for Jesus Christ which he voiced at the Sea of Galilee and at his own death.
“May your church in all things
follow the teaching of those
through whom she has received
the beginning of right religion.”