The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
(Acts 12:1-11; II Timothy 4:6-8.17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)
We prefer to think of the Church as a community of believers and a sign of God’s presence in the world than as an institution. But because it has laws, customs, and lands, the Church has been able to thrive through the centuries. The institution, of course, is headquartered in Rome where Saints Peter and Paul came to facilitate the evangelization of the world.
Rome, especially in the first century, is unlike any other city. Romans are practical people and ancient Romans were consummate lawyers and engineers as well. Their aptitude for organization, which they lent to the Church, and their excellent roads enabled Christianity to flourish. Part of the genius of both Peter and Paul was to take advantage of all the benefits that the “Eternal City” offered.
Today, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the people of Rome have a holiday while Catholics around the world have opportunity to contemplate the authority of the pope, the bishop of Rome. Like Peter he is the symbol of unity of the Church. Like Paul he has the commission to assure the spread of the gospel, especially to pagan nations. With men of great holiness and wisdom serving as popes over the past century, we also have added reason to celebrate today with Romans.