A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Saints Peter and Paul

Fr Bernard Carney sm

Fr Bernard Carney sm

In any successful human enterprise there is always a mixture of at least two elements. The enterprise can be the family, a sports team, a school or even a political party. There is always a leader – often charismatic and able to project a personality that is in tune with the particular moment. Then there is someone, or even a team of people, in the background who are attending to the detail and enabling the vision the leader speaks of to come to reality.

In the month of June we celebrate two such saints on the 29th of the month. These two men were the human face of the Church. Of course they both acknowledged the divine element of the Church and the place of the Trinity in this unique structure.

Peter was chosen by Jesus as the leader of the Apostles. He was a bluff and hearty character and enthusiastically followed his master. Jesus’ offer to wash his feet on the night of the last supper brought Peter’s repost “Not just my foot but the whole of me.” For all his bluster Peter’s weak side was revealed to us when he denied knowing Jesus on the night of his arrest. This human side of Peter is something that endears him to Christian followers. He was not some kind of spiritual superman. His sorrow and remorse is recorded and he comes across to us as much more human for that.

The other character to the enterprise of the Church is St Paul. He too is passionate in temperament but it is much more of the rigorous intellectual style. Paul was able to tease out many things Jesus said and did. He was able to present these in a series of letters which the Church puts before us in our worship of God. Possibly his best known teaching are his words to the Corinthians on love.

“Though I command languages both human and angelic, if I speak without love I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. ... Love is always patient and kind, never jealous – love is not boastful and conceited.” (1Cor 13:1 – 4)

Paul is able to articulate to the followers of Jesus how to live and act in very human situations. How the Christian should confront slavery, how one should relate to civil authority and how to conduct oneself when worshiping God in a community.

These two saints have their stamp on today’s Church. Pope Francis is the successor in our time of St Peter. An important element of the Church is its teaching ability and just as St Paul gave guidance and encouragement to his communities at Corinth, Ephesus and Thessalonica, so Bishops and holy men and women give guidance to their own communities.

So the Church is a unique combination of the divine and human. But it is also a combination of the charismatic leader and the thoughtful follower. St Peter and St Paul are two worthy saints who demonstrate these qualities to us. We ask their guidance in this day and age. 

Tagged as:

Comments are closed.