GROW IN WISDOM WITH SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
Peter and Paul were two of the early Church’s greatest Saints. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of the two: “[Saints Peter and Paul], together, represent the whole Gospel of Christ.” In this eBook you will find photographs from Rome, taken by our EWTN Vatican Bureau, along with Scripture verses from these two Saints.
We hope you enjoy this resource, and through it, are inspired by Saints Peter and Paul and their incredible witnesses of faith.
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As with all Solemnities, the celebration begins with Vespers on its Vigil, the evening of June 28th, and with the statue of Saint Peter inside Saint Peter’s Basilica dressed as a pontiff. The following day at the Solemn Mass of the Saints, the Pope will bless and confer the pallia (sing.: pallium), a garment signifying the office of metropolitan archbishop, on those appointed during the previous year. These archbishops are the senior bishop in an ecclesiastical province, a territory composed of several dioceses, called suffragan sees. The Solemnity will conclude at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, praying before the tomb of St. Paul, typically with a representative of the Eastern Churches.
Saint Peter was one of Jesus’ original twelve Apostles and the first Pope. Peter was a Jewish fisherman before he was called to be an Apostle. Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter (“Rock”) and gave Him the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:19), which is why Saint Peter is often depicted with keys.
Peter was introduced to Jesus by his brother Saint Andrew. We can read about this account in the Gospel of Matthew:
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. -Matthew 4:18-20
Saint Andrew was the first disciple to be called by Jesus, Peter following after.
We can read about Saint Peter in the New Testament. Peter is mentioned 109 times in the Gospels, the most of any Apostle, as well as in the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Paul, and in the two books attributed to him, 1 & 2 Peter.
Jesus did change Saint Peter’s name from Simon to Peter. He is also sometimes called by both, Simon Peter. The changing of a person’s name had great significance. God called Abram and named him Abraham, as well as his wife Sarai, naming her Sarah. Jacob was likewise call Israel. These were all founding events connected to Old Covenant and of great significance in salvation history. The same is true of the re-naming of Simon. Matthew shares his account of the event in Matthew 16:17-19.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
As recorded in the canonical Greek text of Matthew, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Petros (Rock). It is likely that He actually did so in Aramaic, the everyday Semitic language of Jews of his time, in which case the Lord said Cephas (Rock). This name is actually cited by St. John in Jn 1:42, and 8 other places in the New Testament. He did this in Caesarea Philippi, where there is a massive outcropping of rock at the base of Mt. Hermon, the highest peak of the region.
This naming is followed in Matthew’s text by the reason: the Church would be built on Peter. He is then given the Keys of David, as a king would give his appointed Vizier, in order to exercise authority in his place. It is just such vicarious authority which the Church claims for St. Peter and His Successors, down to Pope Francis.
When Jesus was arrested on Good Friday, He was taken to the Sanhedrin. Saint Peter was the only Apostle that went there to be close to Him. The others did not go, most likely out of fear. Peter was probably afraid too, yet He couldn’t stay away from His Lord. We learn of this account in the Gospel of Matthew:
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Like us, Peter was human. Even though he was a devout follower of Jesus, in a moment of fear and weakness, he was tempted and made a wrong choice. We know he regretted it immediately after because of the way we read that he “remembered the saying of Jesus,” and how he went out and wept bitterly.
“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – St. Peter, John 6:68-69
Saint Peter was crucified in Nero’s circus on Vatican Hill, sometime between 64 and 68 A.D.. He was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as his Lord. Afterwards he was laid to rest in a nearby cemetery. That cemetery can be seen today in excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica, and the remains of a 2nd century shrine built over the burial spot. In the 1960s bones believed to be Peter’s were found preserved in its wall and today the box containing them can be seen in a chapel under the papal altar.
Christ Himself appointed Saint Peter as the chief of the Apostles. Ever since then, there has been an unbroken transmission of spiritual authority to Peter’s successors in Rome. They, in turn, lead the bishops (successors of the other Apostles), and thus the whole People of God. This is called apostolic succession, and it is the guarantee of the unity of the Catholic Church of every place and time with Christ and the Apostles.
Saint Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, net makers, and ship builders. Together with Saint Paul, he is also the patron saint of Rome.
Saint Paul (originally known as Saul), was a self-righteous young Pharisee, almost fanatically anti-Christian. When the Resurrected Lord appeared to Him on the road to Damascus, he suddenly converted (Acts 9:1-9). From that point, he went on to evangelize throughout the Mediterranean world from the Holy Land to Rome to Spain. His zeal and reach entitles him to be known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” “The Gentiles” means “the nations.” For Jews it meant the non-Jewish people. For the Church it means the non-Jewish unbelievers in Christ - that is, the greater part of mankind of all generations.
Scriptures on Saint Paul can be found throughout the New Testament of the Bible. We first meet Paul in Scripture at the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:58. In Acts St. Luke provides many details of Paul’s ministry, indicating that he accompanied him for much of it.
St. Paul himself was the author of 13 of the 21 epistles in the New Testament, listed here in their canonical order: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Hebrews is sometimes attributed to him, but was likely penned by one of his disciples, in his style and according to his preaching.
St. Paul’s Jewish name was Saul, and the Lord called him by it on the occasion of converting him. It does not appear that the name change can be attributed to Jesus, or at least there is no evidence of it. The likely explanation, therefore, is that it a name he used among the Gentiles, whether from his youth in the Roman city of Tarsus, or, chosen later for his activity among the Gentiles. The only comment Luke makes is in Acts 13:9, when he writes “But Saul, who is also called Paul …”
St. Paul is one of the greatest saints of the early Church, most recognized for his conversion. Before being called by Christ, he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a fervent enemy of Christ. Paul’s conversion was a pure miracle of God’s grace. He is a perfect example of true conversion. He had dedicated himself to persecuting Christians but the moment he met Christ his life changed radically, instantly, and completely. When the Lord called him, he left behind his old ways and became a new person, fully willing to follow Christ and his teaching and precepts.
In commenting on St. Paul’s conversion, Pope Francis said that this conversion story affects all of us because we all “have hardness of heart,” just as Saul did and just like Saul, we are all called to conversion.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – St. Paul, Galatians 3:28
St. Paul was converted by Christ Himself by His appearance to him on the road to Damascus. This encounter brought about his dramatic and immediate conversion.
In commenting on the conversion of St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI states that when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, “…it was not simply a conversion… but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, a new one was born with the Risen Christ.”
St. Paul was likely converted in the 30s of the first century A.D.. This follows from the fact that in 1 Cor. 15:8, he speaks of it in connection with Christ’s other post-resurrection appearances, and in the Acts it follows upon his persecution of the Church in Jerusalem and the death of St. Stephen, generally placed before 36 A.D.
In Acts 9, we learn that Ananias baptized Paul.
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his e and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.
Paul was not one of the 12 Apostles selected by Jesus during His public ministry. However, he was called personally by the Lord, and the manner of his call made Paul a witness of Christ’s Resurrection – a principal criterion for being an Apostle (Acts 1:22). Pope Benedict XVI wrote that some have thus called him the “13th Apostle.”
There is an interesting parallel with events in the life of God’s people Israel. Joseph’s twelfth-share is his father Jacob’s inheritance was given by Jacob to Joseph’s two sons, Manassas and Benjamin, and on an equal basis with Joseph’s eleven brothers. Thus, the land of Canaan was divided among thirteen tribes, not just the original twelve. Similarly, in the new covenant there are 13 Apostles, the Eleven plus two––Matthias (chosen by the Church), and Paul (chosen by Christ).
Saint Paul is one of many patron saints of missionaries, evangelists, writers, and public workers.
Videos About Sts. Peter and Paul
Tradition holds that Saint Paul was martyred in Rome, probably about 64 AD. This was the year of the great fire, blamed on the Christians, but likely set by order of Nero. The church commemorating his death is called the Church of the Martyrdom of St. Paul at Three Fountains. The name is a reference to the result of the manner of his death. Being from Tarsus Paul was a Roman citizen, so he was beheaded rather than crucified. His head, bouncing three times, brought forth three springs, still existing.
Peter and Paul are called the patron saints of Rome because, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “the Christian community of [Rome] considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome.” Saints Peter and Paul were central to the foundation and advancement of the early Church, thus it is fitting that they would be the patron saints of Rome.