Tuesday, June 26, 2012
SS PETER & PAUL
This Friday's feast, that of SS Peter and Paul, is a Solemnity in the Church calendar, with its own Vigil, and is a Holy Day of Obligation for the universal Church, though it is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation in this Archdiocese nor in the entire U.S.
Still, it is a feast of great importance. Notice that it is not a feast of Saint Peter alone, nor of Saint Paul alone, nor of the two of them that just happens to be the same day. It is their partnership that is the essence of this feast, because that partnership was sealed with the blood of both their martyrdoms in the same city - Rome - for the same reason - Christ. Thus, in the holy card above, they float over the heart and center of the Christian religion, Rome. The Queen City of the Faith is sprinkled with the blood of the Princes of the Apostles.
So from all antiquity, the Church, especially Rome, always celebrated SS Peter and Paul together. Even when one of these two saints is the focus, such as the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Saint Paul is commemorated in the traditional Mass. Or on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Saint Peter is commemorated. They are the Twin Apostles, as it were, the Church rarely separating them in her liturgical practice. In most of our bodily activities, we work with pairs; pairs of eyes, ears, hands, lungs, feet. And the Church began her work, as it were, with these Twin Apostles.
In many churches in Europe, the statues of SS Peter and Paul are very prominent. They often occupy a place of honor in churches. Sometimes one of them will be on the left of the sanctuary, the other on the right, acting as if they were sentry guards of the holy sanctuary. Whenever I see them, I say to myself that these images are asking us who enter this church, "Do we have the same faith that these two Apostles preached and died for?" One, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC.
Here on Guam, devotion to Saint Peter (San Pedro) is not absent, as there were enough men named Pedro to keep that devotion going on island. But the dual devotion to both saints is less known. It's a pity, since it would strengthen our unique Catholic identity if, by promoting their veneration, we could constantly ask the other churches if they are founded on Peter the Rock, and if they believe the same things Saint Paul taught; all of them, and not just pick and choose from his teachings. It would help modern-day Catholics, who are often tempted to seek what is new and different to "improve" their experience of church, to ask themselves, does my Catholic faith today echo what has been taught for 2,000 years, since the days of Saints Peter and Paul?