PETER, formerly called Simon, was a son of Jonas, of Bethsaida, in Galilee, and It brother of Andrew, by whom he was brought to Christ, Who at once changed his name and called him Peter. When, soon after, Jesus said to both of them on the Sea of Tiberias, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” they both left their nets and followed Him. From this time forward Jesus was constantly giving him particular proofs of His love. From the ship of Peter He taught the thronging multitude, and to him He promised that on him; as upon a rock, He would build His Church, against which the gates of hell should not prevail. Our Lord took Peter with Him at the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead; at His own transfiguration on Mount Thabor; at the beginning of His passion in the Garden of Gethsemani. To him He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven; for him He specially prayed that his faith might not fail; and him He commanded to strengthen his brethren. After His resurrection He appeared particularly to Peter, and three times commanded him to feed His flock. But Peter had, above all the other apostles, made himself worthy of this pre-eminence by his living faith, his humility, his love, and his zeal for the honor of Jesus; for he it was who, before the other apostles, made the confession, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.” He showed his humility when, at the miraculous draught of fishes, he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Out of love he desired to remain always with Christ on Mount Thabor to prevent Him from suffering; and out of love he declared himself ready with Christ to live or die; nay, he even declared most confidently that, though all should be scandalized in Christ, yet he would not be. When Jesus was taken prisoner, Peter showed himself to be most courageous by cutting off the ear of one of his Master’s enemies, and by following Him to the house of Caiphas. Three times, indeed, did he, as no one else did, deny his Lord out of fear; but the look of forgiving love which Jesus cast upon him forced from him tears of the deepest contrition, and three times afterwards, accordingly, he made that coufession, “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
After he had received the Holy Ghost, full of courage, he confessed Christ crucified, and preached Him in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Ionia, and Bithynia. At Jerusalem he was once already condemned to death, but was set free by an angel. In the year 54 he went to Rome, whence, after a nine years’ residence, he was banished, with many other Christians. Upon returning thither again he was confined in the Mamertine prison, and finally, on June 29, in the year A.D. 67, under the Emperor Nero, he was crucified; his head, by his own desire, hung downwards, because he thought himself unworthy to die like Christ.
PAUL, before his conversion called Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin, a native of Tarsus, in Cilicia, and a pupil of Gamaliel. Full of zeal for the law, he bitterly opposed the Christians. As he was travelling to Damascus to persecute them he was, on the way, converted by Christ. How indefatigably he thenceforward worked in the vineyard of the Lord, and what dangers and persecutions he underwent, no pen can describe. It is almost incredible with what zeal and perseverance he preached Christ, in chains and fetters, under blows and scourges, in hunger and thirst, and untold times at the peril of his life. And yet he was so humble that he counted himself the least of the apostles, and always praised God that He had thought him worthy to suffer for His name. After he had at last fought a good fight, and finished his course – having everywhere zealously preached the Gospel, and still more zealously practised it – he received the crown of justice (II Timothy 4:6). The Emperor Nero caused him to be beheaded on the same day tl1at Peter was crucified.
The Introit of the Mass is in the words spoken by Saint Peter after his delivery from the prison at Jerusalem:
“Now I know in very deed that the Lord hath sent His angel and hath delivered me out of the hands of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” (Acts 12:11)
“Lord, Thou hast proved me and known me; Thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up.” (Psalms 138:1, 2)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O God, Who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of Thy apostles Saints Peter and Paul, grant to Thy Church, in all things, to follow their doctrines, through whom the true faith was first proclaimed. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Epistle: Acts 12:1-11
In those days: Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to affiict some of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes. And when he had apprehended him, he cast him into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers to be kept, intending after the Pasch to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shined in the room, and he striking Peter on the side raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said to him: Gird thyself, and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And going out he followed him, and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel, but thought he saw a vision. And passing through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And Peter coming to himself, said: Now I know in very deed that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19
At that time Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi, and He asked His disciples, saying: Who do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them; But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
- Why did Christ ask His disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?”
- To give them an opportunity to confess their belief in Him as the true Son of God, and upon that open confession to ground a promise of the highest importance.
- Why does Christ call Himself the Son of man?
- In order that, His Godhead being veiled under the form of man, He might thus test the faith of His disciples, and teach us that He was both true God and true man.
- What did Peter mean to say by those words, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God”?
- He thereby confesses that Christ is the Son of God, begotten from all eternity, and therefore of the same substance with the Father; that by Him all things were made, and that from Him comes our life in soul and body.
- What reward did Peter receive for his confession?
- Christ pronounced him blessed that God had given him such grace, conveyed to him the highest authority in His Church, and gave him the pre-eminence above all the apostles.
- What is the meaning of the expression “to bind and to loose”?
- According to Isaias, it signifies to open and to shut heaven, and here consequently denotes the power, as representative of Jesus Christ, to receive persons into the Church, and to excommunicate them from it; to forgive sins, or to retain them; to impose or to remit punishments for them; to establish laws and prohibitions, to abolish them, to change them, and, in general, to govern and direct in everything, as shall be necessary for the preservation of unity and order in the Church, and for the good of the faithful.
- Was the power to bind and to loose given to Peter only?
- No, but to the rest of the apostles also; the power of the keys, however, Jesus gave only to Peter.
Peter, therefore, and his successors, possess this supreme power, while the other apostles and their successors, the bishops, possess the authority intrusted to them by Christ, to be exercised by them in unity with the rock, that is, with Peter and his successors.
- What is the Pope to the Catholic?
- The represeutative of Jesus Christ, and the visible head, appoiuted by Him, for the government of His Church.
- Did Christ actually appoint such a supreme head?
- Yes, and that in the person of Saint Peter.
He gave him the significant name Peter – the rock, distingllished him always above the other apostles, and laid upon him the charge to feed His lambs, that is, the faithful, and His sheep, that is, the bishops themselves; and this power Peter uniformly exercised.
- Why did Christ appoint a visible head for the Church?
- Because the Church is an outward, visible society, united together not only by inward faith in Christ, but also by outward, visible signs.
Such a visible head is as necessary for the Church as for a body, a family, a society, a state, to prevent disunion, confusion, and the consequent destruction of the whole; this supreme head is the centre of the whole, the final judge, the authoritative teacher.
- Who is now this supreme head?
- The Bishop of Rome, or the Pope. It is undeniable that Peter occupied the bishop’s see at Rome, and that he died there. Equally indisputable is it that the successor of Saint Peter entered upon possession of his rights, and, together with the episcopal see of Rome, inherited also the office possessed by him. From the first centuries this has ever been acknowledged by the faithful, who have accordingly called the Bishop of Rome Pope – that is, the father of the faithful. And how clearly does history show that Peter and his successors are the rock upon which the Lord has immovably founded His Church! What storms have not broken upon the Church! Persecutions from without and within, heresies and schisms without number, and infidelity in its most hideous form, have raged against the Church, and what has been the consequence? Nations have often fallen away from the Church, single bishops have proved betrayers of their flocks, the sees of the apostles themselves have been subject to the vicissitudes of time. And amid all these storms Rome alone has, for over eighteen hundred years, stood firm. She has come out of every contest victorious, has remained the centre of faith and discipline, and has preserved the unbroken succession of bishops from Peter. Who does not see herein the assistance of Him Who forever fulfils that promise of His, “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates I of hell shall not prevail against it”? The Pope is, therefore, the visible supreme head of the Church, appointed by Christ for all time; the invisible, all-governing head is Christ Himself.
OF THE POPE
O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who hast built Thy Church on Saint Peter, as on a rock, Who hast confided to him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and constituted him and his successors Thy representatives upon earth, grant us Thy grace, that in all the laws we may obey them as Thyself, that, resting upon the rock of truth, we may be immovable in all storms, and steadfastly persevere in the way of good works.