The Life and Mission of Saint Peter, by Father Richard Brennan, LL.D.

Article

“The first: Simon who is called Peter. The twelve Jesus sent, saying: ‘Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.'” – Matthew 10

Saints Peter and Paul in PrisonWhat a glorious army of brave and self-sacrificing spirits rise before our vision as we enter upon the contemplation and study of the stupendous growth of the Church of Christ! At their head march Peter and Paul, with their immediate followers, the Apostles and Evangelists, to be succeeded century after century by hosts of holy bishops, zealous priests, and devoted monks, all chosen by God to cany the light of his Gospel into every quarter of the globe. On the very day of Pentecost this rapid diffusion of the truth began. For those God-fearing Jews who had come from many countries, and were then sojourning in Jerusalem earned the news about Christ and his Church back to their own homes, and prepared thousands of eager souls for the reception of the Christian doctrine, which the Apostles, in pursuance of their high vocation, would soon carry into every city, town, and hamlet.

The most glorious of all was the missionary life of Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, at whose first sermon, on the day of Pentecost, about three thousand persons were converted and enrolled under the banner of the cross. And this number was increased soon after to five thousand, on the occasion of the healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple of Jerusalem.

But the Prince of the Apostles, besides being the first to establish the Christian Church amid the Jews, had also the privilege of founding the first Christian congregation among the Gentiles. Being directed by Heaven to seek Cornelius, a certain heathen centurion, at Caesarea, Peter went and preached before him and his household concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. The Holy Ghost came down upon all those who were listening to the Apostle’s inspired words, and they were converted and baptized by Peter. Thus he to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven had been given was the first to open the doors of God’s kingdom upon earth to the pagan world. We find him soon after presiding as first bishop over the first large congregation of converted heathens in the city of Antioch, where the disciples and followers of Christ were first called Christians. Later we discover this fisherman of Galilee, whom the Lord had marked out to be the head of his Church, travelling incessantly through Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Asia Minor, Italy, and other places; everywhere diligently casting his net to bring the souls of Jews and Gentiles into the knowledge of Christ crucified. His most important mission, however, was to the imperial city of Rome, where, by divine dispensation, he was to establish the centre of the Christian Church. This proud pagan capital, hitherto the seat of corrupt though refined superstition, was henceforth to be a beacon-light of pure Christian faith and piety. The peaceful throne of the Prince of the Apostles was soon to rise on the ruins of the blood-stained throne of the emperors of the world. Tradition assures us that Saint Peter governed the Church at Rome for twenty-five years, from the year 42 till the year 67 after the birth of Christ; although during this time he went frequently to preach the Gospel in other lands, and to visit the newly established Christian communities. At last, on the 29th of June, in the year 67 of Christ, he sealed his faith and mission with his blood on the hill of Janiculus in the city of Rome; and the prophetic words of Christ concerning the Chief of the Apostles were fulfilled: “When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee: Follow me” (John 21).

The Crucifixion of Saint PeterThe executioners of the cruel Nero “girded” the gray-haired man of God with bands, and fastened him to a cross, as had been done thirty-three years before to his divine Master. Willingly, and even cheerfully, the faithful Apostle stretched out his arms upon the cross, only too happy to be permitted to imitate his Master even in death. Yet, deeming himself unworthy the privilege of dying in the same posture as Jesus, he begged his executioners to permit him to be crucified with his head downward. The martyred Apostle’s body was laid in the Vatican catacombs, near Nero’s circus.

MLA Citation

  • Father Richard Brennan, LL.D. “The Life and Mission of Saint Peter”. Christ in His Church: A Catholic Church History, 1881. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 May 2018. Web. 20 November 2018. <>