Saints Peter and Paul – the rock of the faith and the glory of the Church, pray for us
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
The solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is a feast important to the whole Church. I was lucky to participate in the solemn liturgy in honour of the Saint Apostles in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome several times. It is a great experience that entering the crowded basilica one can see the statue of St Peter covered with a red cape and then participate in the unique liturgy to honour the exceptional Apostles, which laid the foundations of Christ’s Church.
St Peter was the Apostle whom Lord Jesus gave supremacy; he is the one Lord God loved in a special way, ‘For flesh and blood did not reveal this (this love for me) to you, but my Heavenly Father (Matthew 16:17). Today we are standing before St Peter and praying through his intercession for the holy Church. The Church in which we are, which is our mother whom we love. The Church received us at baptism and we have been her members ever since. The Church is the bishops, priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters and all people of God. It is a huge community, which is above all Catholic. We, Catholics, focus on St Peter who has the supreme power in the Church, and his power is not honorary but real. The Peter of our times is our shepherd. As Poles we were especially close to Peter when John Paul II was the head of the universal Church. He drew us in an exceptional way, almost personally, showing each of us the way to heaven. The present Holy Father Benedict XVI is also very close to us and he tries to say a few words in Polish during every Wednesday audience and Sunday prayer of Angelus and he always wholeheartedly addresses all Poles gathered in St Peter’s square or those watching the TV broadcast. We are connected with the Pope by the teaching of the Church – the great mission, which first of all the bishops and priest fulfil. We are connected with what the Church lives, what the Church breathes. We are bound by the response to the action of the Holy Spirit, who is in the Church. All the sacraments ministered in the Church refer to all of us. We live by them since they are God’s instruments through which he grants his grace to people. All of that happens in the Church and with the Church. Christ present in the Church acts in her and through her. Without the Church there is no Christ and without Christ there is no Church. It is such a close relationship that the Church is said to be Christ’ spouse.
Therefore, we should prepare ourselves to this important feast in the Church reflecting on the beginnings of Christ’s community, its history and present. We should realise that the Church is built on Saints Peter and Paul, first of all on St Peter who received the power of supremacy; St Paul as the main evangeliser spread the Gospel of Christ all over the world, and then in Rome he testified about Christ by his martyr’s death. That’s why we pay the highest tribute to those two Apostles. They are ‘the men thanks to whom the light of Christ’s Gospel rose’, said Leon the Great whereas Fr Piotr Skarga called Peter ‘the rock of faith’ and St Paul – ‘the glory of the Church’ (see Fr Wincenty Zaleski, ‘Rok kościelny’).
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is a good occasion to express our love for the Pope and the Church. We realise that the Church of Christ is still persecuted, that the struggle against the Church, which stops the debauchery of evil and wickedness, continues. Today even the Holy Father is attached so that his authority as the shepherd of the big Christian community gets weakened. Therefore, we should show our solidarity with him, pray for him and patiently help those who have been manipulated to discern the reality.
The Popes have always given Christ the greatest testimony of love and evangelical faithfulness. Today papacy is regarded as a wonderful and holy institution and those who are most dedicated to Christ take the papal throne. They are candidates for the altars, great men of prayer, examples of virtues and following Christ towards Lord God in a holy way. May the solemnity, the highest ranking feast, of the Saint Apostles Peter and Paul be also a time of remembrance of our great countryman, the Honourable Servant of God John Paul II and prayer for his beautification. May the cordial prayerful memory about the Holy See and the Popes strengthen our love for the local Churches, our shepherds and priests. Celebrating this feast let us remember that it is a feast of the entire Church.