VATICAN CITY, 29 JUN 2011 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharist in the Vatican Basilica on the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Concelebrating with the Holy Father were forty new metropolitan archbishops, upon whom he imposed the pallium. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The Pope began his homily by recalling the words of Jesus which Cardinal Faulhaber had addressed to him and other newly-ordained priests sixty years ago: "'Non iam dicam servos, sed amico' - I no longer call you servants, but friends".
"He calls me His friend. ... He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only He, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. ... He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim His word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts Himself to me".
Benedict XVI explained how the phrase "'No longer servants, but friends' ... contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. ... The friendship that He bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know Him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by Him, I try to come to know the Lord Himself more and more. ... In friendship, my will grows together with His will, and His will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself".
"Jesus' words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine", said the Pope. "The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: 'I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide'. ... The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God's kingdom".
"After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does He expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. ... Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests?" the Pope asked. "We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognise the constant presence of His love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us".
The Holy Father went on to ask: "What sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. ... At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross".
The Pope then addressed a greeting to the delegation sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, thanking them "for their visit on the joyful occasion of the feast of the holy Apostles and patrons of Rome".
Turning then to the archbishops upon whom he was about to impose the pallium, he reminded them that this woollen band "reminds us of the Shepherd Who Himself became a lamb, out of love for us. ... It reminds us of Him Who took the lamb - humanity - me - upon His shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in His service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of His flock, which always remains His and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors - it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ".
Benedict XVI concluded his homily by returning to reflect on his ordination sixty years ago, saying "I feel prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I feel prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that He has bestowed upon me and that He wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in His goodness and invite us to contemplate His joy. Amen".
CLOSE SPIRITUAL UNION WITH ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, in a traditional meeting for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles, Benedict XVI received a delegation sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople traditionally exchange visits for the feasts of their respective patrons.
The delegation, which delivered a message to the Holy Father on behalf of the Patriarch, was made up of His Eminence Emmanuel (Adenakis), metropolitan of France and director of the office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union; His Eminence Athenagoras (Yves Peckstadt), bishop of Sinope and auxiliary of the metropolitan of Belgium, and Archimandrite Maxime Pothos, vicar general of the metropolitan of Switzerland.
"Your participation in this our feast day, like the presence of our own representatives in Constantinople for the Feast of the Apostle Andrew, is an expression of the friendship and the authentic fraternity which unites the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bonds which are solidly rooted in the faith received from the witness of the Apostles", said the Pope in his remarks to the delegation. "The spiritual intimacy we experience each time we meet causes me profound joy and a sense of gratitude towards God. At the same time, however, the incomplete communion which already binds us must grow until it becomes full visible unity.
"We are carefully following the progress of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches", he added. "From a purely human perspective, one could get the impression that theological dialogue proceeds with difficulty. The truth is that its rhythm is linked to the complexity of the questions under discussion, which require extraordinary efforts of scholarship, of reflection, of mutual openness. We are called to continue this journey together in charity, asking the Holy Spirit to give us light and inspiration, in the certainty that He wishes to lead us to the complete fulfilment of Christ's will: that all should be one".
"In a historical context of violence, indifference and selfishness, many men and women of our time feel lost. Yet, with our shared witness of the truth of the Gospel, we can help mankind of our time to rediscover the path that leads to truth. The search for truth always coincides with the search for justice and peace, and it is with great joy that I note the prodigious efforts that His Holiness Bartholomew makes in this area", said the Holy Father.
He concluded by recalling how, following the example of his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, he had invited "our Christian brethren, exponents of other religious traditions of the world and leading figures of culture and science to join me in Assisi, Italy, on 27 October for a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world. The theme of the meeting will be: 'Pilgrims in truth. Pilgrims in Peace'. Our walking together in the streets of the town of St. Francis will be a sign of our will to continue along the paths of dialogue and fraternity".
VATICAN CITY, 29 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica, in the course of which he imposed the pallium on the following forty metropolitan archbishops:
1. Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics of Riga, Lithuania.
2. Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia.
3. Archbishop Antoine Ganye Jude of Cotonou, Benin.
4. Archbishop Fausto Gabriel Travez Travez O.F.M. of Quito, Ecuador.
5. Archbishop James Peter Sartain of Seattle, U.S.A.
6. Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales S.D.B. of Guatemala, Guatemala.
7. Archbishop Gonzalo Restrepo Restrepo of Manizales, Colombia.
8. Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, Italy.
9. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller M.S.P.S. of San Antonio, U.S.A.
10. Archbishop Jose Serofia Palma of Cebu, Philippines.
11. Archbishop Pedro Brito Guimaraes of Palmas, Brazil.
12. Archbishop Juan Alberto Puiggari of Parana, Argentina.
13. Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu, Korea.
14. Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa'ichi O.F.M.Cap. of Mwanza, Tanzania.
15. Archbishop Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve of Barranquilla, Colombia.
16. Archbishop Paul Yembuado Ouedraogo of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.
17. Archbishop William Slattery O.F.M. of Pretoria, South Africa.
18. Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello S.D.B. of Santiago de Chile, Chile.
19. Archbishop Paul Stagg Coakley of Oklahoma City, U.S.A.
20. Archbishop Murilo Sabastiao Ramos Krieger of San Salvador da Bahia,Brazil.
21. Archbishop Marjan Turnsek of Maribor, Slovenia.
22. Archbishop Remi Joseph Gustave Sainte-Marie M.Afr. of Lilongwe, Malawi.
23. Archbishop Gerard-Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec, Canada.
24. Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles, U.S.A.
25. Archbishop Thumma Bala of Hyderabad, India.
26. Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, Nigeria.
27. Archbishop Vincenzo Bertolone S.D.P. of Catanzaro-Squillace, Italy.
28. Archbishop Luis María Perez de Onraita Aguirre of Malanje, Angola.
29. Archbishop Jose Manuel Imbamba of Saurimo, Angola.
30. Archbishop Jacinto Bergmann of Pelotas, Brazil.
31. Archbishop Helio Adelar Rubert of Santa María, Brazil.
32. Archbishop Pedro Ercilio Simon of Passo Fundo, Brazil.
33. Archbishop Charles Henry Dufour of Kingston in Jamaica, Jamaica.
34. Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, Wales.
35. Archbishop Fernando Natalio Chomali Garib of Concepcion, Chile.
36. Archbishop Dimas Lara Barbosa of Campo Grande, Brazil.
37. Archbishop Dario de Jesus Monsalve Mejia of Cali, Colombia.
38. Archbishop Pierre Marie Carre of Montpellier, France.
39. Archbishop Sergio Da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil.
40. Archbishop Sergio Lasam Utleg of Tuguegarao, Philippines.
The following five metropolitan archbishops will receive the pallium in their respective sees:
41. Archbishop Johannes Maria Trilaksyanta Pujasumarta of Semarang,Indonesia.
42. Archbishop Guire Poulard of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
43. Archbishop John Barwa S.V.D. of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, India.
44. Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia, Liberia.
45. Archbishop Pascal N'koue of Parakou, Benin.
VATICAN CITY, 29 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At the end of this morning's Mass, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square below.
Before the Marian prayer Benedict XVI apologised to pilgrims for his late arrival due, he said, to the fact that "the Mass in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul was long and beautiful. Our thoughts went to that fine hymn of the Church of Rome which begins: 'O Roma felix!'. Today, on the Feast of ... the patrons of this city we sing: 'Joy, Rome, because you were stained with the precious blood of such great Princes. Not for your praise, but for their merits, do you surpass all beauty".
"St. Peter's and St. Paul's witness of love and faithfulness illumines the pastors of the Church, guiding men to truth and moulding them to faith in Christ. St. Peter in particular represents the unity of the apostolic college. For this reason, during this morning's liturgical celebration in the Vatican Basilica, I imposed the pallium on forty metropolitan archbishops, as an expression of their communion with the bishop of Rome in the mission to guide the people of God to salvation".
"The faith professed by Peter is the foundation of the Church", Benedict XVI said. Peter's primacy is divine predilection, as is the priestly vocation: 'Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you', said Jesus, 'but my Father in heaven'. This is what happens to those who decided to respond to God's call with the whole of their lives. I happily reiterate this today as I celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of my own ordination.
"Thank you for your presence and for your prayers", the Pope added. "I am grateful to you. Above all, I am grateful to the Lord for His call and for the ministry He has entrusted to me. I thank everyone who, on this occasion, has expressed support for my mission with prayer, the prayer which incessantly rises to God from all ecclesial communities, and becomes adoration of the Eucharistic Christ, increasing the power and freedom to announce the Gospel".
The Holy Father concluded his remarks by again greeting "the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, present today in Rome for the significant custom of venerating Sts. Peter and Paul and sharing my hope in the unity of Christians, as the Lord wished. Trustingly we invoke the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, that all the baptised may become as 'living stones' which build theKingdom of God".
JESUSCARITASEST.ORG: The apparition site of Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzegovina celebrates 30 years. Our Lady appeared (according to reports) to 6 children on on June 24, 1981. Medjugorje receives over 1 million visitors yearly.
- Daily Prayer (Of the Rosary)
- Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays
- Daily Reading of the Bible
- Monthly Confession
- Holy Communion
IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.medjugorje.com/medjugorje/beginning-days-of-the-apparitions.html
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The ordination of Fr Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, Sichuan, without papal mandate took place today, feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, by decision of the Chinese authorities and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). This is the first ordination since the Holy See issued a declaration on excommunication, which spells out the risks all those, candidates and officiating clergy, run when they participate in an unlawful ordination (cf Bernardo Cervellera, “Illicit ordinations in China: the Holy See explains what is to be done with excommunicated bishops,” AsiaNews, 13 June 2011).
Another ordination authorised by the pope was scheduled to take place in Handan (Hebei) but was blocked by the CPCA and the candidate was seized by police (see Jian Mei, “Hebei: ordination of Handan bishop cancelled, it had Holy See approval,” inAsiaNews, 27 June 2011)
Bishop Fang Xinyao of Linyi presided over the ordination, and six other legitimate bishops co-ordained. They were Bishop Fang Jianping of Tangshan, Bishop He Zeqing of Wanzhou, Bishop Li Shan of Beijing, Bishop Li Jing of Ningxia, Bishop Xiao Zejiang of Guizhou, Bishop Zhao Fengchang of Liaocheng. Bishop Fang is the president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Bishop Lei, who is recognised only by the Chinese government, told AsiaNews that he hopes to strengthen the diocese and boost its evangelisation work, for now is a good time to go forward. The diocese has a Catholic population of 70,000.
About 1,000 Catholics and officials attended the unlawful ordination. The ceremony was held at a church in Emeishan City because it can hold more people. Sixty-seven priests, including 14 priests from Leshan, were present. After Mass, local Catholics held a small celebration.
An underground priest from a neighbouring province told AsiaNews that he had been warned by security officials not to leave town during Leshan’s ordination.
A Catholic in Wuhan (Hubei) said he was “lucky” the unlawful ordination did not happen in Hankou (Wuhan), and that he “at least temporarily escaped it” but sad to see it happened today.
A few weeks ago, an unlawful ordination was announced for Hankou (Wuhan) on 10 June, but was eventually cancelled because of pressure from the faithful (see Bernardo Cervellera, “Chinese bishops should have no fear and say no to Beijing’s demands, says Mgr Savio Hon,” in AsiaNews, 3 June 2011).
A Church expert said that such an ordination hurts the communion of the Church in China and with the universal Church.
Bishop Lei, 48, was ordained a priest on 30 November 1991. He is a member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the Chinese government. He has been a vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He has also been president of Catholic Patriotic Association of Sichuan Province.
Lei was elected bishop of Leshan on 18 March 2010, with 28 votes out of 31. However, his Episcopal ordination was not approved by the Holy See. He takes over the episcopacy left vacant after the death of Bishop Luo Duxi in 2009.
BELMONT, NORTH CAROLINA, June 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In the 17 years since opening its doors, Room at the Inn has provided women in Charlotte, North Carolina with the same services that thousands of pregnancy care centers offer across the country: counseling, baby supplies, adoption referrals, and a residential facility for unwed mothers.
This past Monday, however, the organization broke ground on a project that will be the first of its kind in the nation: a maternity home for pregnant college students, located adjacent to the campus ofBelmont Abbey College.
According to Room at the Inn Executive Director Jeannie Wray, while there are some colleges that offer dorms for pregnant and parenting students, “this is the first time a totally independent entity has built and will run a facility on a college campus for this purpose.”
After an extensive self-study and research process the board of directors for Room at the Inn “decided that the college population was essentially underserved as far as maternity and after-care services,” Wray told LifeSiteNews.com
Crucial in coming to this decision was a report from Feminists for Life of America. The organization had polled students at 400 U.S. colleges and universities, and found that the vast majority reported very few resources on their campus for pregnant and parenting students.
The study may help explain why, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, up to 71% of post-abortive women say that they had an abortion because having a child would interfere with their education or career.
Providentially, Abbott Placid Solari of Belmont Abbey, which sits adjacent to Belmont Abbey College, was a member of Room at the Inn’s board. The monastery donated four acres for the project.
Without this donation, the project would have been cost prohibitive, says Wray.
Those four acres will be home to a 10,000 square foot facility, with two residential wings – one for pregnant women, and one for young mothers and their babies. The building will be equipped for 15 mothers, 15 infants, and 8 toddlers. A private room and bathroom will be provided to each woman, with a shared kitchen, laundry room, and dining room.
Participants in the program will be required to enroll in school, although they do not have to attend Belmont Abbey College. They can commute to another school, or take classes at Belmont for credit elsewhere.
According to a Room at the Inn press release, the program will also provide its own classes in life skills, parenting, cooking, meal planning, financial planning and a non-denominational Bible study.
“Many of the young women we see are beaten down, hopeless, abandoned and have no earthly idea how they are going to put one foot in front of the other – they’re just looking for the light,” said Wray. “Room At The Inn can offer them help, hope and possibilities, so by the time they leave, they are prepared for their lives, more mature and eligible to come to our outreach program for as long as they like.”
While the facility will be operated independently of the school, Wray says that they are working with the school and hope that the mothers who live at their facility will be able to integrate into the campus community as much as possible.
College President Bill Thierfelder called the project “a natural extension of pro-life philosophy,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
“It’s putting your money where your mouth is,” he told the news service. “You’re not just talking philosophy anymore. This is something real. You need to meet people where they are and help them to take the next good step.”
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All Africa report: Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, Archbishop Alain Paul Lebeaupin has urged Catholics in the Eastern African region to continue to pray for the current Pope, Benedict XVI and his pontificate.
He said this to a congregation of cardinals, archbishops, priests, religious men and women and the laity, who were attending a special Mass he was presiding to mark the Pope's 60th priestly ordination at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi. He said that the Pope has a big heart for the people in the region and the African continent as a whole.
The occasion took place at Saint Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, next to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, where Association of Members Episcopal Conference of Eastern Africa (AMECEA), is holding its 17th plenary assembly, under the theme: AMECEA family of God celebrating a Golden jubilee of evangelization in solidarity.
The plenary assembly, which has brought together over 300 delegates; cardinals, archbishops, priests, religious men and women and the laity as well as representatives of the Holy See (Vatican) and Church partners, will also mark the Golden jubilee on the association.
The Pope was elected to the pontificate in the year 2005, replacing the late Pope John Paul II, who was beatified on May 1, 2011.During the official opening of the assembly, a message was read out that was expected to be sent to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI as he marks his 60th anniversary on his priesthood June 29, 2011.
Pope Benedict XV made his first pastoral visit to Africa in the year 2009 where he visited Cameroon and Angola and will revisit the continent again in November (18-20) in Benin, West Africa.
In Benin, he will promulgate a special report on the Second African Synod, which took place in Rome in the year 2009 and under the theme: The Church at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2011
To coincide with Aboriginal Torres & Strait Islander Sunday 2011 (3 July), the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference through its Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has released a statement titled‘Friendship: a new name for solidarity with First Australians’.
“What we call the principle of solidarity is frequently stated by Pope Leo XIII, who uses the term‘friendship’,” the Bishops Commission says.
“The term ‘friendship’ with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a possibility we could examine more fully.
“This would imply that to be in solidarity with the First Australians means to deepen our friendship with each other.
“It means to develop an attitude of support and unity. It makes our relationship personal and practical.
“By developing friendships, we would become aware first-hand of the issues that concern us all.”Visit Aboriginal Catholic Social Services at CatholicCare Social Services
APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES, MARTYR, MISSIONARY, MYSTIC, GREAT THEOLOGIAN
Feast: June 29
The historic records bearing on St. Paul are fuller than those for any Scriptural saint. We have Paul's own wonderful writings, the fourteen letters included in the New Testament, which outline his missionary journeys, exhort and admonish the various Christian congregations, discuss ethics and doctrinal matters; and in the midst of all this we get a revelation of the man himself, his inner character, his problems and fears. St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles and certain apocryphal books are other sources of our knowledge of St. Paul. Of all the founders of the Church, Paul was perhaps the most brilliant and many-sided, the broadest in outlook, and therefore the best endowed to carry Christianity to alien lands and peoples.
Born into a well-to-do Jewish family of Tarsus, the son of a Roman citizen, Saul (as we shall call him until after his conversion) was sent to Jerusalem to be trained in the famous rabbinical school headed by Gamaliel. Here, in addition to studying the Law and the Prophets, he learned a trade, as was the custom. Young Saul chose the trade of tent-making. Although his upbringing was orthodox, while still at home in Tarsus he had come under the liberalizing Hellenic influences which at this time had permeated all levels of urban society in Asia Minor. Thus the Judaic, Roman, and Greek traditions and cultures all had a part in shaping this great Apostle, who was so different in status and temperament from the humble fishermen of Jesus' initial band of disciples. His missionary journeys were to give him the flexibility and the deep sympathy that made him the ideal human instrument for preaching Christ's Gospel of world brotherhood.
In the year 35 Saul appears as a self-righteous young Pharisee, almost fanatically anti-Christian. He believed that the trouble-making new sect should be stamped out, its adherents punished. We are told in Acts vii that he was present, although not a participator in the stoning, when Stephen, the first martyr, met his death. It was very soon afterwards that Paul experienced the revelation which was to transform his life. On the road to the Syrian city of Damascus, where he was going to continue his persecutions against the Christians, he was struck blind. On arriving in Damascus, there followed in dramatic sequence his sudden conversion, the cure of his blindness by the disciple Ananias, and his baptism. Paul accepted eagerly the commission to preach the Gospel of Christ, but like many another called to a great task he felt his unworthiness and withdrew from the world to spend three years in "Arabia" in meditation and prayer before beginning his apostolate. From the moment of his return, Paul—for he had now assumed this Roman name—never paused in his labors. It proved to be the most extraordinary career of preaching, writing, and church-founding of which we have record. The extensive travels by land and sea, so replete with adventure, are to be traced by anyone who reads carefully the New Testament letters. We cannot be sure, however, that the letters and records now extant reveal the full and complete chronicle of Paul's activities. He himself tells us he was stoned, thrice scourged, thrice shipwrecked, endured hunger and thirst, sleepless nights, perils and hardships; besides these physical trials, he suffered many disappointments and almost constant anxieties over the weak and widely-scattered communities of Christians.
Paul began his preaching in Damascus. Here the anger of the orthodox Jews against this renegade was so great that he had to make his escape by having himself let down from the city wall in a basket. Going down to Jerusalem, he was there looked on with suspicion by the Jewish Christians, for they could not at first believe that he who had so lately been their persecutor had turned advocate. Back in his native city of Tarsus once more, he was joined by Barnabas, and together they journeyed to Syrian Antioch, where they were so successful in finding followers that a church, later to become famous in the annals of early Christianity, was founded. It was here that the disciples of Jesus were first given the name of Christians (from the Greek
The second missionary journey, which lasted from 49 to 52, took Paul and Silas, his new assistant, to Phrygia and Galatia, to Troas, and across to the mainland of Europe, to Philippi in Macedonia. The physician Luke was now a member of the party, and in the book of Acts he gives us the record. They made their way to Thessalonica, then down to Athens and Corinth. At Athens Paul preached in the Areopagus, and we know that some of the Stoics and Epicureans heard him and debated with him informally, attracted by his vigorous intellect, his magnetic personality, and the ethical teachings which, in many respects, were not unlike their own. Passing over to Corinth, he found himself in the very heart of the Graeco-Roman world, and his letters of this period show that he is aware of the great odds against him, of the ceaseless struggle to be waged in overcoming pagan skepticism and indifference. He nevertheless stayed at Corinth for eighteen months, and met with considerable success. Two valuable workers there, Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, returned with him to Asia. It was during his first winter at Corinth that Paul wrote the earliest extant missionary letters. They show his supreme concern for conduct and his belief in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives men power for good.
The third missionary journey covered the period of 52 to 56. At Ephesus, an important city of Lydia, where the cult of the Greek-Ionic goddess Diana was very popular, Paul raised a disturbance against the cult and the trade in silver images of the goddess which flourished there. Later, in Jerusalem, he caused a commotion by visiting the temple; he was arrested, roughly handled, and bound with chains; but when he was brought before the tribune, he defended himself in a way that impressed his captors. He was taken to Caesarea, for it was rumored that some Jews at Jerusalem, who falsely accused him of having admitted Gentiles to the temple, were plotting to kill him. He was kept in prison at Caesarea awaiting trial for about two years, under the proconsuls Felix and Festus. The Roman governors apparently wished to avoid trouble with both Jews and Christians and so postponed judgment from month to month. Paul at last appealed to the Emperor, demanding the legal right of a Roman citizen to have his case heard by Nero himself. He was placed in the custody of a centurion, who took him to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles leave him in the imperial city, awaiting his hearing.
It would appear that Paul's appeal was successful, for there is some evidence of another missionary journey, probably to Macedonia. On this last visit to the various Christian communities, it is believed that he appointed Titus bishop in Crete and Timothy at Ephesus. Returning to Rome, he was once more arrested, and after two years in chains suffered martyrdom, presumably at about the same time as the Apostle Peter, bishop of the Roman Church. Inscriptions of the second and third century in the catacombs give evidence of a cult of SS. Peter and Paul. This devotion has never diminished in popularity. In Christian art St. Paul is usually depicted as a bald man with a black beard, rather stocky, but vigorous and intense. His relics are venerated in the basilica of St. Paul and in the Lateran Church at Rome.
Because of the pressure of his work, Paul usually dictated his letters, writing the salutation in his own hand. The most quoted of New Testament writers, Paul has given us a wealth of counsel, aphorisms, and ethical teachings; he had the power of expressing spiritual truths in the simplest of words, and this, rather than the building up of a systematic theology, was his contribution to the early Church. A man of action, Paul reveals the dynamic of his whole career when he writes, "I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly calling in Christ Jesus." Although he himself was forever pressing onwards, his letters often invoked a spirit of quiet meditation, as when he ends his epistle to the Philippians with the beautiful lines: "Whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things."
FIRST POPE AND PRINCE OF THE APOSTLES
Feast: June 29
St. Peter is mentioned so often in the New Testament—in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles of St. Paul—that we feel we know him better than any other person who figured prominently in the life of the Saviour. In all, his name appears 182 times. We have no knowledge of him prior to his conversion, save that he was a Galilean fisherman, from the village of Bethsaida or Capernaum. There is some evidence for supposing that Peter's brother Andrew and possibly Peter himself were followers of John the Baptist, and were therefore prepared for the appearance of the Messiah in their midst. We picture Peter as a shrewd and simple man, of great power for good, but now and again afflicted by sudden weakness and doubt, at least at the outset of his discipleship. After the death of the Saviour he manifested his primacy among the Apostles by his courage and strength. He was "the Rock" on which the Church was founded. It is perhaps Peter's capacity for growth that makes his story so inspiring to other erring humans. He reached the lowest depths on the night when he denied the Lord, then began the climb upward, to become bishop of Rome, martyr, and, finally, "keeper of the keys of Heaven."
Our first glimpse of Peter comes at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. While He was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, casting a net into the water. When He called to them, "Come, and I will make you fishers of men," they at once dropped their net to follow Him. A little later we learn that they visited the house where Peter's mother-in-law was suffering from a fever, and Jesus cured her. This was the first cure witnessed by Peter, but he was to see many miracles, for he stayed close to Jesus during the two years of His ministry. All the while he was listening, watching, questioning, learning, sometimes failing in perfect faith, but in the end full of strength and thoroughly prepared for his own years of missionary preaching.
Let us recall a few of the Biblical episodes in which Peter appears. We are told that after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus withdrew to the mountain to pray, and his disciples started to sail home across the Lake of Galilee. Suddenly they saw Him walking on the water, and, according to the account in Matthew, Jesus told them not to be afraid. It was Peter who said, "Lord, if it is Thou, bid me come to Thee over the water." Peter set out confidently, but suddenly grew afraid and began to sink, and Jesus stretched forth His hand to save him, saying, "O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?"
Then we have Peter's dramatic confession of faith, which occurred when Jesus and his followers had reached the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus having asked the question, "Who do men say that I am?" there were various responses. Then Jesus turned to Peter and said, "But who do you say that I am?" and Peter answered firmly, "Thou art the Christ, son of the living God." (Matthew xvi, 13-18; Mark viii, 27-29; Luke ix, 18-20.) Then Jesus told him that his name would henceforth be Peter. In the Aramaic tongue which Jesus and his disciples spoke, the word was kepha, meaning rock. Jesus concluded with the prophetic words, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock shall be built My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
There seems to be no doubt that Peter was favored among the disciples. He was selected, with James and John, to accompany Jesus to the mountain, the scene of the Transfiguration, to be given a glimpse of His glory, and there heard God pronounce the words, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
After this, the group had gone down to Jerusalem, where Jesus began to prepare his disciples for the approaching end of his ministry on earth. Peter chided Him and could not bring himself to believe that the end was near. When all were gathered for the Last Supper, Peter declared his loyalty and devotion in these words, "Lord, with Thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death." It must have been in deep sorrow that Jesus answered that before cockcrow Peter would deny Him thrice. And as the tragic night unrolled, this prophecy came true. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was taken by soldiers to the Jewish high priest, Peter followed far behind, and sat half hidden in the courtyard of the temple during the proceedings. Pointed out as one of the disciples, Peter three times denied the accusation. But we know that he was forgiven, and when, after the Resurrection, Jesus manifested himself to his disciples, He signaled Peter out, and made him declare three times that he loved Him, paralleling the three times that Peter had denied Him. Finally, Jesus charged Peter, with dramatic brevity, "Feed my sheep." From that time on Peter became the acknowledged and responsible leader of the sect.
It was Peter who took the initiative in selecting a new Apostle in place of Judas, and he who performed the first miracle of healing. A lame beggar asked for money; Peter told him he had none, but in the name of Jesus the Nazarene bade him arise and walk. The beggar did as he was bidden, cured of his lameness. When, about two years after the Ascension, the spread of the new religion brought on the persecutions that culminated in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, many of the converts scattered or went into hiding. The Apostles stood their ground firmly in Jerusalem, where the Jewish temple had become the spearhead of opposition to them. Peter chose to preach in the outlying villages, farther and farther afield. In Samaria, where he preached and performed miracles, he was offered money by Simon Magus, a magician, if he would teach the secret of his occult powers. Peter rebuked the magician sternly, saying, "Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased by money."
With his vigorous outspokenness, Peter inevitably came into conflict with the Jewish authorities, and twice the high priests had him arrested. We are told that he was miraculously freed of his prison chains, and astonished the other Apostles by suddenly appearing back among them. Peter now preached in the seaports of Joppa and Lydda, where he met men of many races, and in Caesarea, where he converted the first Gentile, a man named Cornelius. Realizing that the sect must win its greatest support from Gentiles, Peter helped to shape the early policy towards them. Its growing eminence led to his election as bishop of the see of Antioch. How long he remained there, or how or when he came to Rome, we do not know. The evidence seems to establish the fact that his last years were spent in Rome as bishop. The belief that he suffered martyrdom there during the reign of Nero in the same year as St. Paul is soundly based on the writings of three early Fathers, St. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. The only writings by St. Peter which have come down to us are his New Testament Epistles I and II, both of which are thought to have been written from Rome to the Christian converts of Asia Minor. The First Epistle is filled with admonitions to mutual helpfulness, charity, and humility, and in general outlines the duties of Christians in all aspects of life. At its conclusion (I Peter v, 13) Peter sends greetings from "the church which is at Babylon." This is accepted as further evidence that the letter was written from Rome, which in the Jewish usage of the time was called "Babylon." The second Epistle warns against false teachings, speaks of the Second Coming of the Lord, and ends with the beautiful doxology, "But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, both now and the day of eternity."
The latest archeological findings indicate that St. Peter's Church in Rome rises over the site of his tomb, as Pius XII announced at the close of the Holy Year of 1950. In the catacombs many wall writings have been found which link the names of St. Peter and St. Paul, showing that popular devotion to the two great Apostles began in very early times. Paintings of later date commonly depict Peter as a short, energetic man with curly hair and beard; in art his traditional emblems are a boat, keys, and a cock.