June 29 has been observed as the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at least since the days of Saint Augustine, as we know from his homily for the occasion, now part of the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. Aside from this being my name-day, I have had a predilection for this feast for years as it brings to mind the many happy memories of celebrating this day in Rome for many years: attending Solemn Vespers in Saint Peter’s Basilica on the vigil when the pallia to be blessed and imposed the next day were brought to the confessio for an overnight rest over the relics of the Prince of the Apostles; hearing the thrilling O Felix Roma rendered by the Sistine Chapel Choir; watching the Holy Father place the preeminent symbol of the archepiscopal office on the year’s new metropolitans from the Universal Church.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of preaching here on this same feast. This evening, I would like to take a page out of Julius Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, wherein he informed us that “Gallia omnis est divisa in partes tres” (All Gaul is divided into three parts). Similarly, this homily will be divisa in partes tres: a consideration of the two Apostles we honor today; a reflection on the Petrine office in the Church; and a challenge to live the implications of the solemnity.
Why are these two Apostles so important? Saint Luke’s Acts of the Apostles ends with the notice that Paul was headed to Rome for trial before the Emperor. Luke saw in this event the Hand of Providence, for Rome was the center of the world. With Paul in Rome, the Lord’s desire for the Gospel to be preached to the very ends of the earth would be fulfilled for “omnes viae Romam ducunt” (all roads lead to Rome). Beyond that, Peter’s first epistle is written, we are told in that letter, “from Babylon,” a code-word for Rome.
Both Peter and Paul sealed their preaching and ministry with their blood. Their martyrdom was part of what would become a long procession of disciples who were so convinced of the truth of Christ and His Gospel that they gave the ultimate witness of their lives. If something is worth dying for, it must be worth living for – so concluded thousands of pagans and Jews and atheists in those first years of the Christian Dispensation. Hence, the adage: Sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum (The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians).
Read more at Catholic World Report.