St. Peter, a Saintly Supper 3/26/24

Tuesday night, church and community members gathered for the last Saintly Supper of the winter 2024 season. The evening’s topic was Saint Peter, the Rock. Sean led those gathered in lively discussions about saints, sainthood, and Catholicism, as well as in soulful song.

The dinner served was delicious! Many thanks to Sara Carr for the Portuguese fish stew, to Judy Mayhew for the vegetable casseroles, to Charlotte Wright for the rice, to Shirley Kennedy for the sweet bread and to Emily Broderick, Marie Wise, and Ann Noyes for the delectable desserts.


St. Peter
The Rock

St. Peter’s Tomb at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome
St. Peter’s Tomb at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

A man named Simon was out fishing with his brother Andrew one day in the Sea of Galilee. Then along came Jesus, and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And so they did.

One of these brothers is remembered as St. Andrew, patron saint of Ukraine, Romania, and Russia, since the Holy Spirit led him there to establish the Christian faith. The other brother, Simon, is remembered as St. Peter. Why the name change?

One day, Jesus took His disciples up to Caesarea Phillipi, a city built by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus. The city was an embarrassment for the nationalists among the Jewish people, and would have made a great place for a wannabe Messiah to start a grand revolt against the Romans. But Jesus was no wannabe. He used this site for a different purpose.

“Who do you say that I am?” he asked His students. Simon came forward and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,” said Jesus, “For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter” — which means Rock — “and on this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The Apostles would have recognized some of these words, as the Lord had spoken to all of them before about “binding and loosing” — authority in spiritual teaching. But this time was different – it was just for Simon. And not only did the Lord give him a new name, Peter, but he gave him something that only the prime minister in the kingdom of David, Jesus’ royal ancestor, could carry on the King’s behalf: the keys to the kingdom. The Catholic Church teaches that Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis – holds these spiritual keys today, handed down through the ages from Pope to Pope, all the way back to St. Peter, the first pope.

Of course, not all Christians agree about this! But most will at least acknowledge that the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. Not everyone agrees that St. Peter was the first bishop of Rome, but all Christians agree that in the book of Acts, Chapter 10, he was called by the Resurrected Lord back to Caesarea Phillipi, where he baptized the first Gentile into the Church of Christ – and that Gentile was a Roman, named Cornelius. Peter, a Jew, did this in spite of the fact that Jewish custom forbade fellowship with Gentiles, who were considered “impure”.

It was Peter who went before the Apostles and believers, and proclaimed the vision that God had given him: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean…if God gave [Gentiles] the same gift He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who [am] I to hinder the work of God?” Later, when James was advocating for the circumcision of Gentile converts, it was Peter who stood up on their behalf, saying: “Why do you test God by placing on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Prior to his vision, the Church of Christ was Jewish – after, it was Catholic, that is, universal. As Simon, he fished for fish in the sea of Galilee; as Peter, he cast an even wider net for men and women in the sea of the Gentile world. The heart of the Gentile world in those days was Rome. Whether he was the first one to wear the papal tiara as the Bishop of Rome is a matter of debate – but what is certain is that Peter received the crown of martyrdom there, crucified by order of Nero Caesar. Feeling unworthy to die in the same manner of His Lord, Peter insisted that he be crucified upside down.

The Lord promised His disciples: “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” St. Peter put his utmost faith in this promise, and Jesus who gave it. To this day, anyone who wishes to may visit St. Peter’s Basilica and see the tomb of St. Peter, where his bones are laid. But his indominatable spirit indeed never died, and he reigns in heaven with the Lord in whom he believed and for whom he lives forever.

We know that the faith of Simon, called the Rock because of his solid faith, was shaken many times in his life. He denied he even knew Jesus three times. “O ye of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?” And yet he did doubt, as we all do. In spite of this doubt with regards to belief, Peter remained steadfast in his faith – he walked the walk when it mattered most, carrying out the charge his Lord gave him: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”

Prayer to St. Peter
O Holy Apostle, because you are the Rock upon which Almighty God has built His Church; obtain for me I pray you, lively faith, firm hope and burning love; complete detachment from myself, contempt of the world, patience in adversity, humility in prosperity, recollection in prayer, purity of heart, a right intention in all my works, diligence in fulfilling the duties of my state of life, constancy in my resolutions, resignation to the will of God and perseverance in the grace of God even unto death; that so, by means of your intercession and your glorious merits, I may be made worthy to appear before the chief and eternal Shepherd of souls, Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever. Amen.