Friday, June 29, 2012

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

St. Peter, considered the first Pope by Roman Catholics, was very much a model of human frailty for all the popes who came after: Holding the Master's gaze, Peter could walk on water, only to be submerged by his doubts. Although he could inspire enough confidence that Jesus would call him the rock on which the Church would be built, Peter could also provoke Jesus to the point where Jesus rebuked him, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Peter cut off the ear of the High Priest's servant when the mob came to arrest Jesus in the garden -- only to deny even knowing his Master three times before cockcrow next morning.

Peter was brave enough to leave his home and preach the Gospel in faraway Rome -- but when Nero's persecutions heated up, Peter ran away again.

According to tradition, Peter met Jesus on the road as he was hightailing it out of Rome. Surprised, he asked, "Domine, quo vadis?" Lord, where are you going?

Jesus replied, "Romam vado iterum crucifigi." I am going to Rome to be crucified again. (Meaning, of course, that Jesus was going to Rome to do what Peter was refusing to do.)

Only after this did Peter, suitably chastened, return to Rome and, in due course, face crucifixion on the Vatican Hill. (Tradition has it that he asked to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to be crucified the same way as Jesus was.)

St. Paul was martyred around this same time. However, he was a Roman citizen and, according to tradition, he was killed with a sword.

Google the "patron saint of salesmen" and you'll find out about St. Lucy of Syracuse. St. Paul would have been a far better choice: His missionary work around the Mediterranean and, in particular, his insistence that converts need not follow all the minutiae of the Law of Moses -- in other words the way he repackaged the product -- helped guarantee that Christianity would take root as a world religion.

So, OK, you're not religious. And you plan on spending tonight in a pub, not in a church. Have you ever had to deal with responsibility and the fear that you might not be quite up to the job? Have you ever had to sell anything... even yourself in an interview? Raise a glass, then, to Peter and Paul.

The illustration here is taken from a 1602 painting by Annibale Carracci, Domine, Quo Vadis.

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