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Peter and Paul are giants of the Church. Both are apostles. Peter was very likely a middle-aged man when Jesus called him. He was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village near the Lake of Galilee. Perhaps he was part of a fisherman's co-op with his brother Andrew and friends James and John. At any rate, Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus. Jesus said, “You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas, meaning Rock.”
During the three years the apostles lived with Jesus, Peter showed definite signs of leadership. He was often the spokesman for the group. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was Peter who objected to Jesus' stating that he was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter is mentioned 195 times in the New Testament. He appears lovable, impetuous, practical, and sometimes weak under pressure. Jesus loved him dearly, even after Peter denied knowing him during the passion
Peter became the leader in the early Church. According to the Acts of the Apostles, he was the first to preach on Pentecost. He arranged for the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. He worked the first public miracle: curing the lame man at the temple gate. He welcomed the first person who was not Jewish into the Church. People thought just his shadow passing by would cure them.
Peter was imprisoned three or four times. Finally, in Rome, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Out of respect for his Master, Jesus, he asked the guard to fasten him to the cross upside down. He was buried in an old Roman cemetery, probably where the basilica of St. Peter is today. He is called the “Prince of the Apostles.” Two letters in the Bible are said to be his.
Paul received the best education. Being a strict Jew, he persecuted the Christians who were teaching strange new things. One day on the way to Damascus to hunt for Christians, Paul met Jesus. Paul became the greatest Christian missionary, preaching and founding churches. In the beginning Paul had difficulty convincing the Jewish Christians that non-Jews could be baptized and did not have to follow Jewish rules. He finally won.
For about thirty years Paul traveled around the Roman Empire preaching about Christ and suffering. From his many letters that are in the Bible and from the Acts of the Apostles, he seems to have been affectionate, loyal, courageous, and dedicated. He was the right man to build the bridge between Jewish religion of the Old Testament and the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul was imprisoned and finally beheaded outside of the walls of Rome.
from Saints Kit © 1994 Loyola Press
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