Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
November 15, 2009
St. Peter and St. Paul
This past week was the feast of St. Leo the Great. Leo was a very learned Pope. He did a great deal for the advancement of learning in the church. He is also known for building and dedicating the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall of the Vatican on the Ostian Way. This building went up in the 4th century and remained in its original beauty and simplicity until 1923 when it was destroyed by fire. The Basilica was immediately rebuilt and dedicated in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.
The original Basilica of St. Peter, the first pope, was built by the emperor Constantine beginning in the year 323. The location of the basilica was chosen because it was the site of the martyrdom of St. Peter at the circus of Caligula in Nero’s gardens on the Vatican Hill. Peter was buried nearby. This basilica which lay over the tomb of Peter, remained in its original magnificence until 1506.
In 1506 Pope Julius began to plan for the construction of a new building which was designed by the architect Bramante. It was under construction for some 120 years, undergoing many alterations, additions and modifications under the guidance of many popes and architects. The greatest artist to contribute to this new structure was Michelangelo. Upon completion the basilica was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626.
This coming Wednesday, November 18th, the church commemorates the dedication of both basilicas. Although St. Peter’s is more popular to the general public, the two basilicas give testimony to both Saints Peter and Paul who are always thought of as the most important leaders of the early church. Together they paved the way for Christianity. The two men were different in every way yet they were united in their passion for Jesus Christ. Their differences enable them to complement one another in their efforts to spread the Gospel.
The parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul have matured in the shadow of these two great saints. We have come to know the strengths and weaknesses of both men. We realize that both had a tremendous impact on the Roman world. There is no debate there. Their lives and their stories remain etched in our hearts. We doubtless have two great men to emulate. Although we have a great deal to be proud of we must remain vigilant not to over exaggerate their place in our religious lives.
St. Augustine reminds us that “we do not build churches or appoint priesthoods, sacred rites and sacrifices to the martyrs, because not of the martyrs, but the God of the martyrs, is our God. Who among the faithful ever heard a priest, standing at the altar set p over the body of a martyr to the honour and worship of say in praying: We offer up sacrifices to thee, Peter or Paul? We do not build churches to martyrs as to gods, but as memorials to men departed . . ., whose souls live with God. Nor do we make altars to sacrifice on them to the martyrs, but to their God and our God.”
Lorette P. Nault