Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

June 25, 2008

Peter and Paul: United by A Common Feast


The next time you go on a large commercial airline flight, say a prayer for your safety and the safety of others on board. Then, just for a moment, consider what would happen if the plane you were on tragically crashed, leaving no survivors. If that did happen, you and all the people on board, mostly anonymous strangers to you, would be forevermore linked in death.

Sometimes when air tragedies like this occur, further investigation of the lives of the passengers reveals startling similarities: Perhaps two different groups of students were returning from a field trip at the same historical site. Maybe there were several families with children nearly the same ages. In one recent plane crash, the lives of two famous scientists were lost; they knew of each other but had never net, and they did not even know the other was on the plane.

The point of this rather dark exercise is to show how community can be formed and people can come together even in death. this happened to two of the greatest saints in the Church—Peter and Paul—who share a feast day on June 29.

St. Peter, originally named Simon, appears in the New Testament more than anyone else except Jesus. Jesus left Peter the "keys of the kingdom," appointing him the first leader of the church. Peter eventually founded the Christian community in rome, but his influence was great throughout the entire Church. Since Peter, Rome has had primacy and respect in the Church, and Peter is the first pope.

St. Paul, once called Saul, was a Roman citizen as well as a Pharisee. His occupation was tentmaker. Once a persecutor of Christians, Paul was blinded with an appearance of the Risen Christ who wondered "Why do you persecute me?" Soon after, Paul's conversion became complete. He is the greatest missionary the Church has ever seen, personally founding many local churches. His letters to these churches are filled with inspired theology.

But, because of his faith, Paul was taken to Rome in chains as a prisoner. Christianity remained against the law in the Roman Empire.

Rome is the place where the stories of Paul and Peter come together. Tradition holds that each was murdered by the Emperor Nero, dome time around the year 64. Peter was crucified in a public circus or amphitheatre, hung on a cross upside down in humility that he might not seem to imitate the crucifixion of Christ. Paul was beheaded on the outskirts of the city.

A little over a century later it was rumored that Christians had taken the bodies of Peter and Paul and moved them to a common grave in the catacombs below the city. An excavation of the area thought to contain the bodies in the 1920s did not find them, though interesting graffiti, written in Latin, was present. Among the written messages discovered were:

"I, Tomius Coelius, made a feast to the honor of Peter and Paul."
"Paul and Peter; make intecessions for me, Victor."
"peter and Paul, do not forget Antonius Bassus


In death thiese two great Christians have evermore been connected with each other through a common feast day: June 29. Peter is the patron of fisherman (his occupation), watchmakers (the cock crowing was an early way to keep time), keymakers (he caries the keys of the kingdom), and those with fevers (Jesus healed the fever of his mother-in-law)> Paul is the patron of tentmakers, theologians, and weavers (he was each of these).

Like some of the first Christians, pray to these saints. Ask them to intercede for you, your family, and your students. When you return to school, share the connection of Peter and Paul. Use the following Discussion Questions.

Discussion Questions
1. Who are two people you know who are associated with one another due to their common deaths or the way they died?
2. Create a scenario where you would have enough courage to give up your life for your Christian faith.
3. Peter and Paul each left the faith of the ancestors to become Christians. Who is someone in your family who has given up his or her religion? What reasons does this person give for doing this?
4. Who is a person you know who has recently become a Catholic? What are the reasons the person gives for entering the Church?

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