On Saints Peter and Paul

On Saints Peter and Paul

First, a short selection from the beautiful homily given by the successor of Saint Peter on June 28, 2009, marking the conclusion of Pauline Year:

Paul wants Christians to have a “responsible” and “adult faith”. The words “adult faith” in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a “courageous” form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church. In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church’s faith, even if this contradicts the “logic” of the contemporary world. This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an “adult faith”. It is the faith that he desires. On the other hand, he describes chasing the winds and trends of the time as infantile. Thus, being committed to the inviolability of human life from its first instant, thereby radically opposing the principle of violence also precisely in the defence of the most defenceless human creatures is part of an adult faith. It is part of an adult faith to recognize marriage between a man and a woman for the whole of life as the Creator’s ordering, newly re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not let itself be carried about here and there by any trend. It opposes the winds of fashion. It knows that these winds are not the breath of the Holy Spirit; it knows that the Spirit of God is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus Christ. However, here too Paul does not stop at saying “no”, but rather leads us to the great “yes”. He describes the mature, truly adult faith positively with the words: “speaking the truth in love” (cf. Eph 4: 15). The new way of thinking, given to us by faith, is first and foremost a turning towards the truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is the truth. The truth about the world and about ourselves becomes visible when we look to God. And God makes himself visible to us in the Face of Jesus Christ. In looking at Christ, we recognize something else: truth and love are inseparable. In God both are inseparably one; it is precisely this that is the essence of God. For Christians, therefore, truth and love go together. Love is the test of truth. We should always measure ourselves anew against this criterion, so that truth may become love and love may make us truthful.

Another important thought appears in this verse of St Paul. The Apostle tells us that by acting in accordance with truth in love, we help to ensure that all things (ta pánta) the universe may grow, striving for Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not only concerned in our personal rectitude nor with the growth of the Church alone. He is interested in the universe: ta pánta. The ultimate purpose of Christ’s work is the universe the transformation of the universe, of the whole human world, of all creation. Those who serve the truth in love together with Christ contribute to the true progress of the world. Yes, here it is quite clear that Paul is acquainted with the idea of progress. Christ his life, his suffering and his rising was the great leap ahead in the progress of humanity, of the world. Now, however, the universe must grow in accordance with him. Where the presence of Christ increases, therein lies the true progress of the world. There, mankind becomes new and thus the world is made new.

And this excerpt from Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church:

The bursting of all comprehensible models in the constellation around Jesus can become most perplexing to human reason. Take the seeming contradiction introduced by the call of Paul to an apostolate that ranks with that of the Twelve. He has to fight hard for it, all the more so because his vision of the Risen One, which makes him and his mission coequal with the first witnesses, is of a totally different kind. [9]  Paul is and remains supernumerary, because with the election of Matthias his place has already been filled. And yet he is legitimate, even among the “superapostles”, “even though I am nothing” (2 Cor 12:11). He is indeed “nothing”, for the heavenly Jerusalem remains built upon twelve foundation stones, and no provision is made for a thirteenth gate (Rev 21:14). And yet the lion’s share falls to him in his apostolate and his theological grasp of the mysteriumof Christ; he is associated with Luke and Mark; his exploits make up the largest part of the Acts of the Apostles.Paul represents the “Passion of Christ” to the communities and for them, so he himself becomes a “type” as he models himself on the “type” of Christ. Not only does this introduce an unprecedented existential mediation—prelude to the great missioning of saints in Church history—but also an unheard-of clarification of what will be called office and authority in the Church. Again, the two sides are inseparable from each other. Paulinism is not only what Luther extracted as “doctrine” from the Letters to the Romans and Galatians but also that other part which deals with Church government in the Letters to the Corinthians, which sounds more authoritarian than any successor of Peter would have dared to be. (How mild the Letters of Clement sound by comparison!) This, naturally, is of more than merely antiquarian interest for the later Church: so this was the way the charismatic Church of Corinth was really ruled with the assistance of the Holy Spirit! But authority in the Church, the precise anatomy of which Paul has made plain, theologically as well as pastorally, for all ages of the Church on the basis of his own experience, is just as distinctively marked by the unique Christ-event as was the earlier Peter-John “structure”: it is an authority that proceeds in harmony with the community and—using all the resources of charity, with a heartfelt and ministerial love and a trusting reference to the immanence of Christ’s Spirit in the faithful (2 Cor 13:5)—strives to create communio. It threatens with a regrettable but legitimate “naked” authority only in the extreme instance when the apostle does not find in the community the proper loving obedience required by faith (2 Cor 12:20-21).

Just as Peter builds on John and John is within (and beside) Peter, the Petrine aspect perhaps appears nowhere more clearly than in Paul. Conversely, Pauline influence is unmistakable in Peter’s letters, [10] which are evidently intended to transmit wholly Petrine tradition. Again, we see two striking figures (who do not in the least blur each other and who have distinct theological and ecclesiological valences) in perichoresis, nor could it be otherwise among the members of the “living Body of Christ”.

Still, not every member communicates in the same way with the other. Within the manifest structure (which we stress is not definable in terms of tight distinctions) there are delicate lines of relation, most clearly drawn and represented by Luke and John. Luke portrays a family relationship between Mary and the Baptist, and, as Paul’s companion, he circumspectly builds a bridge between the latter and the Gospel tradition. Luke and John both bring to light deep, hidden mariological dimensions. In the episode at the foot of the Cross, told only by John, he who in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles is always shown together with Peter becomes “son” and guardian of the Mother. Thus he is shifted into a discrete but totally indispensable central position (mediating between Peter and Mary, between the official, masculine Church and the feminine Church) that alone can give these two dimensions of the Church’s mysterium their place and proportion. Only where these concrete proportions are seen, understood and meditated upon in the light of faith, can one speak to advantage about the office of Peter in the Church. Moreover, this cannot be isolated from its most intimate connection with and within the collegium of the Twelve, each of whom was explicitly called by name.


[9] Ernst Käsemann, “Die Legitimität des Apostels”, in Zeitschrift für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 41, (1942).
[10] K. H. Schelkle, Die Petrusbriefe, der Judasbrief (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1961), 5ff.; cf. the entries under “Paulusbriefe” in the index.


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20 Responses to On Saints Peter and Paul

  1. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Teresa – j’ai fait une betise!

    I saw this post when looking through what I will call the Compendium of Comments. I thought you were referring to a post of mine.

    I was sadly disappointed when I found that this was horribly untrue.


  2. toadspittle says:

    Interesting article.

    The trouble is that Toad, over the past half century or so, so has learned never to take anyone
    else’s word for anything, but to think out everything for himself, as best he can.
    And to always ask boring questions like, “How do you know that?”
    And he is far too old to change now. Sigh.

    “For Christians, therefore, truth and love go together. Love is the test of truth. We should always measure ourselves anew against this criterion, so that truth may become love and love may make us truthful.”

    Assuming this to be true, why are so many Christians so horrible? (
    (Not on CP&S of course)

    And yes, Joyful, we agree Stalin and Pol Pot were even more horrible.


  3. Gertrude says:

    Sadly, Toad, not just Christians, though we really should know better if we are trying to live Christian lives and are not just ‘Sunday’ Christians.


  4. joyfulpapist says:

    And yes, Joyful, we agree Stalin and Pol Pot were even more horrible.

    I wouldn’t have thought so, Toad. More horrible than Rasputin, or Torquemada, or that great Hungarian Christian hero Vlad the Impaler? At least Stalin and Pol Pot didn’t claim to be Christ followers! At their worst, so-called Christians who have failed to live according to the teachings of Christ have been as bad, if not worse, than any non-Christian nasty you can think of. But they do horrible things because they don’t live by the teachings they claim to believe. Love is, indeed, the test of truth. And there is no truth in killing someone in the name of Jesus.


  5. Mimi says:

    “For fairest things turn foulest by their deeds—
    Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”

    —or words to that effect. 😉


  6. toadspittle says:

    Toad is shocked -yes shocked – to see Torqumada’s name bandied about in such cavalier fashion. Don’t we have it on good authority on CP&S that The Spanish Inquisition was nothing but a bit of good-hearted fun?
    (Or has Toad got it wrong again? Probably)


  7. toadspittle says:

    Got Torque’s name wrong, for sure.


  8. kathleen says:

    “Corruptio optimi pessima est”
    Corruption of the best is the worst.
    So yes, as other commenters have noted: when a Christian (a follower of Christ) behaves in a despicable way, it is much much worse and has far reaching consequences…… especially that of giving scandal!

    Quite scary really, isn’t it? Certainly it should make us pull up our socks and be constantly vigilant.


  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Your comment is acute, Kathleen – “It should make us pull up our socks and be constantly vigilant”.

    I, and others keeping telling this to Toad, but he won’t listen. Scary’s just the half of it.
    With him, it’s like herding cats.
    Difficult but delightful.

    Whipeyed Mr Wally


  10. toadspittle says:

    Toads don’t have socks.


  11. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Toad might be interested in this………….

    On the Catholic blog “The Hermeneutics of Continuity”, (which begins with a remarkable article – “Pope presses ‘Start’,”) there is an item at the end of the blog

    “How to build a backyard Catholic shrine”.

    Would Toad care to follow up on this project?


  12. rebrites says:

    Funny enough, there IS a structure in the back garden already perfectly formed for shrine use, complete with a gothic pointed arch over the opening. A holy statue would fit perfectly inside. Unfortunately, we don´t have a statue we´d want to leave outdoors. And too many of the neighbors know what the would-be shrine was in the past — a barbecue.
    Some folk would find the idea titillating, and the selection of appropriate saints a stimulating pursuit. But even wicked old Toad is not so irreverant as to set up a saint in what was once a fiery furnace. It would be akin to using a blender for a goldfish tank.


  13. toadspittle says:

    Toad remembers seeing in some rust-belt town in Ohio, a shrine containg a statue of the Virgin, fashioned out of an ordinary white, enamelled bath tub set on its end with the bottom third (where the taps had been) buried in the ground. Very nice, it was. Tasteful..


  14. toadspittle says:

    The shrine was in the front yard. Oh, well.


  15. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    This is hugely encouraging.

    Rebrites is right to reject the barbecue as a shrine; the associations with the other place might well raise eyebrows. A shame not to use the Gothic arch though.

    But spookliy, Toad with his instincts for objets trouvée as devotional art, has stumbled (probably) on a solution. The upturned bath could be disguised as a shrine, known only to a few. In a flash, it could look just like an ordinary upturned bath. It recalls the priest holes in Elizabethan England with all the appearance of normality. It’s said a statue may be hard to find; could Toad perhaps stand in that vertical bath, soaking up the vibes as we old hippies used to say? I think specifically of Reich’s ‘Orgone Generator’ -remember all that?

    I am glad the shy, dimpled Rebrites has popped in, because someone (Manus?) put it about that Toad was a woman, or at least dressed in women’s clothing. Nothing wrong with that of course; Toad, as a hack, will have adopted many disguises in hot pursuit of a scoop – and ‘forgot’ to change. It is now clear that Rebrites is another person, possibly small and perfectly formed, as Toad would wish to be.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see some interest in this worthwhile project. It had crossed my mind, in a frisson of excitement, that Toad would enjoy the construction of a DIY Catholic Backyard Shrine, out there in Norvern Spine.

    And it appears that the germ of a project with the vertical bath has begun. This image reminds me so much of the Space Shuttle awaiting the launch countdown, carrying with it so many hopes and dreams.

    Arriba arriba!

    How pleasing to be in at the start of something good like this.
    It seems..


  16. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    May I hesitantly suggest that when Toad swings his bathtub into its standing position like some marvellous Stonehenge, that the music of Richard Strauss’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ be played?

    The brassy sound of the trumpets, and the beating of the enormous tympani would be fitting, I feel, for such a moment.


  17. omvendt says:

    “I think specifically of Reich’s ‘Orgone Generator’ -remember all that?”

    Sure do, Wally. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fJ0P1f0Ys0


  18. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Hmmmm…Perhaps I should have said “Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Accumulator”. But you knew that….


  19. toadspittle says:

    No, you should have said, “Wilhelm Reich’s Organ Generator.”

    But M*l G*bs*n borrowed it and has not yet returned it. It’s a long story. Or might be one day..


  20. toadspittle says:

    This ‘thread’ is getting altogether too serious. Time to get back to ¡The Spanish Inquisition!. Thinks Toad.


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