By Denise Trull
Today we celebrate one of the many happy jewels of the June calendar: Saints Peter and Paul. It is very moving to me that they are celebrated together on the same day.
I am sure there is a very in-depth, richly theological explanation somewhere in the Church's copious supply of writings as to why they are celebrated together. But I just simply find the fact that they share a feast day quite charming in a serious way -- for could there be two men on earth who are so unlike one another? Polar opposites in temperament, intellect, and social status -- yet each called to be a foundation stone of the Church.
St. Peter, to be honest, probably flew by the proverbial seat of his pants in his ministry. I think he might have been a bit forgetful of appointments and perhaps lost his temper and threw things up in the air once in awhile. He made rash promises and regretted them later, albeit with a very humble heart. He never made lists, I am certain of this. How can I be so certain, you may ask? Because, alas, Peter and I are one. St. Paul, I am willing to wager, was totally organized. Driven. A bit stern and probably completely baffled by the way St. Peter conducted his business. St. Paul and I are not one. But here they are standing next to each other quite comfortably on the same day, both feted and praised as good and faithful servants for completely different reasons.
This feast always brings to mind the very interesting and lovable relationship I witnessed between an old, cheerful pastor of mine and his very organized, cracker jack secretary. He was a marvel in the confessional, mind you, and was as meek as a lamb, but organization was his Achilles heel. He was very last minute, with cassock flying, when it came to anything that required planning. We found it quite exhilarating, if not just a bit exasperating, as we all sat wondering in our pews how in the world he was going to pull off this First Communion, or that Confirmation. He miraculously managed to get it all together at the last minute snatching song sheets hot off the copier before he flew into Mass, and we all had to agree that it was the best First Communion or Confirmation we ever had, each and every time.
He forgot meetings, but no one could ever get mad at him because he was so kind and good. He somehow managed to remember in the nick of time though, and bustled in with a plate of cookies as a peace offering. We all concluded that it was the grace of his ordination, but really it was the constant efforts of his parish secretary who made sure he was where he was supposed to be. She followed him around with reminders and handed him notes along with his coat and his hat. I am sure he baffled her organized self to no end, but she loved him to death. And whenever she had to pick up her grandchildren from school at the last minute, or if one of her kids needed to talk to her, my pastor would let her go home early or come in late always saying, “Family comes first.” His motto could very well have been “the schedule was made for man and not man for the schedule.” She was always grateful. The give and take between these two souls created a beautiful atmosphere filled with humility and humor and God’s work was always done between the two of them. They remind me always of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Here is the beautiful thing. Both Peter and Paul were called to be foundation stones for Jesus's Church. Both together as a sign that all are called to serve Him...no matter what they are like.
Thomas Merton, in his autobiography Seven Story Mountain, tells the story of a turning point in his conversion. He ducked into a Catholic Church one day and just sat down in a pew. In another pew there was a lady kneeling toward the back with a bucket beside her. She was dressed very poorly. In still another pew sat a smartly dressed businessman. Merton noticed that both were oblivious of anyone else but were just praying earnestly. Neither one questioned the presence of the other. It was fully accepted and expected. And both seemed perfectly at ease kneeling in that Church. It struck him, then, that our Holy Mother the Church is the Church of everyone. Rich, poor, forgetful, smart, list-makers, ‘wing it’ kinds of people, workers, thinkers, quick tempers, and stoic souls. In her all find a home.
And I am thinking, well, YES! How else can they make up the body of Christ? We need hands, hearts, feet, brains, orators, people who see needs, people who aren't afraid of poverty, rich people who give generously and wisely. Artists and writers to inspire. Singers to sooth anxious hearts. They all make up this wondrous body with Christ as the head. Everyone has their gifts, and each is given to the others that all might be one.
St. Peter and St. Paul both being celebrated together today seems to attest to this fact. Learning to love and be patient with one another and learning humility through what they suffered, helped to wear the rough spots out so that they could be fit so closely and solidly together in that foundation on which we build: The sanguine literally lying down with the choleric. It is a miracle to behold, but it is a wondrous miracle, this Universal Church of ours.
St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!