St. Peter The Apostle
The head of the Apostles and the first pope, Simon Peter is mentioned frequently in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Simon was the son of Jona (John) and the brother of Andrew. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who followed our Lord after the John declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God. Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus and Jesus said “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas (which means Peter).” (John 1:42). Simon Peter was a native of Bethsaida, a town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He and Andrew were fishermen and he owned his own boat. Simon was married and living in Capernaum at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; here Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever (Matthew 8:14; Luke 4:38). Clement of Alexandria writes that Simon had children and that his wife was martyred, but no other sources confirm this. Simon Peter was devoted to Jesus, but impetuous and prone to rash comments. As the spokesperson for the Twelve Apostles, Peter declares his faith in Jesus as the Christ. Jesus replies, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the powers of death will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18). Later, apparently that same day, Peter rashly rebukes Jesus for predicting His death and our Lord says “Get behind me, Satan!” for Peter is thinking as humans think and not as God thinks. This impetuousness is characteristic of Simon Peter. At the Last Supper he declares that he would die rather than deny Jesus, but that same night he gives in to fear and denies knowing his Master; when Jesus looks at him, Peter immediately repents, weeping bitterly. Jesus reconfirmed Peter’s position as head of the Church after His Resurrection (John 21:15-17). With the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost, Peter became a bold leader, relying on God’s power instead of his own. He addressed the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost, calling for them to repent and thousands did so. Peter preached throughout Palestine, worked miracles, and traveled to Antioch and later to Rome. He wrote two Epistles (letters) and early, reliable sources say that Mark wrote his Gospel based on the teaching of St. Peter. The date of St. Peter’s journey to Rome is not known, nor do we know for certain how long he ministered there. He died for the Faith at Rome, sometime between the years 64 and 68; an ancient tradition records that Peter and Paul died on the same day, although not necessarily in the same year. Peter was crucified upside down at his request, for he did not believe he was worthy to endure the same death as Our Lord. The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is celebrated on June 29.