Elijah and Elisha, Sts. Peter and Paul, the saints come in twos sometimes: St. Francis and St. Claire, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. That last one is extra special, because Sts. Benedict and Scholastica were actually siblings. With a selfish motive, I want to highlight Saints Peter and Paul, because I, along with my classmates, will be ordained priests on their solemnity.
The solemnity celebrates their martyrdom. Leave it to us Catholics to celebrate the epic deaths of two great men, Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded, pretty hardcore. St. Paul was beheaded because he was a Roman citizen; it was a perk back in those days to be beheaded, rather than meeting your fate by a more gruesome means. Catholics have upheld martyrdom as the ultimate victory of a disciple, to have shed one’s blood for the sake of Christ our Lord and God, as He did on Mount Calvary. Tertullian in the second century proclaimed in his apologetics to the Roman Empire, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Think of any phony or con artist, when the chips are down, and they are losing the pull of the people they are quick to ditch everything. The witness of Sts. Peter and Paul, to go to their deaths for what they confessed, preached and conformed their lives to, is the greatest witness to the truth of what they preached, taught others how to live and gave through the Sacraments. These holy men and countless more holy men and women went rejoicing to win the martyr’s crown. It was by their witness that pagans around them felt compelled to inquire about the Sacred Mystery of living a life completely given over to Christ. We should take courage to learn our faith, persevere in conforming our lives to Christ and be willing to give an account of the faith that fills us with joy, hope and truth to those who are seeking it too.