Thought for the Day – 1 August – Thursday of the Seventeenth week in Ordinary Time, Year C and the Feast of St Peter in Chains
Homily of St Augustine
Peter alone among the Apostles was accounted worthy to hear – A – men I say to thee, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church. Worthy indeed was he, to be the foundation-stone, the supporting pillar, the key to the kingdom, in building up the peoples into the house of God. Concerning this, the divine word says – And they laid, it says, their sick, that when Peter passed by, his shadow at the least might fall on them. If at that time the shadow of his body could give aid, how much more now can the fullness of his power? If a mere breath of air from him, as he passed by, was of such benefit to suppliants, how much more his favour now that he remains steadfast? With good reason is the iron of those Penal chains held throughout all the churches of Christ to be more precious than gold.
If the shadow of him who visited was so potent to cure, how much more the chains of him who binds? If even the mere appearance of an empty image could have the force of healing in it, how much more healthfulness should the chains, with which he suffered, whose iron weight had pressed upon his sacred members, deserve to draw forth from his body? If he was so mighty to help his suppliants before his martyrdom, how much more must he avail after his triumph?
Happy those bonds, which by touching the Apostle rendered him a Martyr and so from manacles and fetters themselves were changed into a crown! Happy chains, which brought their prisoner even unto the cross of Christ, not so much for condemnation as for consecration!
Jesus said to His disciples – Who do men say that the Son of Man is? Peter answered and said – Thou art Christ, the son of the living God. And I say to thee – that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church!
Hymn The Chains of Saint Peter
How blessed is the force of prayer!
Eager for Peter’s fate,
Thy soldiers, Herod, bound him fast,
And watch’d before the gate.
But Jesus has His soldiers, too,
They also vigils keep,
They watch to prayer, while Peter rests
In faith composed in sleep.
And Jesus other soldiers has,
Responsive to the call
Of prayer His holy angels come,
Sent by the Lord of all.
Prayer brought an angel down from heaven,
Sentries and bars are vain,
With heavenly light the prison shines,
Unlocked is Peter’s chain.
1 August – The Feast of Saint Peter in Chains
The feast was originally kept in Rome, Italy to commemorate the dedication of the Church of Saint Peter on the Esquiline Hill built by Eudoxia Licinia in 442 and rebuilt by Adrian I in the 8th century. When the chains which Saint Peter had worn in prison and from which he was freed by angelic intervention were later venerated there, the feast received its present name.
The date when these chains were brought from Jerusalem is disputed – some claim they were brought in 116 by travellers sent in search of them by Saint Balbina and her father Saint Quirinus, while others think Saint Eudoxia brought them in 439. St Pope Leo the Great united them to the chains with which Saint Peter had been fettered in the Mamertine Prison, forming a chain about two yards long which is preserved in a bronze safe and guarded by a special confraternity. Patronages – diocese of Annecy, France, Donnas, Italy.
The Feast was removed from the Liturgical Calendar as a separate feast in 1962 but is celebrated together with the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June. See the Getty image below.
St Peter in Chains
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
The Holy Church, today, celebrates a special feast in commemoration of the great benefit which God bestowed upon His people by miraculously delivering St Peter, the visible head of the church, from prison. The entire event is described in the Acts of the Apostles, by St Luke. Herod Agrippa, a son of Aristobulus, favored by the Roman Emperor Claudius, ruled over Judaea, with the title of king. To give more stability to his reign, he endeavoured to make himself beloved by the Jews, for which there was no easier way than to persecute the Christians, especially those who fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ, as did the holy Apostles. He had, therefore, apprehended and soon after beheaded, James the Great, brother of St John, which bloody deed gave the Jews great satisfaction. To increase this, Herod commanded them to seize St Peter, intending to make away with him in the same manner. His command was executed, Peter was taken prisoner, chained and locked in a narrow dungeon, which was guarded so vigilantly, that he could not escape. It was then near the Easter Festival, after which St Peter was to be beheaded. The Christians, in deep distress, were praying day and night, that the Almighty would not permit His flock to be so soon deprived of its shepherd.
There was no human power to save him but God, hearing the prayer of His people, delivered him by a miracle. On the eve of the day on which he was to be executed, God sent an Angel to set him free. Although heavily laden with chains, the holy Apostle slept peacefully, guarded by the soldiers. The Angel, who by his brightness, illumined the dungeon, struck him on the side and awakened him, saying: “Arise quickly. Gird thyself; put on thy sandals and cloak and follow me.” The Apostle, whose chains had fallen from his hands and who thought it all a dream, obeyed and followed the Angel. They passed the first and second watches without attracting their attention and reached the iron gate which led into the street. The gate opened without the aid of human hands.
After having conducted St Peter through one street, the Angel vanished and was seen no more. Not until then did the holy Apostle realise that his deliverance was not a dream but a reality. Hence he began to praise the Almighty, exclaiming: “Now I know truly that the Lord has sent his Angel and delivered me out of the hands of Herod and from all the expectation of the people of Judaea.” He proceeded immediately to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where the faithful were assembled in prayer.
When he knocked at the door, a servant, named Rhode, came and asked who was there. Judging by the voice that it was Peter, she was so greatly startled with joy and astonishment, that, without opening the door, she ran back to announce the news. They all believed that she was insane but as she reiterated her words, some said that it must be his guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the Saint repeated his knocking at the door. They opened it and perceived, with amazement, their beloved shepherd safe and free from chains. Their joy on beholding him was as great as had been their grief when he was taken prisoner. Having given the sign for silence, St Peter related all that had happened to him. They all gave thanks to Divine Providence when he had ended and learned to trust in future to the heavenly power and mercy.
Among the sermons of St Chrysostom, there is one in which he asserts, that the chains by which St Peter had been bound to the ground, came into the possession of the Christians soon after his deliverance and were held by them in great honour. Eudoxia, wife of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, received them as a present from the patriarch Juvenal, when on a visit to the holy places and sent one of them to the Church at Constantinople. The other she gave to her daughter Eudoxia, who married the Emperor Valentinian III. Eudoxia showed the chain to Pope Sixtus III., who, on his part, showed her the one with which St Peter had been bound, before the Emperor Nero sentenced him to die. No sooner had the two chains been held together, than they suddenly united as if they had been but one chain and forged by the same hand. This miracle increased the veneration in which these chains were held and actuated Eudoxia to build a special church at Rome for their keeping, where they can still be seen. Many sick were healed by their touch and many possessed were delivered, among the latter was a Count of the court of the Emperor Otho, who, in the year 969, was sent to Rome to be freed from the Evil Spirit. Pope John XIII had hardly touched the count’s neck with the holy chains, when he was relieved and his torments were ended.
St Gregory the Great, writes that it was considered a great happiness to possess a few particles filed off from these chains and that many persons devoutly wore them enclosed in golden crosses and lockets around their necks. Experience has shown that the touch of these crosses or lockets has restored health to many a sick person. A nobleman, who scoffed at this and, in derision, dared to break one of these crosses, was severely chastised. He was instantly possessed by the Evil One and became so enraged that he took his own life, as St Gregory relates. St Augustine states that the iron of these precious chains is justly esteemed far above gold. Blessed are those fetters which touched the apostle and made him a martyr. “The touch of the blessed limbs of St Peter has sanctified the instruments of torture.” In another place the same Saint says: “If the shadow of St Peter possessed a healing virtue, how much greater power must the chains of his sufferings have derived from him.”
29 JUNE 1951-2019
The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Congratulations, Prayers and Love
to our dearly beloved
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
on the occasion of the
of his Priestly Ordination
“Domineering over your faith is not my purpose. I prefer to work with you for your happiness”. It is what the Apostle Paul (II Cor 1,24) wrote and his quote was used 65 years ago on the celebration day of Peter and Paul Patron Saints – 29th June 1951 – during the priestly ordination of Joseph Ratzinger. It was held in the Cathedral of Freising and celebrated by Michael von Faulhaber, archbishop of Munich. Paul’s quote was written on the holy card in order to celebrate the event. This important anniversary will be marked by a solemn celebration in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace on 28th June. Pope Francis and the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI will attend the celebration. Joseph Ratzinger will receive a book on priesthood as a present.
“We were more than forty candidates and we all answered Adsum – that is “Here I am” – Ratzinger wrote in his Autobiography . It was a beautiful and unforgettable summer day, the most important moment in my life.” I shouldn’t be superstitious but while the old archbishop was laying his hands on me, a little bird – maybe a lark – raised from the high altar of the Cathedral and sang a short joyful song – I thought it was a voice from above saying: you are in the right way.” Ratzinger said.
His elder brother Georg was ordained with him. “The day of the first Mass the church of Saint Oswald was in its splendour and people showed us their joy and involvement. We had been asked t o bring the blessing of the first Mass to the town and we were welcomed everywhere. Everybody showed friendliness, even the people we didn’t know at all. I became aware of the expectations men and women have with a priest – they trust in his blessing and the power of the sacrament. It was not because of me or my brother = what did we mean to the people we met? They saw us as the men to whom Christ had given a task, that was to show His presence.”
“Priesthood is not “a job, but a sacrament. God asks a poor man to be like Him, to be with all men and women and to act on their behalf” said Benedict XVI on 11th June 2010, during the homily at the end of the Year for Priests, that he established on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, Saint Patron of Priests.
Thought for the Day – 29 June – The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Blessed Isaac of Stella O.Cist. (c 1100 – c 1170) Cistercian Monk
Sermon 49, 1st for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
“These were men of mercy whose good deeds shall not be forgotten; the wealth they have left their inheritance will last for ever” (Latin liturgy; cf. Sir 44:10-11).”
Today, beloved, we are celebrating the birthday of the apostles Peter and Paul and it is altogether fitting that… such a death should be called ‘birth’ since it gave birth to life… See to what the saints have come – through the death that bestows life, they leave this life that leads to death, so as to come to that life-giving life, which is in the hands of Him who, as Christ said: “has life in Himself” – the Father (Jn 5:26)…
There are three kinds of people who are merciful. The first give of their goods… so as to contribute out of their superfluity to the penury of their neighbour… The second give all their goods away and, for them… everything is held in common with others from then on… But as for the third, they not only expend all they have but are “themselves utterly spent” (2 Cor 12:15) and give themselves up in person to the dangers of prison, exile and death so that they may rescue others from the dangers in which their souls are lying. They pour themselves out because they are so full of ardent desire for others. They will receive the reward of that love of which “there is no greater – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13)… Such are those glorious princes of the earth and servants of heaven of whom today – after long privations “from hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness”, exhaustion and danger, “from their own race, from Gentiles, from false brethren” (2 Cor 11:26-27) – we celebrate the death that was so magnificently victorious. To such as these, the saying well applie – “Their good deeds shall never be forgotten” because they have not forgotten mercy… Yes, to the merciful, “their lot has fallen in a pleasant land, their inheritance is without compare” (Ps 16:6).
Quote/s of the Day – 29 June – The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
“Their sound has gone out into all the earth and their words to the ends of the world”
“There must be general rejoicing, dearly beloved, over this holy company whom God has appointed for our example in patience and for our confirmation in faith. But we must glory even more in the excellence of their fathers, Peter and Paul, whom the grace of God has raised to such a height among all the members of the Church that He has set them like twin lights of eyes in that Body whose head is Christ.”
“Saint Peter does not cease to preside over his See and preserves an endless sharing, with the Sovereign Priest. The firmness that he received from the Rock which is Christ, he himself, having become the Rock, transmits it equally to his successors.”
St Pope Leo the Great (400-461)
Doctor of the Church’s Unity
“And so it is with Rome, where the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, gave with their blood their final witness. The vocation of Rome is of apostolic origin and the ministry which it is our lot to exercise here, is a service for the benefit of the entire Church and of mankind. But it is an irreplaceable service, because it has pleased the Wisdom of God to place the Rome of Peter and Paul, so to speak, on the road that leads to the eternal City, by the fact that Wisdom chose to confide to Peter—who unifies in himself the College of Bishops—the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
One Minute Reflection – 29 June – The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – Today’s Gospel: Matthew 16:13–19
“And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” …Matthew 16:18-19
REFLECTION – “With us too, today, Jesus wants to continue building His Church, this house with solid foundations but where cracks are not lacking and which is in constant need of repair. Always. The Church always needs to be reformed, repaired. We certainly do not feel like rocks but only like small stones. However, no small stone is useless, indeed, in Jesus’ hands the smallest stone becomes precious, because He picks it up, gazes at it with great tenderness, fashions it with His Spirit and positions it in the right place that He had always had in mind and where it can be more useful to the whole structure.”…Pope Francis (Angelus, 27 August 2017)
PRAYER – O God, who on the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul give us the noble and holy joy of this day, grant, we pray, that your Church may in all things follow the teaching of those through whom she received the beginnings of right religion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
Our Morning Offering – 29 June – The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
What Fairer Light?
Hymn for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul Elphis, c 493, wife of Boethius c 477– 524 Translation: R A Knox, 1888-1957
What fairer light is this than time itself doth own,
The golden day with beams more radiant brightening?
The princes of God’s Church this feast day doth enthrone,
To sinners heavenward bound their burden lightening.
One taught mankind its creed, one guards the heavenly gate,
Founders of Rome, they bind the world in loyalty;
One by the sword achieved, one by the cross his fate;
With laurelled brows they hold eternal royalty.
Rejoice, O Rome, this day, thy walls they once did sign
With princely blood, who now their glory share with thee.
What city’s vesture glows with crimson deep as thine?
What beauty else has earth that may compare with thee?
To God the three in one eternal homage be,
All honour, all renown, all songs victorious,
Who rules both heaven and earth by one divine decree
To everlasting years in empire glorious.