St. Peter is mentioned so often in the New Testament in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles of St. Paul that we feel we know him better than any other person who figured prominently in the life of the Savior. In all, his name appears 182 times. We have no knowledge of him prior to his conversion, save that he was a Galilean fisherman, from the village of Bethsaida or Capernaum. There is some evidence for supposing that Peter's brother Andrew and possibly Peter himself were followers of John the Baptist, and were therefore prepared for the appearance of the Messiah in their midst. We picture Peter as a shrewd and simple man, of great power for good, but now and again afflicted by sudden weakness and doubt, at least at the outset of his discipleship. After the death of the Savior he manifested his primacy among the Apostles by his courage and strength. He was "the Rock" on which the Church was founded. It is perhaps Peter's capacity for growth that makes his story so inspiring to other erring humans. He reached the lowest depths on the night when he denied the Lord, then began the climb upward, to become bishop of Rome, martyr, and, finally, "keeper of the keys of Heaven."
Our first glimpse of Peter comes at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. While He was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, casting a net into the water. When He called to them, "Come, and I will make you fishers of men," they at once dropped their net to follow Him. A little later we learn that they visited the house where Peter's mother-in-law was suffering from a fever, and Jesus cured her. This was the first cure witnessed by Peter, but he was to see many miracles, for he stayed close to Jesus during the two years of His ministry.
There seems to be no doubt that Peter was favored among the disciples. He was selected, with James and John, to accompany Jesus to the mountain, the scene of the Transfiguration, to be given a glimpse of His glory, and there heard God pronounce the words, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
It was Peter who took the initiative in selecting a new Apostle in place of Judas, and he who performed the first miracle of healing. A lame beggar asked for money; Peter told him he had none, but in the name of Jesus the Nazarene bade him arise and walk. The beggar did as he was bidden, cured of his lameness. When, about two years after the Ascension, the spread of the new religion brought on the persecutions that culminated in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, many of the converts scattered or went into hiding. The Apostles stood their ground firmly in Jerusalem, where the Jewish temple had become the spearhead of opposition to them. Peter chose to preach in the outlying villages, farther and farther afield.
The latest archeological findings indicate that St. Peter's Church in Rome rises over the site of his tomb, as Pius XII announced at the close of the Holy Year of 1950. In the catacombs many wall writings have been found which link the names of St. Peter and St. Paul, showing that popular devotion to the two great Apostles began in very early times. Paintings of later date commonly depict Peter as a short, energetic man with curly hair and beard; in art his traditional emblems are a boat, keys, and a cock.
Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc
back to top | home