That One Guy Who Was St. Peter’s Brother

Statue of St. Andrew St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City

Statue of St. Andrew
St. Peter’s Basilica
Vatican City

So what do we know about St. Andrew? Umm…I guess he’s patron saint of Scotland, and therefore patron saint of golf? Hence, we get the famous St. Andrew’s Golf Course. But really, what else?

The point is that there’s not much we know about him. We do know that he was the brother of Simon Peter. I guess he’s kind of like Shelley Duncan, the brother of former Cardinal outfielder Chris Duncan. Shelley was a great player in his own right for the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians (ok, maybe not a “great” player), but to St. Louisans, he will forever be known as Chris Duncan’s brother and Dave Duncan’s son.

But St. Andrew was actually pretty important among the apostles. There are two versions of his call. The first, from the Gospel of Matthew, is that he was fishing with his brother Simon Peter when Jesus called them to be fishers of men. In the Gospel of John, however, he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, and when St. John pointed out Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” St. Andrew knew that Jesus was worth following. He asked Jesus, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” And Jesus responded in that beautiful and teasing invitation, “Come and see.”

What about after the Ascension? Now we’re getting into some fuzzy area. Various church historians like Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea tell us that St. Andrew preached his way to north of the Black Sea, through modern-day Russia and Ukraine. He then went across to Byzantium, modern-day Constantinople/Istanbul, and over to Macedonia and Greece.

One common point of agreement is that St. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece. The non-canonical Acts of Andrew tells us that he was tied, not nailed to the cross, and remained there for two days, preaching and converting those who listened to him, until he finally gave up his spirit. Legends have it that St. Andrew asked to be crucified in a different way than Jesus out of respect, and was tied to an X-shaped cross, which to this day, is called a St. Andrew Cross. In 1964, in an outreach to our Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters, Pope Paul VI returned the relics of St. Andrew from the Vatican to the Basilica of St. Andrew in Patras, Greece, where we can still see them today.

So back to the original question, what do we know about St. Andrew? Not much at all. The Gospels give us little about his holiness. But he was an apostle, and that is enough. He was called personally to “come and see”, and then to proclaim the Good News, sharing in Jesus’ life and ultimately, his death. Holiness today is no different. It’s a call to be a follower, to “come and see.” Let’s pray for the intercession of St. Andrew today, that we would respond to that invitation, and then spread that message of hope with our lives.

“Domine, Quo Vadis?”

"Domine Quo Vadis" By Annibale Carracci

“Domine Quo Vadis”
By Annibale Carracci

Who better to start our discussion on the saints than with Peter, the first pope and Prince of the Apostles? Many of us are probably familiar with his life from the Gospels, but how many of us are familiar with some of the wider traditions of his life?

Conveniently, we just heard a lot about St. Peter in the Sunday Gospels the past few weeks. Originally, he was “Simon”, until Jesus changes his name, which is actually a pretty big deal! In the Bible, only God has the authority to change names – like Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and so on. So Jesus tells Simon, “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” Jesus is pretty witty, actually, because Petrus (Latin) and Petros (Greek) actually mean “rock”! As the first pope, Peter really is the rock – the unifier on which Jesus lays the stones of the Church. He is usually pictured with keys, signifying that binding and loosing power that Jesus with the Church.

Now one of my pet peeves is when people, especially priests, make fun of Peter. We always joke that he was impulsive and dumb, never seeming to get what Jesus was saying. And those things are true, I guess. But St. Peter is an incredibly brave example of faith! After the Resurrection, he preached in Jerusalem for a long time, and was the first apostle to perform miracles in Jesus’ name. He then journeyed to some of the major pagan cities of the age including Antioch and Corinth, and then of course, Rome.

We know that St. Peter died in Rome in 64 AD under the Emperor Nero, and we know that he was martyred for his faith, as all the early Fathers of the Church attest. The legend is that he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ, and so he asked to be crucified upside down. It might be easy to think that Peter’s story is all legend, but excavations under the present day St. Peter’s Basilica on the Vatican Hill have identified his ancient tomb, which was venerated even from the earliest days of the Church.

One of the most touching stories of Peter coming from our wider tradition is from the non-canonical Acts of Peter. It isn’t an official book of the Bible or anything, but it is an interesting and moving story. In this story, Peter was fleeing crucifixion in Rome, and as he was on his way out of the city, probably listening to his iPod or something to pass the time, who does he come across but Jesus! The Risen Christ was carrying a large cross and heading the other way towards the city. And Peter, shocked, asked that famous question, “Quo vadis?” “Where are you going?” Jesus smiled and answered, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Moved by the Lord’s words, Peter gained the courage to bravely continue his ministry in Rome and was eventually martyred.

Even after the Ascension, Jesus doesn’t just leave us behind. Like Peter, he has commissioned us to do great things, but also like Peter, we are weak. But Christ assures us that we don’t offer ourselves alone. We walk with Christ, we offer ourselves with Christ, and we suffer with Christ. He is with us every step of the way, especially the tough steps. So take courage from the example of St. Peter, and let’s all strive to build on the firm foundations that he and his successors are for the Church!

St. (Your Name Here), Pray For Us!

Have you ever thought about what you’d be the patron saint of? Maybe patron saint of power naps? The patron saint of drinking way too much coffee in the morning? The patron saint of ace-ing Algebra II class? Don’t laugh, because it’s an important question to consider!

Tapestries of the Communion of Saints in the  Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Los Angeles, California

Tapestries of the Communion of Saints in the
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Los Angeles, California

Saints are pretty commonplace in the Church, what with feast days, patron saints, and litanies of the saints, and all that. Interestingly, one of the oldest “litanies” or lists of the saints that we have comes from the first of the four main Eucharistic Prayers we pray regularly at Mass. Just as a little background, Eucharistic Prayer I (or the Roman Canon) is the Big Kahuna of the Mass – it’s the oldest, the longest, and the most jam-packed with theology. In fact, it is so old that even St. Ambrose (d. 397) knew of it and quoted extensively from it.

In the Roman Canon, we pray, “Graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy apostles and martyrs,” and then go on to mention a lengthy list of important saints. The first few are pretty normal saints that we know from Sacred Scripture like John the Baptist and Stephen. But as we move down the list, we hear about people like Ignatius, Alexander, and Marcellinus.

What the heck? How did they get in there? Well, these names may not seem that familiar – to us – but in the days of the early Church, when this prayer was first used, these saints and martyrs were people they might very well have been familiar with, maybe even part of their local community! These were people they had sat listening to, people they had followed, people they had seen giving witness to their faith, even to their deaths in the arenas like Perpetua and Felicity. These were individuals who had been personal examples of holiness that inspired their communities to grow closer to Christ.

So let’s go back to what we started with – are you trying to be a saint? Are you trying to be an inspiring example of faith to others? “Ha! Yeah right, Father! Being a saint is just for really holy people!” Well, strange as it might seem, that’s your call. Before being a husband or wife or priest or soccer mom or snake charmer or whatever, we are called to be saints. Sure, you may not be officially recognized and canonized by the Church, or called “St. _______ of Valley Park” (especially because St. _____ of St. Louis sounds a little redundant), but you are called to be holy, and to be an example for others.

Saints aren’t just those we remember once a year, or statues we put votive candles in front of when we need them. There are living, breathing, and aspiring saints among us now in our parish, our neighborhood, and even our households. As Pope Francis mentioned recently, these are simple saints, good people who may not have visible heroism, but in whose “everyday goodness, we see the truth of faith.”

Be that example of holiness for your friends, relatives, parents, and children. Don’t settle for mediocrity – embrace the call to heroic virtue!

Catholic and Loving It! New beginnings…sort of…

I love my Catholic faith. I love it! It’s what helps me to get up in the morning, what drives me to desire Mass every day, and what guides me through my daily ministry. Frankly, it is what gives my life meaning – as a man, but especially as a priest.

But I have to be honest; it hasn’t always been this way. I was raised in a good Catholic family, and we went to Mass every Sunday with my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and my cousins, but I’d say I didn’t start taking my faith seriously until high school. The more I learned and intellectually understood the precepts of my Catholic faith and the more neat little tidbits of “Catholic culture” that I discovered, the more I grew to love it and sought to figure out what God wanted me to do with it. Ultimately, that quest led me to the seminary and the priesthood, and now, it leads me here to Sacred Heart.

There are so many little pieces of our faith that put together, and make it so beautiful. I think of it like a mosaic down at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. If you can believe it, there are 41.5 million pieces of glass in 7,000 difference colors, covering 83,000 square feet, and each of those tiny pieces are gorgeous! But together, they make the Cathedral the magnificent place of worship that we know and love today. In the same way, there are many little pieces and facets of our faith which are beautiful in themselves, but together, they create a Church and a Catholic faith which I think is worth our admiration and love!

One of the greatest problems among all of us in the Church is that most of us simply don’t know the beauty of those little pieces, so it’s hard to actually love our faith. My goal over the next few weeks, months, and who knows, maybe years (?), is to dust off some of those beautiful little pieces, and hopefully share with you why indeed I am “Catholic and loving it!”

Where will we go from here? I’ll have to figure that out myself, but tune in next week to find out!