The sixth installment of this mega-part series on the History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church treats the course of Simon Peter the Rock and how, despite petty bickering among the disciples and the early Christians, both Peter and Paul rose above their humanity to launch Christ's Church into history, establishing Rome as the seat of Christianity. Peter is credited with two Epistles and assisted Saint Mark with his Gospel. Given a second chance to not deny Christ, Peter returned to Rome to be crucified. After having labored for 25 years with Paul in building up Holy Mother Church, both these pillars of the Church joyfully accepted their martyrdom. By their blood and the blood of the thousands of martyrs slain in Rome, the seeds of Christianity grew. In 313, Peter's and his successors' fruits would be manifested when the great Emperor Constantine would declare total freedom for the Church with the Edict of Milan.
As we see in Acts of the Apostles and again in 1 Peter and 2 Peter, he had been the leader in Jerusalem and had also conducted missionary activity. There are no accurate accounts of where he went for sure but some reports from Acts and Galatians had him in Joppa, Caesarea and Antioch. He didn't always see eye to eye with Paul and that's nothing new. Not only was Peter a fiery, obstinate soul but he possessed a personality that was set in his ways. He was not always open to the ideas of St. Paul who adapted to each community he evangelized while still asserting the rigidness of Christianity. While Paul was not afraid of his Jewish brethren and openly spoke out, Peter was more timid as Paul recorded in Galatians 2: 12. In addition, there was tension - albeit jealousy between these two early pillars of the Church. Author John Jay Hughes writes in "Pontiffs: Popes who shaped history" that, "Paul was indignant for two reasons. First because Peter, the 'apostle to the Jews' (Galatians 2:8), had exceeded his jurisdiction by laying down rules for Gentile Christians. More serious in Paul's eyes, however, was the question of principle: the conduct of Peter and those who sided with him 'did not square with the truth of the gospel' (Galatians 2:14). We must beware of reading back into the first century, issues that belong to later history. There was no question at Antioch of 'appealing to Peter as the supreme authority.' Such an appeal would be possible only after centuries of historical development, including (Catholics believe) the Church's Spirit-guided reflection on this development. Then, however, a pattern visible in this early dispute at Antioch would be repeated. Not infrequently a holder of Peter's office has rejected the impassioned plea of a prophetically gifted defender of the faith who was right in principle, but whose position, if adopted at that time and place, would have injured the Church's unity."
There is no doubt, from all our research, that different Christian factions, for either political or cultural purposes, played Paul against Peter and vice-versa. You might say they robbed Peter to pay Paul and vice-versa. Hughes substantiates this from the events in Corinth when he writes, "Some of the Corinthian Christians were appealing to Peter's authority as superior to Paul's. It is noteworthy, however, especially in view of the previous difficulties at Antioch, that Paul blames these divisions not on Peter but on the immaturity of certain members of the Corinthian Church." This is evident in Corinthians when Paul confirms the dissension in 1 Corinthians 10: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing; and that there be no dissensions among you,...for I have been informed about you...each of you says, I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas (Peter), or I am of Christ. Has Christ been divided up?" Paul further chastises them when he writes in 1 Corinthians 3: 1, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men but only as carnal, as to little ones in Christ." By the latter he was putting them down as being bickering children arguing about things that they needed to be united on. Peter had no problem with this and on this both Peter and Paul were in full agreement.
Both were reunited in Rome where Peter returned to visit Paul in prison. Paul and Peter had come together to Rome from the east. They had met at Corinth and traveled together to support and encourage the many Christians being put to death. After Paul was sentenced to death, Peter was persuaded to escape for he was the leader of the Church. As we know, it was on the Appian Way just outside of Rome where Peter in the accounts of "Quo Vadis", a 1895 novel written by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz and turned into a major motion picture in the 1950's, came to grip with the fact that he, too, would be a martyr for his Master. It wasn't half-hearted, but a full commitment for Peter did nothing half-heartedly. Many attribute Sienkiewicz' work with the influence of the Acts of Peter, a work many believe was composed before the end of the second century somewhere in Asia Minor. Its origins are sketchy and its accuracy questioned, but there is no arguing the fact that Peter was so stubborn that he aggravated the Roman soldiers inside the prison, provoking their wrath further by openly proclaiming Christ and evangelizing within the prison walls. The Roman historian Tacitus relates that Nero wanted to exact revenge on Peter and his followers in retaliation for the great fire in Rome a year earlier. He also asserts that Peter was not among the mass of Christians persecuted in the great circus as part of Nero's revenge. Had he been, it is unlikely his bones would have been recovered. Rather, it is thought Peter was held up for example to dishearten his Christian followers by being publicly crucified alone. Again, Peter's arrogance against the Roman soldiers is confirmed in his fiestiness all the way to the cross where he pleaded with them to hang him upside down. Modern historians attribute that to his saying he was not worthy to be crucified as His Savior was, but earlier historians, knowing the personality of Peter and his competitive nature hint that he was just one-upping Paul's death. Paul, who had become a Roman citizen was beheaded by the sword. Peter, some say, wanted to go Paul one better by being crucified with his head down. We will never truly know the reasons, and they're not important. What is important is that Peter and Paul's blood nourished the seeds of Christianity for every generation to come.
Historians set Peter's death between 65 and 68 AD. A memorial was established at Peter's tomb on Vatican Hill around 140 AD by Roman Christians who knew the site and reverenced it. As centuries rolled by, the tomb was lost and it wasn't until this century that excavation began in search of Peter's tomb. From 1940 through 1949 efforts went unrewarded. A second excavation was ordered from 1953 to 1957. Pope Paul VI, on June 26, 1968, confirmed to the world that the bones of Peter, after having been carefully analyzed and carbon-dated, had been found to be that of the first pope - the Apostle whom Jesus had charged to lead His Church. Today one can venerate his tomb in the crypt directly under the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica. The area is undergoing more renovation to make it easier for pilgrims during the great influx of Jubilee 2000 to view it better. Though some question whether those truly are Peter's bones, the majority believe. Besides, it isn't vital to our faith if those are the bones or not for we must heed the words of the Angel in Luke 24: 5, "Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?". The body of Peter lies somewhere below the Vatican, but the spirit of Peter lives on in his successors, permeating not only the Holy See but every corner of the earth.
In the seventh installment next Tuesday, we will treat the rest of the first century and Peter's immediate successors as the Church takes root from the seat of Rome.
Guiding the agenda for these media moguls, working press corps, and religious affiliates was Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The down-to-earth common sense approach and ease with which this former Philadelphia bishop communicates with the media makes him a crowd favorite with the press immediately. We're not absolutely sure, but if you took a straw poll among those in attendance who they would rather deal with - Archbishop Foley or Mike McCurry, chief media relations director for the White House, we would suspect it would be the former in a landslide! Archbishop Foley is no stranger to journalism, having attended the most prestigious journalism school in the country - Columbia University's School of Journalism and then serving as editor of the Philadelphia archdiocesan paper The Catholic Standard and Times for fourteen years until being appointed on April 5, 1984 as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. This Council was first formed on an experimental basis by Pope Pius XII back in 1948 and during the fifties reorganized at least three times. It was Pope John XXIII who granted it a permanent commission on February 22, 1959, taking it out of the experimental phase and it was fully established as a Pontifical Council on June 28, 1988 and has been headed by the capable bishop from the city of brotherly love during this entire time. The whole purpose of this special council is to disseminate to the media the message of salvation and human progress in this quest so that it can be accurately conveyed to the masses through the proper channels - either the pulpit or the podium of broadcast and print.
During this four-day conference there were numerous conversions. We're not talking of the spiritual phenomena genre, but rather the conversion of heart among many of the participants to do the right thing when it comes to reporting. This can do nothing but help. And yet, there is an ulterior motive to the media's methods for right now God-related books are the in thing with many spiritual themed books on the best seller list. Recent polls also indicate that over 120 million Americans believe God is of utmost importance in their lives. With those kind of numbers the media can do nothing less than sit up, take note and strive to correct former faux pas that left them looking beleaguered in the past over their lack of expertise in religious matters. Many admitted as much including the publisher and chairman of The Miami Herald, who confessed that "Most of us do a profoundly inadequate job of covering matters of faith." One of the topics covered was demographics in which the editor of Portland's The Oregonian remarked, "Newspapers know the ethnic and gender demographics of their community, but I wonder if they know enough about their religious affiliation." Most left the conference with a new resolve to search this "new demographic" and vowed to provide better, more comprehensive coverage which could have a domino effect on turning public opinion back in favor of the media. God knows they can't drop any further in esteem.
We hope and pray this is a beginning that will snowball to a new understanding as we welcome the new millennium. One thing we hope the media realizes is that when they are reporting on a Catholic story, Notre Dame's Richard McBride and media darling Andrew Greeley are not the end-all experts and they need to search out reliable Catholic sources who have a bead on the truths of the doctrines, dogmas and teachings of Holy Mother Church. And so, as they left after hearing powerful talks by Cardinal William Keeler and Cardinal Francis Arinze who many are prognosticating could be the first African pope, there was a new spirit fostered among the group that we hope, like the Apostles of old, will be carried back and carried out.
There is an axiom that goes "Out of small acorns mighty oaks grow." From this tiniest of acorn states - the Papal State of Vatican City - the seeds have been planted, thanks to this first conference of its kind - held in the seat of Christianity - the eternal city bathed in religious history where the roots were first planted and blossomed from there. The events and results of this conference remind us of the early 1960 movie "The Mouse that Roared" made famous by the late Peter Sellers in which, as a bumbling foil for the smallest nation in Europe, his leaders announce war on the United States to gain financial aid. We make the comparison in that the mighty are brought to their knees because of wrong information, ignorance and pride. Such, it seems, was the case last week in Rome when the mighty media were brought to their collective knees by the gentle prod of truth and compassion from the Pope and his representative bishops and cardinals who spoke to the group. Here were the mightiest giants of the manipulating press listening attentively to the Pope - head of the smallest country in the universe - and they were there not to report, but to improve the scope of fairness and accuracy in their reporting. You might say, it was a parallel to Seller's classic comedy except the media cats had turned to purring, gentle kittens and, thanks to the Holy See's efforts and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the mouse that roared was actually a gentle dove!
Today I will speak on My Second Commandment which admonishes those who love Me that: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
How clever is My enemy satan! How he has tricked you and saturated your world with total chaos. Your world decrees profanity which is rampant, and by laws of man, guide- lines are established to reduce profane language from being printed in your papers, or voiced in your world of electronic communications. Therefore, you are barraged by words which have derogatory meanings, or which you use as slang in order to prove your verbal skills. But, woe to all who are careful not to swear, but who use My Holy Name in every sentence of phrase!
I do solemnly tell you that just as Sacred Scripture tells you, so it shall be: Every knee shall bend at the sound of My Name. Yes, even the mountains will bow low. All creation shall bow before Me, for I Am.
How dare you who are all My Children, speak My Name with careless breath and no conscious thought of Whom you are speaking? I will give you examples: In your moves and on your television, you have laws which prohibit certain slang or swear words. These words are deleted from the dialogue, while the use of My Holy Name in the most unholy of circumstances, all manner of violence, lust, envy, adultery, is so common that merely a handful of My little faithful ones hear My Name thus profaned, and make instant reparation to Me.
Do you speak My Name out of loving reverence, respect, honor and adoration? No! You use it at every instance to express your fear, your anxiety, your cruelty which you are about to undertake. Do you recognize, My little children, why your world is submerged in Spiritual Darkness? Do you not recognize the work of satan?
I created you. I gave to you the gift of speech that from your mouth would issue forth words of praise and love to Me, and to your neighbor. And what have you done?
You have used My gift to be uncharitable, abusive and vulgar. Before Me your words are the sound of Hell and the breath by which they are spoken bears the stench of hell. You come to Church to worship and adore Me, but when My Most Holy Name is spoken you do not recognize it, and not recognizing it you give no sign of respect by bowing you head.
Oh! Do not say that such a display of holy reverence belongs to a time long-past and that in your day such reverence is misplaced and antiquated. Am I antiquated? I Am Who Am. Eternal. Never-changing. All the hosts of heaven ceaselessly praise My Name which is their joy. Are you who are made in My image and likeness to do less when I have made you My children, My heirs?
Reverence must always be given to Me in every utterance of speech, for I alone Am worthy of all reverence. If you were to understand and obey this, My Second Command, how quickly would My Mother's Immaculate Heart Triumph and virtue would reign in the hearts of My children.
But, woe, the Spiritual Darkness is now a thick veil over your eyes, over your heart, and thus your soul suffocates. Daily blasphemy crashes against Heaven, while all the angels and saints bow their heads in deepest sorrow, and yet raise their voices even higher in praise of Me, for they who see me know fully the Sanctity of My Name.
By My Second Command you are bound to the Truth in all manner of speech because I Am Truth! You are bound to sincerity in what you say, for every utterance is known to Me. You are bound to keep promises or vows made in My Name, nor may you abuse My Name and sin against Me by calling upon Me to witness lies, slander, blasphemy, heresy, or any manner of evil speech.
Behold, I Am not leased with those who tamper with Sacred Scripture, who intellectually consider themselves of greater learning and wisdom than I. Woe to those who establish themselves as authority over My Word and proceed to interpret My Word rather than discerning My Word as the Holy Spirit guides.
Woe to those in authority who alter Sacred Scripture, changing Divine Revelation to accommodate social norms and customs of society. I Am Unchanging. The same-as I Who Am Uncreated can not change, My Words to you do not change.
By whose authority do you make or seek to make these changes, where My Most Holy Name becomes a common name? By what law do you justify and rationalize your abuse of My Name in every form of writing, entertainment, and language which communi-cates your opinion to the ears of another person?
Woe to all who abuse My Holy Name and yet profess to know Me, to love me and to serve Me! You shall be cast aside into the fire, for I shall not know you for your do not know Me.
In these End Times I tell My children that if the Chastisements are to be mitigated, if the Divine Justice is to be swift and Merciful, then obey My Second Commandment and give all honor and reverence to My Most Holy Name at every moment. If you obey My Command, then you are in the Refuge of My Sacred heart and you have nothing to fear.
Hear Me, oh My children. Imitate the angels and saints in Heaven, and you will swiftly join them in ceaseless praise of Me.
Prepare and obey My Command, for I solemnly tell you: I Come!