Saints Peter and Paul

June 29, 1997

Brother John Raymond


Sundays are reserved only for feasts or solemnities of Our Lord. So if another celebration of say Our Lady or the saints falls on a Sunday it is not celebrated. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. If a local community had a really good reason for celebrating some particular feast on Sunday they probably could get permission. Sometimes, the Church decides to celebrate the feast on a Monday instead.

Now why am I talking about this? Well, I looked at the Calendar for today and saw on it the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I thought this would be a good topic for a prayer article. So I went off and did some research on it. Then it dawned on me that June 29 this year is a Sunday. From what I said above, liturgically this feast isn't celebrated this year. But I'm sure the Church and Heaven wouldn't mind if I write about it anyway.

The joint feast of Saints of Peter and Paul seems alsways to have been kept at Rrome on June 29 since the earliest times. This practice can be traced back to at least the time of Constantine in the 4th century. The oldest Roman calendar that has come down to us goes back to the year 354. It is called Chronographer of 354 or Philocalian calendar named after Furius Dionysius Philocalus, an artist who illuminated part of it. This was lost in the 17th century but faithful copies exist that reproduce even the drawings of the original. This calendar mentions on June 29 the celebration of Peter "in the catacombs" (in this case catacomb meant in or near the cemetary) and Paul "on the Ostian Way" (where, according to tradition St.Paul was martyred. Today the Church of Tre Fontane marks, according to tradition, the place of his beheading.) This feast rapidly spread throughout the West beginning in Africa. Several sermons of St. Augustine of Hippo refer to this feast. Numerous churches were built in honor of Peter and Paul in Italy, Spain and France and later on in England. A sacramentary of compiled liturical texts from the 5th and 6th century (Leonine Saramentary) contains twenty-eight different prayers for the Mass of Saints Peter and Paul. This feast also had an octive (eight days of celebration after the feast.)

At this time Pope in Rome used to commemorate this feast twice on the same day, celebrating Mass both at St. Peter's Basilica and at St. Paul's Basilica. In the 7th century two feast days replaced the one so thta the Pope wouldn't have to go to opposites ends of Rome on the same day. (This is before they put the subway in!) So it was celebrated both on June 29 and June 30.

The missal of Pope Paul VI (1969) returned to the ancient tradition of the single feast. This missal also added an evening Mass for June 28. Here is the Preface of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul that we use from the revised sacramentary:


Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. You fill our hearts with joy as we honor your great apostles: Peter, our leader in faith, and Paul, its fearless preacher. Peter raised up the Church from the faithful flock of Israel. Paul brought your call to the nations, and became the teacher of the world. Each in his chosen way gathered into unity the one family of Christ. Both shared a martyr's death and are praised throughout the world.


Certainly we need to be grateful to these two Apostles who labored so hard to bring the Good News to the nations. Without their labors we may not have the Faith today. Let us ask them in prayer for a share in their ardent love for Jesus Christ and that we, like them, will bring His love to the whole world.