Feast of Ss Peter and Paul: meditation from Divine Intimacy
29 June 2022
by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD
Towards the end of his life, Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD (1893–1953), began to compile and condense his life’s work on the interior life into a book of meditations for every day of the liturgical year. After Fr Gabriel’s death, the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St Joseph in Rome completed the work which would become known under the title of “Divine Intimacy”.
O Lord, grant that the Feast of these Apostles may strengthen my faith and my fidelity to the Church.
The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Princes of the Church, awakens in our souls a greater love for the Church and for our Holy Father the Pope.
The liturgy today gives the place of honour to St Peter, the head of the Apostles; tomorrow it will speak to us of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Thus it presents to us those who have established the Church, not only by their labours, but even by their blood. The Gospel (Mt 16:13–19) recalls the scene at Caesarea, where Jesus, for the first time, proclaimed Peter as the foundation stone of the Church: “I say that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church”; words which have had a magnificent repercussion down through the centuries, and which, even today, bear witness to the primacy of Peter and his successors over the whole of Christianity — not over a number of small churches, but over one great, unique Church: the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. One sole Church, whose sole Founder and Head is Christ, who chose Peter to represent Him. “Where Peter is, there is the Church” (St Ambrose). This means that wherever the Pope — Peter’s successor — is, there the Church is. Rightly, then, should we consider the Feast of St Peter as the Feast of the Church, the Feast of our Holy Father the Pope, and one which should awaken in every Christian soul a profound sense of belonging to the Church and of devotion to the Sovereign Pontiff. At the moment of her death, St Teresa of Jesus repeated: “I am a daughter of the Church!” After having laboured so much for God and souls, this was the only title that made her sure of the divine mercy. To be a child of the Church! This is our title to salvation, this is our glory, after that of being a child of God. Or rather, not after, but together with, for, as the Fathers of the Church say, “He cannot have God for Father who does not have the Church for Mother” (St Cyprian). He is not a true Catholic who does not feel the joy of being a child of the Church, whose heart does not vibrate for the Church and for the Vicar of Christ upon earth, who is not ready to renounce his own personal views in order “to think with the Church” (sentire cum Ecclesia), always and in all things.
Today’s Communion antiphon repeats again the memorable words by which Jesus constituted Peter the foundation stone of the Church. “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.” It is a renewed expression of honour to the Prince of the Apostles, but it is also a summons to us. Every Christian, in fact, ought to be a firm, solid rock which Jesus can use to sustain His Church. Evidently, the living rock — the cornerstone par excellence — is Christ, and, next to Himself, He has placed His vicar; next come all the faithful, from the bishops down to the last person to be baptised. We are all, as St Peter says in his first Epistle, “living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood” (2:5).
Whoever you may be — priest or lay person, religious or father of a family, simple Christian or humble nun — you also are called to support the Church, just as in a building, not only the big blocks of granite, but also the smallest bricks help to solidify the whole edifice. This profound apostolic sense must not be wanting in any soul; it must make us conscious of our degree of responsibility for the growth of the Church. We must fulfil our part, first of all, by our obedience and submission to the directives of the Hierarchy; but this is not enough. If we are true children of the Church, we cannot be indifferent to her needs, her interests, and her sufferings. The Church today suffers more than ever: she suffers in her Vicar, who, placed as a sentinel for the whole Christian world, knows and estimates better than anyone else the dangers and struggles threatening her on all sides; the Church suffers in her Bishops, in her persecuted martyred priests, who are rendered powerless; she suffers in her children, abandoned and dispersed like sheep without a shepherd; she suffers because of errors, because of the calumnies which are hurled against her. And you, her child, can you remain indifferent? Suffer with your Mother; pray, work, and use your strength to serve and defend her. Lay aside your own little personal interests and consecrate yourself — your life, your works, your prayers, your silent, hidden sacrifices — to the great interests of the Church.
“O sovereign, ineffable God, I have sinned and am unworthy to pray to You, but You have the power to make me worthy. Lord, punish my sins and do not judge me according to my faults. I have a body: I offer and give it to You. If it is Your will, crush my bones and my marrow for Your vicar on earth, for whom I pray to You … Give me a heart that will continually grow in grace, a heart strong enough to defend the banner of the Holy Cross, so as to bring infidels to share like us in the Passion and Blood of Your only-begotten Son, the Lamb without spot.
“O infinite, eternal Trinity, do not delay any longer, but through the merits of St Peter, help Your Spouse, the Holy Church … I cry to You today, O my Love, eternal God; show mercy to the world and enlighten Your Vicar, so that all will follow him … Enlighten also the enemies of the Church who resist the Holy Spirit, that they may be converted to You, my God. Call them, stir up their hearts, O inestimable Love, and let Your charity constrain You to conquer their hardness. Bring them back to You, that they may not perish. And because they have offended You, O God of sovereign mercy, punish me for their sins. Take my body which I have received from You; I offer it to You. May it become an anvil for them, so that their sins may be destroyed” (St Catherine of Siena).
“O Lord, in spite of my great misery I do not cease to beseech You to hear me: Your glory and the good of Your Church are at stake. All my desires are directed to this intention. Does it seem overbold of me to think that I can do anything toward obtaining this? Hear me not, O Lord, when I ask You for honours, endowments, money or anything that has to do with the world, but when I ask only for the honour of Your Son, why should You not hear one who would willingly forfeit a thousand honours and a thousand lives for You? Do not hear me, O Lord, for my own sake, for I do not deserve to be heard, but for the sake of the Blood of Your Son and for His merits” (T.J. Way, 3).