Many great saints offer us insight into their own human struggles and temptations.
St. Augustine once struggled to renounce his promiscuous life.
St. Francis of Assisi was once so tempted to impurity that he threw himself into the freezing snow to overcome the temptation. (St. Benedict had thrown himself into a thorn bush to overcome a temptation to unchastity!)
To summarize the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Saints are just sinners who keep on trying.”
The imperfections, daily pursuit, and endless perseverance of the saints can give courage to all of us on our spiritual journeys.
Today, we’re looking at two inspiring saints in particular: Peter and Paul.
The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29th.
These two apostles changed the course of human history—but not without challenges, frustrations, and personal weaknesses.
We are privileged to hear about their journeys as followers of Christ through the lens of sacred scripture. By meditating on their words and experiences, we can learn to better relate to them and ask for their intercession in times of hardship.
Here are four particular situations in which Peter and Paul could be fantastic intercessors.
Which one do you find yourself in?
1) When you need an increased zeal for souls
The Apostles converted the known world in a single generation. It was their evangelization to all ends of the earth that spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to men. Such exhaustive mission work wouldn’t have been possible without Peter and Paul’s zeal for souls—that is, the conviction that every individual soul is called to the salvation found only in Christ. Since each person has been ransomed by the priceless blood of Jesus, the value of their souls are beyond measure.
That’s why all of us need zeal for souls! And we can pray for the intercession of Peter and Paul whenever we feel complacent or hesitant.
Each of them are ideal intercessors because, together, they’ve experienced a broad spectrum of zeal—or reluctance!
St. Paul, for example, never lacked zeal in his activities. Even before his conversion to Christianity, he was zealous in his persecution of Christians, whom he believed to be an offense to God. When he converted, he became an on-fire disciple of Jesus Christ. He’s a man who did nothing by halves.
Then there’s Peter. Peter had zeal, yes, but he also struggled with weakness and fear. He abandoned Jesus the night of His arrest, rather than staying with Him.
And when there was debate over whether Christians had to be circumcised or not, he had a moment of weakness. In Galatians 2:11-13, we hear about Paul’s challenge of Peter, who began to eat with Gentiles only when unseen by the Jews.
Like so many of us today, Peter was concerned about respectability. He was nervous to proclaim radically different beliefs.
How often do we do the same—hiding our “controversial” Catholic opinions from our secular friends?
Paul challenged Peter in this. And Peter changed his ways and renewed his zeal!
May they inspire us to be unashamed of the Gospel in our lives and to preach it simply and truthfully, without fear of the consequences.
2) When you have sinned and need help repenting
One of the most moving scenes in the Bible is Peter’s denial of Christ.
Despite deep intimacy with Jesus and the insistence that he would never commit such a cowardly act, Peter denied knowing Him three times the night of His arrest.
Perhaps we all can relate to the pierced heart of Peter when the cock crows and his sin is made clear. He goes out and weeps bitterly.
But what is so beautiful to reflect on is that, after Peter’s fall, the Lord provides the opportunity for his redemption. He gives Peter a three-fold chance to say “I love You” to replace his three-fold denial.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”John 21:15-17
The Lord offers us this same mercy, this same opportunity for redemption, in the Sacrament of Confession.
It can be easy to put off going to Confession, though, so ask St. Peter to pray for you whenever you fall, that you might have the courage to repent and turn back to Christ.
3) In times of chaos
It is sometimes easy to forget the realities of the events that took place in the Bible.
Jesus as the Messiah fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish faith, but He did not look as people imagined. People were afraid, uncertain, and flabbergasted by what and how He taught. There were also considerable amounts of danger and fear among His followers as people reacted to the challenges of His teachings, not to mention the chaos the Apostles must have felt after the Passion.
Both St. Peter and St. Paul faced the weight of discipleship and can teach us much about how to respond to it. St. Paul was often in prison during his mission work, and if he wasn’t, there were many trying to get him there. And yet, St. Paul had the wonderful ability to give thanks, even in times of stress and struggle.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you experience fear or confusion, turn to St. Peter and ask that he pray for you.
Remember that, after the Bread of Life discourse, many of Jesus’ followers walked away—shocked by His teaching that they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” (John 6). Jesus then turned to his disciples and asked if they also wanted to leave.
St. Peter was troubled, but He trusted in Jesus, and responded with these simple words:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”John 6:68
May these words inspire reliance on the Lord in times of affliction, reminding us that Jesus is always in control—no matter what happens.
4) When you are struggling to love someone
Both St. Peter and St. Paul sacrificed greatly for the Church we have today.
They loved the men and women that God had made. And wanted their souls to be in heaven one day.
It is important to remember that this strength, zeal, hope, and holiness all came from one source: grace. Grace gave them the love of Christ, and enabled them to do great things for God and His Church.
The same goes for you and I. It is less a question of how much have we accomplished, and more a question of how much did we love?
(Just remember that love doesn’t meaning “feeling affection for others” or even “liking them” but “desiring someone’s ultimate good, aka eternal salvation”!)
We may not all be asked to die for our faith like St. Peter and Paul, nor may we all have such impacts on the Church. But one thing is certain: we all are called to love.
Saints Peter and Paul, intercede for us to our heavenly Father that in every moment we may find strength, hope, courage and wisdom in your examples. Saints Peter and Paul, teach us how to love!
Do you turn to particular saints for help in particular struggles? Which saints have you asked for help, and how have they interceded for you?
Of course we can ask any saint for prayers in any situation—but it’s also a good idea to ask for their help in certain areas that relate to their unique story and patronage. What other instances would you ask for Peter and Paul’s help in?
We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below!