The Two Great Columns June 29 is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Blessed Paul VI called them "the two great columns of the Church of Rome." Both brought the Gospel to Rome, where they met their martyrdom: St. Peter by crucifixion and St. Paul by beheading. In their creativity, the early Christians chose June 29 as their common feast because this was the day the pagans marked the founding of Rome by the mythical persons, Romulus and Remus. Their inherent message being that if Romulus and Remus founded the old empire, Peter and Paul laid the foundation for the new one—the Church of Christ.
In Peter and Paul we find what is important for us as Catholics. We are not "lone rangers" in the life of faith. Peter and his successors, the Roman Pontiffs, are always our point of reference. The Pope is our "Holy Father," the visible source and foundation of our
unity. Through his missionary journeys, St. Paul reminds us of the Church's universality, i.e. "
Catholic." The Church transcends geographical, national, historic, cultural, and political boundaries. To be Catholic is to welcome all peoples.
May this feast prompt in us a renewed love of and faith in the Church especially in these days, when we see indifference to the Church on the part of more and more people. Some even question the need for a Church. Many profess to be "spiritual but not religious." By this they usually mean that to be religious—that is, part of the Church—involves abiding by rules and dogmas that inhibit one's free thinking and personal growth. They also point out that the Church has a sinful side. Isn't it better, they contend, to be "spiritual," which means freedom from unnecessary rules and dogmas? Isn't it better to relate personally with God?
Christ founded a community. He knew that we needed one another, that we needed a point of reference, a sign and source of unity. Left to our own designs we would indeed create something interesting, but certainly not what the Lord desires for us. As Fr. Nouwen said so well: "The Church is an object of faith. We are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God. Believing in Jesus and believing in the Church are two sides of one faith. Whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers. God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes
God with us."