PETER, PAUL, AND FRANCIS
Peter and Paul are very different characters to put it mildly. Peter, a typical Galilean, is warm, impulsive, and wishing to please. Paul is passionate, zealous, an intellectual who wants to live the law in all its aspects, and wants everyone else to do the same. He is fierce in his dedication, and fearless. One cannot imagine Paul denying Christ as Peter did, but one could not imagine Paul having quite that beautiful humility of Peter, which is so evident in the Gospels. Peter is never afraid of putting his foot in it, Paul never does. Everything is done well and thoroughly, and he is a real leader. He might have been a superb secular leader. Peter becomes a great leader by grace, Paul might well have done it by nature.
However both men need to be humbled. Peter has to be shown that he is not the courageous defender of his Lord and Master, and that he is terrified into to denying him by a mere woman, a serving girl, no less! His confidence in his own devotion is shown to be all too human. Paul breathing fire and brimstone against the Christians in Damascus is quite different. All his passion, all his confidence is in the Law and tradition of Israel. He has condoned the stoning of Stephen. He has seen Stephen’s wonderful and Christ- like death, but being fanatical has failed to miss its profundity and truth. Here is a true martyr. Peter needs to be reminded of his hopeless confidence in his own courage and loyalty, and Paul needs to be cured of his belief that he is utterly right. Paul is knocked off the donkey by Grace, and Peter is raised from his misery by his sorrow. Both men needed to realise that they were weakness itself without the power of God. Only then were they able to preach the Gospel fearlessly and with great love.
Today in Rome all is a flurry of rumours and truth. A leading Vatican prelate has been arrested regarding financial wrongdoing in the Vatican. It appears that there is a strong homosexual lobby in the Vatican, and Pope Francis is having to deal with what appears to be dynamite. He is an old man. He has only one lung. He is obviously experiencing what appears to be hip problems. He has many enemies. Why? He like Peter and Paul is, like the rest of us, weak and sinful, but he has put his trust totally in God, and he has done this by entrusting his Pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima. We should have not been surprised at this wonderful entrustment, because on the day after his elevation to the Episcopate, he took a little posy of flowers and laid them before the icon of Our Lady in Santa Maria Maggiore. He came like a little boy to his mother with flowers picked from the garden. The spiritual flowers that he brought to her and to his pontificate are humility, guilessness, gentleness, firmness, courage, and charity. This marks him out as being very much at one with Peter and Paul.
It is not surprising that his soubriquet from the prophecies of St. Malachy, which are much disputed but uncannily accurate, is: “Peter The Roman”. Whether Malachy is right or wrong, remains to be seen. But Francis is very keen on being the Bishop of Rome, before he is Pope. This does not lessen his authority, but in fact strengthens it, because it is a rock built on the humility of Christ. That lovable mystic, the French parish priest of Corneuve in Paris, Père Lamy, said (He flourished in the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th ) that wherever you get Our Lady, and he was quite used to seeing her, you get the Devil hard on her heels. We must pray for our beloved Holy Father, Francis, and pray that he will be given the same wonderful courage as Peter and Paul had, a courage that, more than likely will lead him to martyrdom.