Peter, Paul and Providence

Father Michael Najim
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The city of Providence has a lot in common with Rome. Both are founded on seven hills. Both boast delicious culinary cultures. Both fall under the patronage of Saints Peter and Paul. Perhaps we don’t appreciate that last one enough. This Sunday we celebrate their common feast, a solemnity in the Church’s calendar. It is a special day for our diocese as well. These two martyrs are the principal intercessors for our local Church. We should look to their example and depend upon their prayers. We might ask specifically, “how would Saints Peter and Paul respond to the challenges in Rhode Island, especially those concerning the Church? What would they tell us to do?”

In our second reading this weekend, we find Saint Paul approaching the end of his life. He is a man without regrets: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” He has a strong confidence that the “crown of righteousness awaits me.” Writing these words, of course, St. Paul is in prison. He is awaiting his execution. He will be reviled as a criminal, the object of public shame. Yet his confidence runs high. He is concerned only with the Lord’s judgment. He cares little for the opinion of the world (1Cor 4:3). He would certainly tell us to have the same attitude. It is far less important what people say about our faith, than that we keep it. It matters little what they say about us, as long as Jesus calls us friends: “you are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14).

In this Sunday’s gospel, Peter speaks the truth about Jesus: “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He does so, not by his own power, but by divine inspiration: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Jesus then calls Peter the rock upon which “I will build my Church.” This rock then is not founded on flesh and blood, but upon a divine pledge. Therefore, if Paul would tell us not to depend upon the opinion of others, Peter would tell us not depend upon ourselves. For the Church in Rhode Island, whatever the affliction or distress, it is only God who guarantees success and survival. But with his guarantee, who needs to look for another?

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence. It is a great moment for our diocesan family, an opportunity to celebrate our history and look toward our future. The way forward lies in our foundations: persevering in the commands of God and placing all confidence in him.