Since their deaths in the first century, Saints Peter and Paul have been venerated above all other Apostles who are considered the founders of the Church in Rome.
The importance of St. Peter, as the head of the Apostles and the first pope, is crucial because of his identification with the authority entrusted to the Church by Our Lord Himself.
In chapter 16 of the Gospel of Matthew, Our Lord says, "[Y]ou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. And whatever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound, even in Heaven. And whatever you shall release on Earth shall be released, even in Heaven."
Presently, the Church's authority is often shrouded in darkness and confusion — with so many heterodox churchmen speaking on behalf of themselves and their own perverse proclivities instead of the Church, whom they are supposed to serve.
Saint Paul, as the preeminent missionary, lived perfectly the command of Christ to "Go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you."
He also highlights the importance of Christ's command, which was not "Go forth and be nice." The venerable Apostle would not have been considered "nice" and even disagreed so adamantly with St. Barnabas about including St. Mark on their missionary journey that the two parted ways. Moreover, his teaching was so steadfast — a teaching he learned from Jesus Christ Himself — that he was hunted by the Jews who wanted to destroy him. He did not change the Church's teaching for his listeners, no matter how difficult it was to accept, whether they were Jews, gentiles or other Christians.
Saint Paul put his very life on the line to bring sinners to the Catholic Church, the only way they could be saved, and he did not soften his message. He warned Christians that they must "work out [their] salvation in fear and trembling," and that those who reject the authority of the Church "acquire damnation for themselves."
Saints Peter and Paul are inseparable as being the very images of the authority and missionary vocation of the Catholic Church. Their basilicas in Rome, St. Peter's Basilica and St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, were built by Emperor Constantine and dedicated by Pope St. Sylvester in 324 and added to by future popes as a memorial to their deeds.
Both basilicas house the remains of the venerable Apostles. At St. Peter's Basilica, the saint's remains were rediscovered under the ancient high altar during WWII in a secret archeological dig. Since then, the faithful have been able to see the bones of St. Peter on the scavi tour, where they can also see parts of the old necropolis on which Constantine had the original basilica built.
In 2009, at the end of the Pauline Year announced by Pope Benedict XVI in honor of the 2,000-year anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, the remains of St. Paul were found to be buried beneath the high altar of the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The finds reconfirm what Sacred Tradition has always taught, that the Apostles remains were exactly where ancient Christians claimed.
Many know the accounts of both Apostles in the Gospels and the epistles, but their significance as the pillars of the Church has not faded one bit over the last nearly 2,000 years, rather it's as important now as it ever was.
In honor of the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, Church Militant is offering two readers a free DVD of the video Paul, Apostle of Christ. Simply answer this: Name all the Apostles. Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading "Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul."
Also, keep your eyes open for a July episode of Mic'd Up featuring Michael Voris interviewing Eric Groth, the executive producer of Paul, Apostle of Christ, starring Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner.