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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

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Strong with God's Strength
published 29 June 2014 by Fr. David Friel

UNE 29TH every year is the date on which we celebrate Ss. Peter & Paul. Because this is such an important solemnity, even this year, when the 29th of June falls on a Sunday, we still celebrate the Mass in their honor.

Peter and Paul are two of the greatest saints we lay claim to in our heritage. They were also two of the greatest sinners. Peter was supposed to be the “rock” upon which Jesus built His Church. But he is the one who denied Jesus three times during His Passion. With all his impetuosity, Peter turned out to be one of the shakiest “rocks” Christ could have chosen to be the foundation for the Church.

Similarly, Paul had been one of the strongest persecutors of Christianity. In his Letter to the Galatians, he describes his “former way of life”: “I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy her” (Galatians 1:13). Prior to his conversion, Saul was one of the most influential and horrible opponents the Church has ever faced. So how did Peter & Paul become so central to our Church? How did they become saints?

Paul, himself, gives us the answer in his Second Letter to Timothy. He writes: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed” (2 Timothy 4:17). What a consoling thought! This is the secret to becoming a saint: be strong with God’s strength, rather than your own. Our own strength is necessarily limited; the strength of God, however, is limitless.

We do well to remember that every saint (save for the Blessed Mother) is, first and foremost, a sinner. Peter & Paul would have appeared as clearly weak men to anyone who knew them. Peter could only become the rock because Christ had been the cornerstone before him. Paul could only become a great preacher because Jesus was the Word he preached. When they were imprisoned, when Paul was shipwrecked, when Peter hung upon his own cross of crucifixion, the Lord “stood by” them all along.

In the revised orations for the Vigil Mass of this solemnity, the Prayer over the Offerings beautifully requests the Lord’s assistance “so that the more we doubt our own merits, the more we may rejoice that we are to be saved by Your loving kindness.”

Although they were weak sinners, Peter & Paul, by their lives and by their martyrdom, bring us Good News. The Good News is that—for all of us who are weak—there’s hope. The Lord stands by us, and He can make us saints, too.