Sts. Peter and Paul & Us

This isn’t the Monty Hall game show but it does have three doors. Our lives are not a game show but we all have three or more doors that need to be nearby but closed. Three doors in our present society are wide open. Wide open with a blind eye to the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

Narcissism. Discouragement. Pessimism.

The martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were honored this week. One loved killing Christians before falling off a horse. The other tells Jesus to change his mind about this Messiah routine, almost drowns with his lack of faith and a crow is heard in the background after denying that he even knew the guy called Jesus. They’ve got to be the weirdest, unwiseist choices for the one who essentially wrote our whole Christian religion and the other, I believe, has a chair named after him somewhere in Rome.

Pope Francis writes “…they were two very different people, yet they saw one another as brothers, as happens in close-knit families where there may be frequent arguments but unfailing love. Yet the closeness that joined Peter and Paul did not come from natural inclinations, but from the Lord. He did not command us to like one another, but to love one another. He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike. He unites us in our differences.” (My friend invites me to supper with my promise to not talk politics with her husband. How can anyone do that? We go outside.)

In the midst of Herod’s violent persecutions, the Pope continues, “Peter had been arrested. The community seemed headless, everyone fearing for his life. Yet at that tragic moment no one ran away, no one thought about saving his own skin, no one abandoned the others, but all joined in prayer. From prayer they drew strength, from prayer came a unity more powerful than any threat. . . .” Joined in prayer.

He also writes, “…at that dramatic moment, no one complained about Herod’s evil and his persecution. . . . It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing. Let us remember that complaining is the second door that closes us off from the Holy Spirit. . . . The first is narcissism, the second discouragement, the third pessimism. Narcissism makes you look at yourself constantly in a mirror; discouragement leads to complaining and pessimism to thinking everything is dark and bleak. These three attitudes close the door to the Holy Spirit. Those Christians did not cast blame; rather, they prayed. In that community, no one said: “If Peter had been more careful, we would not be in this situation.” No one. Humanly speaking, there were reasons to criticize Peter, but no one criticized him. They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God.”

Everything old is new again? You betcha! That’s the very early Church and we are the supposedly inspired, mature Church of 2021. And, what doors have we open widely, with even a doorstop, rejecting or ignoring the power and unifying grace of the Holy Spirit? Because we like being narcissists, pessimism can only complain and become a sport when we conveniently sit in the bleachers, and discouragement comfortably freezes us with those three wicked, open doors yet living in a closet.

Where’s the unity of humanity? Where’s the power and potency of prayer; collectively and privately? Why can’t differences produce a civil, kind exchange of words? How can we close those three doors and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit? Lock those doors but be sure to keep the keys! Wear those keys around your neck as many of you wear His Cross. “You set a communal table of love before me in the sight of my foes.” Or, as we say today, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Once more from the Holy Father. “Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?” What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue?”

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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