The very Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is itself a reminder that these two great pillars of the Church’s life are closely related. In front of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, the two saints together flank Maderno’s imposing façade. At the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, the martyrdom of both saints is shown in the courtyard that opens before the entrance to the church. And in the sacred liturgy, that most resplendent “architecture” of our faith which gives shape and structure to our worship of God, these great men are historically always honoured side by side.
What is now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was founded by a community founded in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States by Father Paul Wattson in the 1890s, and entering the full communion of the Catholic Church in 1909. To begin, this time set aside to pray for the reunion of Christendom was known as the Octave of Christian Unity, running from the 18th to 25th January each year. These dates are of course significant: 25th January is the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, whilst 18th January is known as the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter or, in some Anglican circles, as the feast of the Confession of Saint Peter. In fact, the gospel traditionally assigned for this feast—whichever name we choose to apply—is the account given by Saint Matthew of what we have just heard this morning from Saint Luke, which includes the Christ’s response: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (Mt. 16: 18). In other words, the confession of Saint Peter—Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God—is intimately linked with the power bestowed on him by Christ in his Chair, that seat of his apostolic authority after which the personal ordinariate in North America takes its name.
In the rich tradition of the Church, the month of June is set aside in devotion to the Sacred Heart. In a particular way during these weeks we are encouraged to a new fervour and new love for Christ by increasing our fervour and love for his Most Sacred Heart, that font of eternal life and fire of everlasting charity. Depictions of the Sacred Heart remind us of this by the flame that accompanies the Lord’s heart. The love of Christ is so strong that his heart is aflame for us; consuming itself in a furnace of pure love in order that we might benefit from its heat and its light; in order that we might share in the sacrifice it makes by consuming itself, and so have that same love burn deep within us.