The Keys to the Kingdom
All that We Have: The Images of Saints Peter and Paul in the Daily Mass Altar, Part 1
Published on June 28-29, 2014 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
In the two south-facing niches of the altar in the Daily Mass Chapel are the images of the apostles Saints Peter (d. ca 64-67) and Paul (d. ca. 67) in whose honor the present Church and parish in Danville were named in 1868. Mercer County was a mission of this Church in Boyle County from 1868 to 1905 and again from 1919 to 1934. The Rev. Andrew J. Brady (1848-1912), pastor of Saints Peter and Paul from 1878 to 1893, built the first Saint Andrew Church in Harrodsburg in 1893. His successor, the Rev. Paul J. Volk (1841-1919), built the now closed Saint Nicholas Church in Rose Hill in 1894.
The images enshrined in our altar are based on two of the stained glass windows in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the University of Notre Dame du Lac in Notre Dame, Indiana. These windows were made in 1873 by the Carmel du Mans studio, a stained glass workshop that operated in Le Mans, France from 1853 to 1903.
The image of Saint Peter features a bearded old man wearing a pale orange robe and a green mantle with purple borders. He holds in his right hand “the keys to the Kingdom” entrusted to him by our Lord at Caesarea Philippi (cf. Mt. 16:19); one is gold, the other silver.
The Gospels relate that Saint Peter was the son of Jonah (cf. Mt. 16:17) or John (cf. Jn. 1:42; 21:15-17) and that he and his brother Andrew (cf. Mt. 10:2; Lk. 6:14; Jn. 1:41) were fishermen (cf. Mt. 4:18; Mk. 1:16) from Bethsaida (cf. Jn. 1:44) in Galilee. He was known as Simon (cf. Mt. 4:18, 10:2, 16:16-17; Mk. 1:16; Lk. 6:14; Jn. 1:41-42) or Simeon (cf. Acts 15:14; 2 Pt. 1:1) until the Lord Jesus renamed him Peter (cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk. 6:14) or Cephas (cf. Jn.1:42). He was married (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5) and owned a home in Capernaum where the Lord healed his ailing mother-in-law (cf. Mt. 8:14-15; Mk. 1:29-31; Lk. 4:38-39).
The evangelist John relates that it was Andrew who had brought his brother Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn. 1:42), telling him that “We have found the Messiah” (Jn. 1:41). However, both Matthew and Mark also recount that the two brothers were called by the Lord to follow Him as they were casting a net into the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mt. 4:18-20; Mk. 1:16-18).
Simon was the first among the apostles to profess that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16; cf. Mk. 8:29; Lk. 9:20). It was this profession of faith that won him the name ‘Peter’ and the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” (cf. Mt. 16:18-19). Despite having denied the Lord three times (cf. Mt. 26:69-75; Mk. 14:66-72; Lk. 22:54-62; Jn. 18:15-17, 25-27), Peter was later entrusted by Christ to feed and tend His flock after a threefold confession of love (cf. Jn. 21:15-17).
After the Resurrection, he was the first apostle to enter the empty tomb (cf. Jn. 20:3-7; Lk. 24:12). It was he who proposed that another apostle be elected to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the Twelve (cf. Acts 1:15-26). He was the first to preach at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14-40) and his was the first miracle after the Ascension: he cured the cripple at the Temple, saying, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk” (Acts 3:6).
Tradition holds that Peter preached the Gospel in Syria and was the first bishop of Antioch (modern day Antakya in Turkey). He labored later in Rome as its first bishop, establishing the Chair of Peter that has been held by his successor, the Pope. The Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Peter on February 22.
Saint Peter the Apostle died a martyr in the Ager Vaticanus, the Vatican gardens in Rome, during the persecution of the Emperor Nero, between the years 64 and 67. According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, he had asked to be crucified upside down. His remains were buried in a nearby cemetery, upon which the former and present Basilicas of Saint Peter in the Vatican were later built.
Saint Peter is considered by his fellow fishermen as their patron. Since his name means ‘rock,’ he is also the patron of masons. As keeper of the keys to the Kingdom, his intercession is invoked by doorkeepers and locksmiths.