A message from Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.
The Church just observed the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, commemorating the martyrdom of the Apostles, St. Peter as Chief of the Apostles and St. Paul as the Apostle to the Nations. Each year, this solemnity is a national holiday in Rome and has traditionally marked the beginning of the summer vacation period for Vatican officials following a public Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The observance of this solemn feast is an opportunity for all Catholics throughout the world to affirm our ancient faith as we celebrate two of its greatest heroes and their entrance into eternity. Following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, St. Peter and St. Paul gave their lives so that his Gospel might take root in our world through the spilling of their blood.
Despite the solemn, festive nature of this liturgical celebration in Rome and the days of vacation that follow, the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul are a reminder to all of us in the Church that summertime is not a holiday or vacation from our faith. In fact, the opportunities we have to take a restful break from our “rest of the year” work routines during the summer months, offer us a wonderful time to recommit ourselves peacefully, joyfully to the faith that sustains us throughout the year — if we allow ourselves the occasions to do so.
Summer is a special time for family and friends by making time for them. No school! Picnics and barbecues; trips to the shore or mountains or wherever we enjoy some rest together; longer hours of daylight and star-filled nights; sitting outside, playing games, going to carnivals or summer concerts, taking long, leisurely walks or renewing healthy exercise to shed some winter pounds; gardening, picking strawberries or Jersey tomatoes and eating Jersey corn on the cob; doing lots of things or doing nothing in particular, summer is a time to slow down and realize how blessed we are by God, surrounded by those we love most who are truly gifts the Lord places in our lives.
Summer gives us an opportunity to pray without a lot of the usual distractions; to go to our parish church and celebrate God’s presence a little more often, maybe during the week; to read some good books — perhaps something spiritual — to help nourish and strengthen our souls; to engage in conversations we may not otherwise have time for; to tell stories, share memories and laugh with one another, something we may not do enough!
I have to believe that when God created the world and time and the seasons, he gave us summer as a “pause that refreshes,” again if we allow ourselves the time to pause. It is part of nature to soothe our human nature and ready ourselves for the long, busy months that follow.
This summer, take the time, whether long or intermittent, to renew and refresh yourselves. You need it. It is a gift from God. Show your gratitude for this wonderful, amazing gift by using it with your families and friends, for your families and friends ... for yourselves.
May God bless you this summer with fun, relaxation, safety and the joy that renews your lives, your spirit and your faith.