You can look at St Peter and Paul as the twins who founded the new Rome–the new Romulus and Remus if you like, but another way is to consider the balance between the body and the mind. In other words, we need both a muscular Christianity and an intellectual Christianity. Too much action without thinking and too much thinking without action are both disastrous.
In this article for The National Catholic Register I spend some time thinking about the unlikely partnership between the rugged fisherman St Peter and the elitist educated St Paul. Muscles and mind. Mind and muscles. Both balance and are necessary one to the other.
The Solemnity of Peter and Paul is traditionally the time for ordinations, and as priests we need a strong balance between action and thought, thought and action. St Peter and St Paul provide symbols of that balance.
The refined Paul and the rough-and-tumble Peter give priests a tension and a balance to aim for. Depending on one’s personality type, we tend to favor either the man of intellect (Paul) or the man of action (Peter). Depending on which type we favor, we will also be distrustful of the other type and resist the balance they offer.
Men of intellect may look down on the men of action, while the men of action may think the men of intellect have their heads in the clouds or are “so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good.”
Throughout the life of the Church, in the lives of the saints and the history of the papacy, we see the clash between the Peters and the Pauls. The way of balance is to realize how much we need both. The whole Church needs the balance of intellect and action, but the same balance should be cultivated in the life of each priest.
If a man is inclined to spend too much time in his study with his nose in his books, he needs to get up and get out and get busy with spreading the Gospel and being with the people of God.
If a priest avoids serious study and sidesteps intellectual development in favor of doing “real work” with “real people,” then he will be a shallow priest with little to offer in the long run. The man of action must work hard to develop intellect, just as the man of intellect must work hard to be involved in the world with real people and real problems.
There is more to it than that.
If our priests need this balance, so do we all. As followers of Christ if we are inclined to spend too much time with our nose in the books we need to get out and get busy. If, on the other hand, we are all action with no thought we need to get away and curl up with a good book.
For the feast of Peter and Paul ask which one you incline to and decide to get that balance.
I guess I need to go out and do some yard work this afternoon….
Read the whole Register article here.