Apostles Out Front: Saints Peter, Paul and Thomas

Three important “Apostolic fathers” of the Church are celebrated within a few days of each other. On June 29 is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul who had great influence on the Western Church; and on July 3 is the Feast of Saint Thomas, who had a great impact on the Eastern Church. Each of these apostles of Jesus contributed greatly to the spread of Christianity in the early years of the Church after Jesus death.

St. Peter and St. Thomas were part of “the twelve” – the closest original followers of Jesus and were present during Jesus earthly ministry and at The Last Supper on the evening before the Crucifixion. St. Paul is called “the 13th Apostle” who became a follower of Jesus after the Crucifixion. The Conversion of St. Paul is told in three chapters of the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 9, 22 and 26).

St. Peter is known as the Leader of the Apostles and was chosen by Jesus to be the Leader of the Church in this passage from the Gospel, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19).

St. Paul is known as the Apostle of the Gentiles because of his widespread travels and preaching to the peoples surrounding the Mediterranean world as documented in the books of the New Testament. His role in spreading the Good News to the Gentiles, and that of St. Peter to the Jews, is addressed in his Letter to the Galatians, “…I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised…” (Galatians 2:7). About one-half of the New Testament comes from St. Paul – of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul, and approximately half of the Acts of the Apostles, deals with Paul’s life and works.

St. Thomas is often regarded as the Apostle of India, and is believed to have traveled via Parthia (northern Iran) to India – arriving at Muziris (Cranganore), India on the Kerala Coast in A.D. 52. He is believed to have established seven churches in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and a Christian tradition grew up from there, linked to the East Syrian Church, called “Saint Thomas Christians”. The largest of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

Symbolism
The most recognizable attributes of these three saints are as follows:


St. Peter: Carrying a set of keys, related to the Gospel passage (Mt 16:18-19) shown above.


St. Paul: Long, pointed beard, receding hairline; holding a sword (weapon of his martyrdom) and a book or scroll


St. Thomas: He is most usually seen holding a spear, representing the instrument of his martyrdom. He is also shown holding a carpenter’s square related to a legend that a king in India sent an emissary to find an architect to build a Roman-style temple, thus bringing St. Thomas to India.

References
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Aletia.org – https://aleteia.org/2018/05/18/the-little-known-story-of-how-st-thomas-the-apostle-brought-christianity-to-india/
Catholic News Agency – https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/sts-peter-and-paul-501
Christian Iconography – https://www.christianiconography.info/peter.html , https://www.christianiconography.info/paul.html , https://www.christianiconography.info/thomas.html
Encyclopedia Britannica – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Paul-the-Apostle
GotQuestions.org – https://www.gotquestions.org/apostle-to-the-Gentiles.html

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