Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul with members of the Totus Tuus ministry at Immaculate Conception Parish, Auburn, June 29. The Totus Tuus team has been moving from parish to parish this summer to share the joy and beauty of the faith with people in grades one through 12, and that week the team was being hosted by Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph Parish in Garrett and St. Michael Parish in Waterloo.
“I’m very happy to be here with you this morning to celebrate Mass,” the bishop told students. “I hope you’re having a good week with Totus Tuus, drawing closer to the Lord and enjoying this time together during the summer.
“I’m especially happy to be here today because this is a very important feast day for the Church throughout the world,” he reminded the students. “Today we remember and we celebrate the princes of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul. They were the pillars of the Church. And we remember how they loved Jesus so much that they suffered and died for Him as martyrs, which is why we wear red today — the color of blood.”
During the homily, the bishop also explained the symbols on his vestments.
“This is a St. Peter and St. Paul vestment. Notice the key. The key is always a sign or symbol of St. Peter. Have you ever seen pictures of St. Peter in churches, a statue or a painting? He’s always holding keys. Jesus said to him, as we heard in the Gospel, ‘I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Jesus made Simon the head of his Church. He changed his name to ‘rock.’ ‘Peter’ means ‘rock.’”
He said there are several reasons why the sword on his vestment is a symbol of the martyr St. Paul.
“First of all, because St. Paul wrote that the word of God is like a two-edged sword. But another reason is that he was killed — he was martyred — by a sword.”
He continued to tell the students about the first Christian martyrs. Among them was Jesus’s close friend, the Apostle James.
“We heard in the Acts of the Apostles that Herod had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,” explained the bishop. “And then, he had Peter arrested and put in prison. He put a lot of guards there to make sure Peter wouldn’t escape, and he put his hands in chains.”
Bishop recounted to the students how, while St. Peter awaited trial, he was rescued from prison by an angel.
Totus Tuus team member Morgan Schenkel says that the kids’ enthusiasm in asking important faith-related questions had been the highlight of the week thus far.
“You can just see the hunger in their hearts to learn about Jesus. Usually, I’ll leave like five minutes at the end of class for questions, and the questions this week have just been phenomenal.”
Schenkel said that the first and second graders asked questions like “How do I become a saint?” and “How do I go to heaven? What is it like?”
“They really are thirsting for that knowledge of the Catholic faith.”
Schenkel also said the students particularly enjoyed Totus Tuus Theatre, which involved the team members performing silly skits.
She said that if Totus Tuus Theatre is all that the kids remember about the week, maybe they will associate it with joy over learning their faith.
Totus Tuus team members undergo 10 days of training at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois. They move to a different parish or group of parishes each week and are housed by a family from the parish.
Schenkel encourages others who are discerning joining Totus Tuus as a missionary to allow themselves to “lean into the unknown, because every day during the mission there are a lot of unknowns, including your daily schedule and what food you will have for dinner.”
“Not knowing those things is that’s good for you because it allows you to rely on God about where your life is going to go.”
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