Celebrate SS. Peter and Paul with St. Peter’s Fish (March 22, 2011)

By Lois Rogers and Msgr. Sam Sirianni

The great solemnities of winter and spring are over and the smaller feasts of summer are at hand.

Take June, for instance. The entire month is threaded through with a ribbon of wondrous opportunities for reflection, celebration and joyous meals beginning with Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 3) and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 4), St. Barnabas (June 11), St. Anthony of Padua (June 13), St. Aloysius Gonzaga (June 21), St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More (June 22), St. John the Baptist (June 24), St. Cyril of Alexandria (June 27), St. Irenaeus (June 28) and the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul (June 29).

Such are the spiritual riches of June that the Internet Website Catholic Culture likens its 30 days to a “green and blooming” descent from the “great peaks of Easter to the verdant pastures of Ordinary Time.”

Ordinary Time, that post-Pentecostal period of joy and activity is, strictly speaking, when we are commissioned to “go out into the world and tell the good news.” The feasts of June evolved in a way that spotlights the call for evangelization.

Those who make the most of June will find it a heady time of observance. While neither as dramatic as Lent, Easter and Pentecost, nor as celestially busy as Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, June is a time to share faith with family, friends and acquaintances against the backdrop of nature at its best.

As the “baptized” version of summer solstice celebrations, the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist on one of the longest days of the year is one of the most widely celebrated of the June feasts worldwide.

But this year, reflecting on what have come to be called “the events of April,” – the death of John Paul II and the election and installation of Benedict XVI – it seemed more than appropriate to talk about really celebrating the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul on June 29 for it brings us, in essence, home to Rome where it is a major feast.

It commemorates the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome and, through the ages the faithful have been invited to reflect on that day on the heritage of these saints who cast their nets to draw people in a great wave of evangelization and became good shepherds of a flock that would grow throughout the world.

It’s a wonderful day to observe at home in small, meaningful and relaxing ways. Since Rome and the Vatican are the geographic heart of the celebration and the foundation of the papacy is at its core, it would be a great occasion to share thoughts about our new Holy Father, the 265th successor to St. Peter, and welcome a new picture of Benedict XVI into the home. PopeChart.Com is a great Internet site that makes a wealth of papal information available with the click of a mouse.

Holy cards of Peter and Paul, Benedict, John Paul II and other holy fathers of beloved memory may be placed in the family prayer corner before a lit candle and the family could unite there in prayer at some point during the day.

Last but not least, it’s a wonderful day for a meal shared in honor of Peter and Paul, a meal that is simple to prepare and festive enough to delight guests if you want to share the bounty of your table as Peter and Paul might have.

With this in mind, we’re offering Joe Donadieu’s tasty recipe for Tilapia with Tomato Sauce. This fish has been known since ancient times as St. Peter’s Fish.

In honor of St. Paul, why not deck the table with a traditional Middle Eastern maza – appetizer platter – featuring pita triangles for scooping tabouli, baba ganoush, hummus, black and green olives and feta cheese.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 10 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch oregano
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small pan, heat the oil and sauté pepper, onion and garlic. When the pepper and onion are soft, add tomato sauce, oregano, salt and pepper. You might add a splash of red wine, stir to blend and simmer 10 minutes to finish it off.

Meanwhile, poach the tilapia in a covered, wide skillet in a cup of dry white wine in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

When the tilapia is done, remove it from the pan and top it with with the tomato sauce and serve with couscous – easy to prepare and easy to find in the rice and grain sections of all supermarkets these days. Grilled vegetables – eggplant, zucchini, onion, green and red bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes – are a perfect complement.

A Prayer before meals for the Day: God our Father, today you give us the joy of celebrating the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Through them your Church first received the faith. Keep us true to their teaching. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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