Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Peter and His Keys

IN THE PARISHES AND SCHOOLS where I've served, having the keys meant having power. Indignation would arise, "Oh, she's somebody around here, she's got keys." More often than not, in reflecting upon Peter and his Keys to the Kingdom, we still translate that to mean, "He's got the power." Hence: the image of Peter at the gates of heaven determining whether or not an individual may enter.

On a larger scale this power quest  results in arguing and still more arguing: the Catholics and the Anglicans, the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics,  the Catholics and the Evangelicals. More than a few Catholics still think they have a corner on the truth because they have  Pope Peter and his keys. 

Of course, along with Peter's name always being listed first among the apostolic names, his being given keys signifies his position of authority. But Peter is first of all a disciple, and that reveals something more, something that's true then about all of us. I'd suggest that when Peter was given the keys (the image of access to the reality of Jesus through lived experience) we were ALL given keys. God loads us up with gifts.

I was sitting in a doctor's waiting room where there was a mentally challenged older man, disheveled, talking constantly and louder than the television.  No one sat near him, though everyone noticed and even kept an eye on him.

Clipboard in hand a nurse came through on her way elsewhere. She recognized the fellow and immediately sat down next to him. In a gesture of I'm in no hurry, she put down the clipboard, angled towards him and began a conversation. Her addressing him broke the spell and he became lucid and articulate. After a few generous minutes, she left him peaceful. That nurse had the keys:
  • The keys to knowing how to be human.
  • The keys to understanding mercy.
  • The keys to understanding how to serve.
  • The keys to understanding the troubled mind.
Keys, whether Peter's or our own, aren't for power, but for service. 


  1. Well said Father Stephen. The entire mission of Christ on this earth was all about others. He gathered together the scattered sheep to become the ultimate servants of God as he fulfilled his Father’s plan of salvation for humanity. We too are called in to service. It is the one perspective that unites us as a Christian people. We may find ourselves separated by language or cultures or economic status or politics or labels of conservative and liberal but we are united as we serve one another after the example of Jesus himself.

  2. Pope Benedict said: "Perhaps there cannot be a unity of belief, but there can be a unity of love."

  3. Thank you for your reminder that love is the most important thing. Love conquers all prejudices and predispositions. I beg for the keys that allow me to be accepting and merciful.

  4. I am always amazed how your few words bring so much clarity and understanding to the messages of Christ. How the keys mean service not power. Another explanation that was very helpful. Thanks