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"Simon Peter: a Pope for All Seasons"

Resource Page for Teachers

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

June 1998

St. Anthony Messenger

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Curriculum Connections -

This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in several areas:

    • Religion—Christian life styles; Church leadership; the role of today's Church; role of Confirmation in a teen's life
    • Biblical studies—Acts of the Apostles: the history of the early Church

Glossary of Basic Terms

Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of terms relating to this month's article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the resource guide.

Acts of the Apostles






Moral authority




Council of Jerusalem


Papal authority

Idea One - Appreciating Peter as a Model for Teens

Conversion in the Spirit

Peter's life is a wonderful example of how the Spirit of Jesus converts us to a new life. Following this month's article headings as an outline, and using the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, your students can trace the major events of Peter's life, and see what changes the Spirit effected in him.

1. Peter's Relationship with the Historical Jesus

Direct your students in researching and diagramming a timeline of Peter's life up to the time of Jesus' death. Events should include: Peter's call to be a disciple; the storm on the lake; the Transfiguration of Jesus; the Last Supper; the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane; the Crucifixion. Besides the gospel stories, see also a biography of Peter in the Catholic Encyclopedia,

Your students can now put together the beginnings of a profile of Peter. As the article's author states, Peter was initially brash, impulsive, clumsy and at the same time outgoing, generous, and quick-witted. Peter's weak side flared as outright betrayal just before Jesus' crucifixion (see John 18: 15-18).

How often as teenagers, or for that matter as adults, do we feel like Peter? Direct your students in drawing parallels between the early Peter and their own lives. We act irrationally, impulsively, even stupidly often just when we are trying to be generous and mature. Ask your students to list, privately, several actions that they regret because they acted brashly and impulsively, and brought shame or embarrassment on themselves. Some students may be willing to share their stories in a group setting. If not, ask them if they would, in small groups, devise a story that typifies a brash action that could cause later embarrassment.

2. Peter and the Risen Jesus

Your students can now complete the timeline of Peter's life and conversion by tracing the events after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus and after the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Use the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the Catholic Encyclopedia reference cited in Section 1 above, as sources. Events here should include: Peter's acceptance of the risen Jesus; his triple insistence that he loves Jesus; the Ascension; Pentecost; Peter's preaching to the people of Jerusalem; appearances before the Sanhedrin; conflicts in the early Church; Peter's openness to all believers.

Your students should now be able to see Peter's coherent, maturing personality. Jesus chooses Peter to succeed Him as leader of the new Church after Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times (see John 21: 15-19). With the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost Peter finally understood what Jesus really expected of him. Peter changed through his openness to the Spirit.

Can your students describe how Peter changed? What behaviors did he exhibit after the Spirit? Focus, perhaps, on a discussion of why Peter emerged as the maturing, resilient person while Judas, equally a betrayer of Jesus, destroyed his own life.

3. Our Confirmation in the Spirit

Many of your teenage students in today's parishes receive the sacrament of Confirmation near the end of their sophomore year in high school. For some it is simply another ritual to pass through as part of growing up. For others, it is the beginning of a growth towards the "coherent, maturing personality" that was Peter and that can be any one of us.

You may wish to direct your students in a group discussion, or in journal writing, on how they can open their hearts to the Spirit in Confirmation. Many of them work in Christian service as part of the preparation for the sacrament, or spend time on a weekend retreat. How can these activities make them more receptive to the Spirit?

Idea Two - Understanding Leadership in Today's Church

A. Peter's Role and Mission as the Church's First Pope

As the Church's first pope and leader, Peter faced a myriad of political and internal conflicts. Jewish lands were occupied territories at that time, and the early Christians were no less oppressed than the Jews in that environment. The book of the Acts of the Apostles outlines Peter's struggles and successes in bringing the gospel message to other Jews in the face of political opposition.

Peter also developed an openness to people previously considered to be outsiders. He was instrumental in bringing the Church's message to the gentiles, the non-Jews.

B. Continuing Papal Leadership

Today, Pope John Paul II must deal with the oppression of Christians in hostile environments just as Peter did 2000 years ago. Can your students identify countries or situations where the Church and its membership today are persecuted, restrained, or otherwise not free to act as it should in following Jesus' mission? Among other sources, see earlier articles in St. Anthony Messenger online, such as "Vietnam Today: a Time of Healing" in the January 1998 issue (, which also includes a resource guide for teachers, and "The Church in Cuba: Is a New Day Dawning?" in the May 1996 issue (

There are certainly many other challenging situations John Paul deals with every day. Restraints to Christian living wear many faces: abortion; assisted suicide; euthanasia; genocide; violence toward the elderly, toward women, toward children. See the online teen magazine called You! at From the home page, go to articles. Here you'll see a brief article on one of the Church's newest saints, Maximilian Kolbe. He died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II because he was a Catholic priest sympathetic to the Jewish cause. In a related article, You! considers abortion to be the American holocaust.

How has Pope John Paul dealt with these situations? What personal characteristics, both strengths and weaknesses, can your students discern in John Paul that might parallel Peter's qualities?

To trace the major events in the life of Pope John Paul II, and find his personal characteristics in action, see Here you'll find a year by year chronicle of John Paul's life, both before and after becoming pope. This site also contains the text of just one of John Paul's encyclical letters to the Church, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae in Latin. Here you'll see John Paul's enthusiastic message on the value of life. The site for the National Conference of Catholic Bishop (http://www.nccbuscc org) also has the text available for sale, along with other communications from John Paul.


For a more compelling version of his biography, see the A&E video biography on John Paul, titled Pope John Paul II: Statesman of Faith. A brief biography, as well as video ordering information, is available at And a video called A Light for the Nations is available from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference.

Your students should be able to see similarities between Peter and John Paul. For example, Peter became known for his courageous preaching after he received the Spirit. He opened the heart of the Church to non-Jews. John Paul has traveled to dozens of countries throughout the world and has preached courageously to huge throngs of people. His messages have been addressed to national and world leaders, and in front of the United Nations General Assembly. And, like Peter, John Paul has certainly suffered at the hands of unbelievers. At A&E's Biography site, look for the button allowing you to search days in history. Go to May 13, 1981 for the day John Paul was shot by an escaped Turkish convict.


  1. Christian and Moral Leadership

Who are examples of strong moral, Christian leadership in the Catholic Church? What local, national and global political leaders shaped our lives for the better through their personal strength? Identifying leadership role models will help your students understand the humanness of our leaders and the influences, Christian or otherwise, which direct their lives.

See Time magazine's initial issue in a series highlighting this century's most influential people: The Time 100, in Time's April 13, 1998 issue, includes profiles of 20 leaders and revolutionaries significant for their impact on our history. Pope John Paul II is one of the 20. Others are Martin Luther King, Jr.; Margaret Thatcher; Mohandas Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. None were perfect human beings, yet all influenced our lives deeply. The issue also contains related timelines and other informational sidebars useful for historical context. Students can vote in the online site for the Person of the Century, to be named by Time in December 1999.

The Christian Science Monitor (, in its May 1, 1998 issue, features a story on the newly formed council of women world leaders. The 19-member council, based at Harvard's John F. Kennedy's School of Government, pulls together women active in political roles, such as Mary McAleese of Ireland. The article characterizes the women's use of "consensus, concern for diversity, and avoidance of authoritarian styles". These characteristics certainly also mark Peter's approach to leadership in the early Church.

See for the Casa Juan Diego Catholic Worker House in Houston, Texas. Here you'll find one example of the Catholic Worker Movement's humanitarian efforts. A link at this site will give you a biography of Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Movement.

See for SisterSite, a clearinghouse for information on women religious, religious life, and the contemporary concerns of sisters in the Church. Your students can search out some of the qualities needed for leadership as a woman religious in today's Church.

Another well-known Catholic leader was Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. See The National Catholic Reporter's online site,, for archive access to articles on Cardinal Bernardin's life and impact. One book resource reviewed in the May 30, 1997 issue is The Gift of Peace: Personal Reflections, Bernardin's own account of his spiritual journey in the three years before he died of cancer. You can also find information on Cardinal Bernardin's life in the February 1997 issue of St. Anthony Messenger online at

For a thought-provoking discussion on papal reform, see The National Catholic Reporter archives for an 11-part series on the subject. With a billion Catholics in the world, and over 4500 bishops, some are suggesting that the papacy is simply too big a role for one person to fulfill. Article four in the series, on October 31, 1997, addresses issues concerning Pope John Paul's successor.

Your students can research other biographies and news articles on individuals such as Coretta Scott King, Mother Seton, and Mother Teresa (

Looking at some of these references should help your students identify and appreciate some of the significant leaders in our world and our Church. It should also show them that all of these leaders are imperfect. They are coherent, maturing personalities like St. Peter. They are flawed, yet determined to lead. And in many, perhaps all, we can see the hand of the Spirit guiding them to effective leadership.

Lynn and Bob Gillen are the authors of this online teacher's resource and have been writing together for 13 years. Their work includes has appeared in St. Anthony Messenger, as well as articles for publications in the music and entertainment industry.


Further Online Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives. - The New York Times - The Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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