Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

August 1
  

Saint Peter's Chains

(44 A.D.)

Saint Peter's Chains
Saint Peter's Chains
O.D.M. pinxit

In the year 44 King Herod Agrippa, after putting to death Saint James, son of Zebedee, was still avid for popular approval by the Jews. He had Saint Peter cast into prison, intending to put him to death publicly after the Passover; but the entire Church of Jerusalem was offering up prayers to God without ceasing (Acts 12:5) for the deliverance of the Chief Pastor of His flock, and God heard them favorably.

The king had taken all possible precautions to prevent the escape of his prisoner. He was guarded day and night by sixteen soldiers, four of whom kept sentry duty in turn — two in the same dungeon with him, and two at the gate. Saint Peter was fastened to the ground by two chains, and a soldier watched on either side of him. He lay fast asleep on the very night before the day fixed for his execution, when it pleased God to deliver him out of the hands of his enemies. In the middle of the night, a bright light shone in the prison, and an Angel appeared beside him. He woke him from his sleep and bade him instantly rise, fasten his cincture, put on his sandals and cloak, and follow him. The Apostle did so, for the chains had fallen off his wrists. Following his heavenly guide, he passed after him through the first and second watches, and when they arrived at the iron gate which led into the city, that gate opened before them of its own accord. The Angel conducted him through one street, then, suddenly disappearing, left him to seek refuge.

The Apostle went directly to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, where several disciples were assembled and sending up their prayers to heaven for his deliverance. As he stood knocking, a young woman who had been sent to the door, hearing Peter's voice, ran back in joy and informed the group that their Pastor was at the door. They paid no attention to her, saying she was beside herself, or that it was probably his Guardian Angel. But the knocking continued until they opened the door, and Saint Peter, entering, told them of his miraculous escape. Having enjoined them to notify the rest of the brethren, he departed to regions of greater security, carrying wherever he went the divine blessing and life.

Reflection: This miracle clearly confirms the divine promise, If two of you consent upon earth about anything at all for which they ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in heaven. (Matt. 18:19)

New Testament, Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 12; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).