by Kevin Burke, LSW
February 22nd the Catholic Church around the world celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. The feast celebrates the papacy and St Peter as the first Bishop of Rome.
The life and vocation of St Peter inspired my book on men and abortion, “Tears of the Fisherman.” Here’s an excerpt from the book that reveals why St Peter can be an important source of inspiration and consolation to men who come to regret their participation in the death of their unborn children.
Simon Peter – Bumbling Backwater Fisherman?
Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.
The late Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor was a leading authority on biblical archaeology and points out that fishing was big business along the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter, contrary to common misperception, was an educated, successful and shrewd businessman:
When read carefully against the background of this ancient [fishing] industry, the scattered references to Simon Peter and Andrew coalesce into a coherent picture. They came from a prosperous, assimilated Jewish middle-class family. Speaking both Aramaic and Greek, they were brought up to serve in an administrative as well as a practical role in an essential major industry. They knew how to plan and organize. As experienced businessmen, they were astute enough to move their home in order to take advantage of a tax break. Such shrewdness, one can be sure, also manifested itself in the way they handled competition from the many other Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. They were anything but “uneducated, common men.”
Jesus of Nazareth, prior to his public ministry, worked for years with his foster father Joseph in the construction trades and was familiar with the practical needs of managing a business and dealing with the public.
When Jesus called Simon Peter, he saw a successful manager and leader in a family fishing business, with employees and responsibilities. These gifts would prove in time to be essential to Peter’s vocation as foundational leader of the early Christian Community.
However Jesus also saw those areas of Peter’s heart and soul that would require a painful infusion of humility, to soften his pride and allow him to honestly face his weakness, fear and mistrust. This was a necessary and essential journey for Peter if he was to fully embrace his vocation and mission.
As the Apostles gathered for what would be their final Passover meal together, Peter felt secure surrounded by Jesus and the other apostles. Jesus turns to Peter and with great love and urgency addressed the leader of the Twelve Apostles:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Imagine Peter’s shock and humiliation when Jesus announces in front of his fellow apostles that Peter is vulnerable to Satan’s attack and his faith will be sorely tested. Worse, Jesus seems to suggest (“once you have turned again”) that for a time Peter will lose his faith in the one he boldly proclaimed as the Christ.
We can imagine the injury to Peter’s pride and even hurt feelings that Jesus would see him in such an unflattering light. Peter now makes a bold proclamation to re-establish the integrity of his leadership among the other apostles, and his unquestioned fidelity to Jesus:
…Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to both prison and to death!”
Just a few short hours later all hell is breaking loose.
Peter must have been shocked that Jesus did not resist arrest, and now his once powerful Master was weak, vulnerable and seemingly…powerless. Peter was separated from his fellow apostles.
His beloved leader was no longer eloquently preaching and performing spectacular miracles like raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was beaten and abused by the Temple guards and facing the horrible torture and humiliation of Roman scourging and crucifixion.
Peter was shaken by these events. He rightly feared that as the designated leader of the Twelve Apostles that he too could face similar abuse and the suffering of the cross.
Isolated, under great stress, and afraid he denied the One he pledged to sacrifice his life to protect.
Be Not Afraid
Peter had to face his own issues of fear and trust on the Sea of Galilee and at that fateful Passover in Jerusalem during the last hours of his Master’s life.
If you are a man with an abortion in your history you may want to avoid experiencing the emotional and spiritual vulnerability that is so essential to healing. But like Peter, the Lord provides the grace for the journey and He will prevent you from sinking back into shame, sin and denial.
The Tears of the Fisherman will provide a kind of GPS for your soul as you learn of other men’s journey of recovery so you can begin to take steps to try and make some sense of it all.
You will find essential information and hope as you enter these stormy waters and encounter your own painful memories and feelings. What may surprise and I hope inspire you, is that the men you will read about in these pages emerged from their healing journey not weak and beaten down, but as stronger, faith-filled and compassionate men.
By stepping out of the illusory safety of denial, keeping your eyes fixed on the Lord, you will become a better father, husband and workmate.
If you are a friend or family member of a man with abortion loss, a counselor or a clergy/minister, this book will help you understand the wider impact of abortion on men, their relationships, family and work life. It will also give you the sensitivity and understanding to effectively guide them to recovery and peace.
Is there a more important mission of awareness, education and healing for a nation with over 58 million abortions since 1973?
As our journey continues, we travel to an ancient Garden, and a drama that unfolded at the dawn of human history.
Endorsement for Tears of the Fisherman:
Tears of the Fisherman is the best book that I have read thus far on the subject of men and abortion. The reason I can say this is from my own experience with an abortion in 1972 after 39 years of suffering as I struggled to forgive myself. Every single chapter spoke to me as a man with the clear understanding of forgiveness for others and myself. – Brendon Fassett, New Life Solutions, Largo Florida
 Jerome Murphy O’Connor. Fishers of Men. Bible Review, June 1999.
 The Greek word used in the New Testament for “carpenter” (tekton) seems to indicate more of a “general contractor.” The term can also be used for civil engineers who build bridges and other structures, which given the region were more likely built with stone.