St. Peter and St. Paul had very different roles within the Church. St. Peter was the solid leader who guided the Church through very difficult times. To him was given the authority to govern the Church and to be the chief shepherd of the flock. In contrast, St. Paul was the adventurous missionary. He pushed the envelope and brought the Gospel message to the Gentiles and the ends of the earth. Although it may be a little simplistic, I think we can look at these two saints are representing two tendencies within the Church and within society, both of which are essential. We might say that St. Peter represents the establishment, the conservative tendency to preserve tradition and what has been done before. Along these lines, we might say that St. Paul represents the progressive tendency, seeking to develop new ideas and new ways of thinking.
The real danger is when we think that everyone should be just like St. Peter or just like St. Paul. Preserving the past and living in accordance with the traditions handed down is important and necessary. A real danger, however, is when traditions and ways of doing things are not renewed and centered on truth, goodness, and beauty. The Church must grow and develop. However, the Church does so not to become a new entity, but so that it can become authentically who God calls it to be. Development does not mean that change is a kind of absolute. The other danger is when we embrace change and new things without authentic discernment. New developments must always be in harmony with the living tradition, the truths that have been preserved in the Body of Christ.
The Catholic genius is that the Church embraces both St. Peters and St. Pauls. We need leaders and laity who are faithful to the Sacred Tradition, and yet have the creativity to bring the Gospel in new ways. The Church is both fully conservative and fully progressive, and it is within the Church that we discover the proper balance needed for human flourishing. In this way, the teachings of the Church are not merely rigid rules meant to limit creativity and progress. Instead, the teachings of the Church are vehicles by which humans are able to enter more fully into the sacrament of the moment.
It is the Catholic genius which can inspire people of all times and places. This genius seeks to dialogue with the world, recognizing everything that is true, good, and beautiful in every time and every place. It is the Catholic genius which calls all people to the vocation of sanctity, a calling that is not meant to shackle human potential, but rather is the instrument of authentic human freedom. When we allow ourselves to be formed by the transformative power of the Catholic genius, we will be taking on the riches of 2,000 years of reflection and faithful questioning.
A concrete step that all of us can take is to take the time to study the riches of the Catholic genius. This goes beyond simply theology, but yet it is grounded in unchanging truths. For example, a sometimes neglected aspect of Catholic teaching is her social doctrine. I would encourage friends and family to delve into this rich tradition and learn more about what the Church has to offer.