To Speak with All Boldness

Editor’s Note: Friends: I want to thank all of you who responded immediately with such generous donations to the funding appeal we began yesterday. You know who you are — and you are the same ones who are always first to step forward and help out. I’m going to resist publishing names on the model of the old parish pastors who used the donation numbers and family names to shame people in stepping up. But perhaps that’s too nineteenth century since our political leaders have told us we must all be very twentieth century. But we’re going to continue this campaign until we arrive at where we need to be to keep this little “thing” going. I cannot help mentioning one name: our friend “Jack” from the Comments section mentions a note I sent him some years ago saying no help was too small. The corollary, of course, is that no donation is too large either, since we have multiple needs and many, many fine readers who simply are not in a position to contribute. This is really a simple process. Look into your heart and ask yourself what it would mean if TCT were not available. We need many donations at the $50, $100, $300, $500, $1000 level — as in past years — and others higher and lower as well. I will personally lift up all of you in Rome to the two new saints this week. Please, fulfill your own responsibilities towards The Catholic Thing. There’s no time like now. — Robert Royal

In the time after Easter, I find myself thinking about the first days of the early Church. So I re-read the Acts of the Apostles.

In the Second Temple there were many gates, and one of them was called Beautiful – or so we read in Acts 3, which is where Luke relates the story of Peter, John, and the healing of a lame beggar. No other historical source gives the name “Beautiful” to any of the eight temple gates known to have existed.

Archaeologists, historians, and even sociologists continue to debate which of the known gates might be the one called Beautiful, taking into account what’s known about where a panhandler might legally have been allowed to beg, and where the beggar might expect to encounter patrons willing and able to give, and in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile for his family to settle him down for each day’s supplications. One expert – as credible, it seems to me, as any other – suggests the most likely spot was the so-called Double Gate, which was along the southern wall at the top of a monumental stairway and was the likely route into the Temple for most of those going to worship.

Peter and John are on their way into the Temple at three in the afternoon when our beggar calls out to them for alms: “And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’”

How strange a request did that seem to the lame man? One imagines very few almsgivers (already a small percentage of the crowds passing by him every day) had ever said word one to the beggar. He may have thought: Nobody gives me more than a glance, even if a coin is tossed my way, and now these two ask me to look at them? And the beggar “fixed his attention upon them,” fully expecting a donation, but, perhaps, fearing a lecture about self-reliance instead. Peter’s next words must have seemed discouraging.

“I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have. . .”

Although there was hardly an instant in which the beggar may have formed a thought, his quick impression may have been, Great, here comes the pep talk. But he receives rather more than that:

“ . . .in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” Peter says, whether nearly shouting or barely whispering, “rise and walk.”

The Healing of the Lame Man by Raphael, c. 1516

It seems clear that Peter’s command instantly lifted the lame man to his feet. The beggar didn’t frown, cocking his head to one side, skeptically, wondering what trick this Galilean had up his sleeve. He simply arises. To be sure, Peter lends him a strong hand up, but “immediately his [the beggar’s] feet and ankles were made strong.” Not only that: he goes into the Temple with the two apostles practically dancing – taking joyful steps he could only have seen others do, perhaps at weddings.

Yet the sudden attention he receives from those inside the Temple (all eyes fixed on him now), who have for years seen him begging on the stairway outside, and the effort of walking and dancing for the first time in his life must have winded him, for Luke tells us that “he clung to Peter and John,” as they stood now in Solomon’s portico, and Peter began to preach.

A modern physician, one with greater training than Luke, would explain the beggar’s lameness as the result of some childhood trauma (“hysterical neurosis, conversion type”), and the “faith healing” by Peter as affecting the release of some psychic blockage by a kind of hypnosis – which is the very birth of modern psychology. And a cynic might wonder at the fate of a forty-plus-year-old adult whose earning power has now been lost; his former crippling affliction at least having provided a way to eke out a living.

The Bible leaves a wide wake of wondering about the lives of those who pass through its pages and then disappear from history. The lame beggar is one of those, but, my! What a godly purpose he serves. (And I choose to believe he became a devout, active believer, loved and supported by that first Christian community.)

Peter steps forward now – I imagine him with a steady hand upon the healed man’s shoulder – and our first pope is no longer, as so often he was in the Gospels, a man mastered by his fears.

He is a second Daniel now, facing the first of many lions’ dens, and he boldly cracks the whip. His homily to the crowd is as forthright and daring as any ever given. He bluntly tells his listeners they “killed the Author of life” and adds of Christ that it was He “whom God raised from the dead.” He repeats the very “blasphemies” that led to the Crucifixion.

Peter and John are arrested, but not before 5,000 men have come to believe in Jesus. And the next day Peter utters those timeless words of witness to the Sadducees: “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the cornerstone.” This Rock knows a thing or two about cornerstones.

And this time the elders in the Temple have no answer. The Spirit speaks through Peter, which astonishes them, since they can see this fisherman is no scholar. So they warn him, John, and the beggar not to speak of this healing.

These new Christians refuse, of course. In fact, they resolve (Acts 4:29-31) to speak “with all boldness,” and they’re rewarded with another earthquake-like descent of the Holy Spirit.

Brad Miner is the Senior Editor of The Catholic Thing and a Senior Fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His most recent book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. His The Compleat Gentleman is now available in a third, revised edition from Regnery Gateway and is also available in an Audible audio edition (read by Bob Souer). Mr. Miner has served as a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA and also on the Selective Service System draft board in Westchester County, NY.