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January 16: Commemoration of the Chains of St. Peter

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.  He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

Acts of the Apostles 12: 1-11 


Isn't it interesting to consider that in our own time, there are powerful entities in our world who "lay violent hands upon some who belong to the Church."  We must remember always to pray for those who are persecuted for the faith. Scripture tells us that it was due to the pious prayers of the church members that Peter's chains fell miraculously from his wrists and he was rescued by the angel from prison. These pious Christians who knew of the miracle, kept those very chains and noted that those who venerated them were healed of their afflictions. The chains originated in Jerusalem, but were transferred to Constantinople during the fifth century. One was eventually sent to Rome where it is kept in a church dedicated to the Apostle Peter and is brought out every year on this date for public veneration.    

The chains once used to bind St. Peter are kept for veneration at the San Pietro in Vincoli basilica in Rome. Photo credit: David Castor

So on this day when we venerate the chains of St. Peter, we ask ourselves what it is that keeps our own soul shackled?  

  • Could we be enslaved by empty commitments that bring us no closer to Christ?  

  • Do “friends”  keep us in bad company and unable to freely express our Christian values?  

  • Do we have habits that are less than befitting a true Christian?  

  • What would it take to make us free to become all that God created us to be?

Today would be a good day to ask the intercession of St. Peter, as well as your own Angel Guardian, and pray as the Church prayed for Peter, so that whatever it is that chains your soul and perhaps the souls of those you love, may be broken and you may be free in Christ!


Little ones in our home always LOVED this feast.  Why?   Because it meant home-made noodle soup with pasta “chains” that the children could make and eat!

First, we would read the scripture story together then, as we made the chains, we would discuss how God sent the angel to save Peter. How mighty is our God! How happy Peter must have been to find his chains had fallen off and that he was free to do the task that Jesus had assigned to him, to make disciples of all the nations, including us!

We know that God created Peter for this very important task. In like manner, He made each of us for our own special task that no one else can perfectly fulfill. Many things can happen in our lives that make it difficult for us to be the best that we can be. When this happens to us or to someone we know, we must remember to pray, like the people of the Church prayed for Peter while he was imprisoned, and God will hear our prayers. We can thank God for freeing Peter from his chains so that he could spread the Gospel, and ask Him to free us from the things that keep us from fulfilling our duty as His disciples too!


Chains of St. Peter Soup

Use a basic noodle dough:

2 1/2 cups flour,

1/2 cup water (or optional egg, beaten) and a

dash of salt.

Broth of your choice: chicken, beef, vegetable, tomato, etc.; brought to a boil, with or without added vegetables as desired.

Any broth can be used to make this soup, with whatever additions your family likes! We are vegan, so in our home this soup is meatless and can be made during the fast. To make it, I saute a few cups (we like a LOT of veggies!) of chopped onion, celery, and carrot in a large stock pot. Once these are softened and slightly browned (the more brown the veggies, the more flavor they add to the soup!), Then I add about 6-8 cups of water or prepared stock, some salt and pepper to taste, two Tablespoons of vegetable soup base powder, and/or a teaspoon or so of poultry seasonings and bring this to a low boil for about 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt and water (and egg, if using) to form a dough, then knead and roll,out onto a floured board. Use a pasta maker, or a pizza cutter, to cut the dough into thin strips and then make chains!

These are placed onto a floured baking sheet and when the broth is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and add them to the soup watching and waiting patiently until they float, just before serving.

Note: If you use chicken broth you can talk about the rooster that was used by God to teach Peter about loyalty.

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