Why are there more letters from Paul than Peter?

Q: I'm confused as to why, if Peter was our first pope, we have only two of his writings in the New Testament. James, another early leader, only has one book included. John has five, but Paul, who never even met Jesus while Jesus was alive here on Earth, has 13 books included. As our first pope, it certainly seems like there ought to be more in Scripture from Peter. (New Middletown, Indiana)

A: Perhaps some apostles have more writings in the New Testament than others because -- like their successors, today's bishops -- they were human beings with different strengths, talents, and particular pastoral concerns. You might as well ask why someone like Bishop Robert Barron, the bishop of a small rural diocese, has written more books than many bishops of much larger archdioceses.

Even though St. Peter was the first pope, his status as the "first among equals" among the apostles doesn't automatically mean that writing was his personal strong suit. Unlike St. Paul, who was a Pharisee and a scholar, St. Peter had been a humble fisherman before hearing Jesus' call to follow him.

St. Paul's ministry also had a different "theme," as it were, than Peter's. Paul himself tells us in his letter to Galatians that Peter was an apostle to the Jews, working to bring the Gospel among those who already worshipped the one true God, while Paul saw his mission as directed toward the Gentiles, striving to evangelize the pagan cultures of the first-century Roman empire (See Gal 2:7-9). Because of this, St. Paul had to address a greater variety of people. He traveled more widely, and therefore he would have had a more pressing need to communicate via written letters. Naturally, the more letters written, the more were likely to have been preserved and later included in the canon of Scripture.

Many apostles have no extant writings at all, but we might reasonably suppose that most of their teaching was done via oral preaching in the context of the particular local church to which they devoted themselves.

Q: With over 7 billion people in the world, it stands to reason that at any given moment in time, thousands of people are praying to any given saint (Our Lady being an example). If the saints still have minds like they did when alive on earth, how can they possibly grasp and process all of those prayers? (Ruther Glen, Virginia)

A: I think a key phrase in your question is "if the saints still have minds like they did..."

There is a reason why we sometimes refer to a person's passing away as "entering into eternity." Linear time as we know it is something specific to our mortal lives on earth and does not carry over into the afterlife. Heaven, like hell and purgatory, is a state that exists outside of time. (Although prior to Vatican II partial indulgences were sometimes referenced in terms of days or years saved from purgatory, this was meant to represent the amount of time it would take to obtain a similar amount of purifying grace for someone on earth, and not a literal timeline for the one actually in purgatory awaiting heaven.)

So, my thought is that the saints upon whom we call to intercede for us experience these requests as part of one large eternal "now," not as a to-do list they struggle to fit into a schedule.

- Canonist Jenna Marie Cooper is a consecrated virgin, a practicing canon lawyer, and columnist for OSV News.