ROME — St. Peter’s transformation from an erring disciple to the “rock” on which Jesus built his church was not the result of lessons gleaned from a “self-help” book, but from growing ever closer to the Lord, said Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

Standing before St. Peter’s tomb Jan. 13, Quinn was the principal celebrant and homilist at a Mass with the bishops of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota as they began their ad limina visits to the Vatican to pray at the tombs of the apostles and report on the status of their dioceses.

In St. Peter’s Basilica early in the morning, before meeting Pope Francis, the bishops of the 10 dioceses renewed their profession of faith and offered special prayers for the pope.

“Jesus always sees more in every person he encounters than that person sees in themselves,” Quinn said in his homily. St. Peter is an obvious example: “Jesus knew he wasn’t the rock when he called him, but Peter becomes the rock.”

“Jesus sees in Peter the potential,” the bishop said. Peter reached that potential not because he learned “some self-help tips, it’s not because he read a few books on how to become a leader.”

Rather, he said, “Peter encountered Jesus” and allowed him to become the foundation of his life.

There were times, the bishop said, that Peter was not a rock. He denied Jesus three times and at times was much more like “shifting sand” than solid rock.

Becoming “the rock” was a process that involved a daily encounter with a real person, learning about and coming to love Jesus and allowing his heart to be converted, the bishop said.

“Today we have great challenges in our church,” he said. “Maybe none of us feels like the rock.”

But in faith, he said, the bishops know that Jesus will strengthen them as he strengthened Peter.

For that to happen, though, he said the bishops must devote time to getting to know Jesus, setting aside a “holy hour” each day, reading the Scriptures “so that Jesus becomes a person whom I want to follow and whose forgiveness and mercy in my life is a real encounter.”

“Every one of us is shifting sand,” Quinn said. “Every one of us needs Jesus Christ in our life. Don’t be afraid to come to him. Peter did and it changed his life, Peter on whom the Lord built his church.”

“Be the rock,” he told his brother bishops, “but be the rock because Jesus has made you that solid.”

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