Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Randy Sly

2/22/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's about unity

We are celebrating the unity we have together as we are in communion with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ. This feast is especially significant this year as the Chair will be vacant in less than a week.

Highlights

By Fr. Randy Sly

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/22/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: unity, chair of st. peter, ordinariate, Pope Benedict, new pope


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Several months ago we had the Feast of St. John Lateran, which was a feast that focused on a building. Today's feast, however, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, is not merely about a piece of furniture. We are celebrating the unity we have together as we are in communion with our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.

This feast also took on new personal meaning for me, as a priest of the Personal Ordinariate, when Pope Benedict named the new U.S Ordinariate for the Chair of St. Peter.  We understood what was being expressed - our unity with the Church is not based on liturgy but rather is found through the chair and the one who sits upon it. The See of Peter embodies the fullness of the faith and, in communion with his successor, we can express our patrimony as Catholics.

Our Ordinary, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, emphasized this theme during his installation homily just one year ago.

The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity.  St. Basil the Great, the Church's greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy.  He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort.  Like an old coat which is always being torn and is difficult to mend, the unity of the Church must never be taken for granted but requires great diligence and courage from her leaders (Bas. Ep.113). 

St. Basil often talked with yearning about the "archaia agape," the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day.  This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.  I can't think of a better illustration for this homily than Bernini's great sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica:  Peter's chair is upheld by the great fathers of the Church; and, hovering over it all, the luminous alabaster dove, the Holy Spirit, bathing everything in the radiance of God's love.

Next week at this time, the chair will be empty. The period of Sede Vacante begins as we await the election of our new pope. As we approach this season of expectation, we are so vividly aware of the importance of this chair and who sits upon it.

You Are Peter
The Gospel passage for today is a familiar one. Here Peter and the others are asked a question and the inspired response from Peter leads to a special pronouncement.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

In the Protestant and Catholic divide, there has been a lot written and spoken about the words, "You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church." To the confessional churches, this cannot be a man but the message only. Yet, God has always built on a person not simply a principle.

In the homily found in Office of Readings for this feast, Pope St. Leo the Great expounds on this declaration. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I, in my turn, make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you lose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.


As St. Leo underscores in his homily, Peter's presence, and that of his successors, stand as a testimony and representative of the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ Himself. In communion with the Chair of St. Peter puts us in communion with the One who established the man seated as his vicar on earth.

The Chair
The Chair, or "Cathedra" (where we even get our word Cathedral, with that particular church as the seat of the bishop) takes on a special meaning beyond just being a fancy piece of furniture. In fact, the issue of its design and substance is not the focus of the feast.

In 2012, after naming 22 new Cardinals, Pope Emeritus Benedict talked about the Chair in his Sunday homily three days prior to the feast.

The Chair of St Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica is a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ's flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.

At the beginning of the second century St Ignatius of Antioch attributed a special primacy to the Church which is in Rome, greeting her in his Letter to the Romans as the one which "presides in charity".

It is because the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with many other martyrs, poured out their blood in this City, that this special task of service depends on the Community of Rome and on its Bishop. Let us, thus, return to the witness of blood and of charity. The Chair of Peter is therefore the sign of authority, but of Christ's authority, based on faith and on love.


The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter began around the Fourth Century. While the Cathedra in Rome is of prime importance, the Cathedra he bore in Antioch, prior to going to Rome, also has been remembered on this day.

Today, when one wants to capture the heart of the feast in visible form, the Bernini sculpture, created circa 1647-53, is normally in the spotlight. It bears the following words: "O Pastor Ecclesiae, tu omnes Christi pascis agnos et oves" (O pastor of the Church, you feed all Christ's lambs and sheep).

That's why this Chair will remain a major focus way beyond the day of the feast this year. The pastor of Christ's flock, the Church, is normally "seated" on this cathedra but it will be empty for a short season.

Above the throne - A Dove
In the Bernini piece, there is a stained glass window above the chair with rays of light and the image of a dove at the center, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. The rays are divided into twelve sections, one for each of the apostles.

The Church, throughout the ages, has maintained with confidence the fact that she has been sustained, as the prophet Zechariah declared, "'not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 4:6)

Today we are praying that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will quicken the hearts of our Cardinals as they meet in conclave to discern the next Vicar of Christ, His chief shepherd on earth.

Just 36 years ago a newly ordained bishop, Joseph Ratzinger, spoke of the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Church during his homily. "All of us long for a Pentecostal Church," he shared at his episcopal ordination as archbishop of Munich on the Vigil of Pentecost, May 28, 1977.

He went on to say, "A Church in which the Spirit rules, and not the letter; a Church in which understanding breaks down the fences we erect against each other. We are impatient with a Church that seems so unpentecostal, so unspiritual, so narrow, and so fearful."

While enduring many stereotypical descriptions as the "Pope's Rottweiler," a legalist, etc. our Holy Father has a deep devotion and dependence to the work and power of the Holy Spirit. We know he is praying right now for his successor.

This is an important Feast day for our Church. Blessed John Paul II reflected on its importance and leaves us with a challenge to pray during an Angelus blessing in 2004.

Today, 22 February, is the liturgical Feast of the Chair of St Peter. It sheds light on the special ministry of strengthening and guiding the Church in the unity of the faith which the Lord entrusted to the Head of the Apostles. It consists in this "ministerium petrinum" (Petrine ministry), the particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to the entire Christian people. It is an indispensable mission that is not built on human prerogatives but on Christ himself, the cornerstone of the Ecclesial Community.

Let us pray that the Church in the different cultures, languages and traditions will be unanimous in believing and professing the truths of faith and morals passed down by the Apostles.


-----
 
Father Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (http://usordinariate.org) established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus." He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Catholic Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope says church must extend help to immigrants, 'so that all may be treated as children of God' Watch

Image of The world must now recognize the advantages of migration. Host countries get new workers to meet production needs,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking to the 300 participants in the Vatican-sponsored World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the Pope says that the Catholic Church "is a mother without limits and without borders." He says that the church must welcome and assist all of God's children, ... continue reading


Feast of Christ the King and Advent: What Does it Mean? Watch

Image of The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. As we choose to actually live our lives liturgically, not just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6,7) Jesus Christ is King! Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we live them.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 23rd we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Yet, for ... continue reading


Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Learning Lessons for Life from Zaccheus and that Sycamore Tree Watch

Image of Zaccheus climbed that tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon. Do we?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Sycamore tree created a clear line of vision for Zaccheus. It helped him to rise above the crowd and see the Lord clearly. It placed him in the right position for the invitation that would follow. Jesus told him to come down for he was coming to his house! ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Calls us to Recognize His Visitation Watch

Image of The Cross, an instrument of torture, will become the sign of peace, for those who find their refuge under its shadow and embrace the One who stretches out His arms to embrace the whole world. There Jesus will deal definitively with the great enemy of peace, the sin which impedes it in each of our lives. With tenderness He looks out from the Mount of Olives and sees the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loves that City. Then, Jesus weeps. He knows the City will soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He weeps the tears of Love and cries compassion from His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus shows His disciples - and He shows us us, because we are His disciples in this hour - the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father. He invites them - and He invites us - into this very communion of love which He has with the Father, in the ... continue reading


Children deserve both father and mother, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that

By CNA/EWTN News

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that "the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at ... continue reading


Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn't Know! Watch

Image of Pope Francis commands the world's smallest professional army.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know. See how many you know and post your result in the comments! 1.    Vatican City has the highest crime rate in the world! With a population around 500 people and a ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5
1 Next in my vision I saw Mount Zion, and standing on ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:1-4
1 Looking up, he saw rich people putting their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 24th, 2014 Image

St. Andrew Dung Lac
November 24: Through the missionary efforts of various religious families ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter