Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle | February 22, 2020
Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter – a feast which recalls for Catholics the important role in the service of unity for the whole church which the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, provides for all of us. It references the “cathedra” – an ornate chair found in the “cathedr-al” or the church where the bishop of a diocese presides. The “cathedra” represents the authority and ministry of unity which the bishop offers a diocese.
The Bishop of Rome, of course, is entrusted with the unity not only of his own diocese, but of the whole church. It is a special ministry which many recent popes take very seriously, wanting to be of service to that unity which Christ desires, not only for the Catholic Church, but spiritually for all Christian churches, and indeed, for all of humanity.
The Chair of Peter reminds us of the dual mission of the Pope to preserve the unity of the church – fidelity to the Gospel and compassionate care for the People of God.
In 2016, Pope Francis reflected on these aspects of this feast in his homily for this day, highlighting how today’s readings emphasize fidelity and mercy. The Pope said:
“Let us allow grace to mould our heart again to believe, and to open our mouth to carry out our profession of faith and so obtain salvation. Hence let us make Peter’s words our own: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and on one can place a different one. He is the “rock” on which we must build.”
Quoting St. Augustine, the Pope continues: “It is not the rock that gets its name from Peter, but Peter that gets it from the rock, just as the name Christ does not derive from the Christian, but the name Christian derives from Christ. Christ is the rock, on whose foundation Peter was also built.”
The Pope reminds us that the authority represented by the ‘cathedra’ – by the chair – of St. Peter is founded on the example and humble witness of Christ.
It is a reminder to all those who are involved in leadership in the church – those who are ordained and those who serve the church in lay ministries of leadership – of the pattern of ministry we seek to follow – leadership that does not “lord it over” others but serves as examples of Christ-like fidelity to God’s plan for the world, following the pattern of the Good Shepherd who gave everything, so that the world might live.
Let us pray for our Pope, for all church leaders, and for ourselves, for the strength of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful to Christ’s pattern of life.
God give you peace!