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The Chair of St. Peter: Weekly Message for 2-21-17
Dear Friends in Christ,
I once met a Protestant Christian who asked me why Catholics worship a chair. As you can imagine, I was a bit perplexed at the question. So instead of answering right away, I asked a question in response. I said, “Um, what exactly do you mean about Catholics worshipping a chair.” The young man went on to explain that he had recently visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. And he had seen an enormous bronze chair right in the middle of the back wall of the church, hovering over the altar. At that point, I understood.
He was referring to Bernini’s famous sculpture of the Chair of St. Peter. A sculpture, which, according to tradition, is also, a reliquary containing remnants of the actual wooden chair that St. Peter himself used while he was bishop of Rome. Of course, we do not worship that sculpture, as I patiently explained to the inquiring Methodist. Rather, we show what the Church calls “religious reverence” for the office of the papacy, which Jesus himself established as a gift for all Christians, a gift meant to foster the unity and the universality of the Church until he comes again.
As the annual liturgical feast of the Chair of St. Peter approaches, it’s a good time to renew our faith in this great gift. We all know that God, for some mysterious reason, has chosen to involve us human beings in the building up of his eternal Kingdom. Somehow, his grace manages to work wonders within our fallen human nature. And this is also true in regards to the papacy. Each pope shares our human condition, and yet God has continued to guard and spread his divine truth and his grace through the Petrine ministry in spite of those human limitations. Not every pope has been a saint, but the Church is still holy.
A good way to refresh our understanding of the nature of the papacy and its role in God’s plan of salvation is to take some time to pray about it. That will give the Holy Spirit room to strengthen each of us in this conviction of faith in the way we need most. To that end, I am recommending once again Built to Last: A Retreat Guide on St Peter and the Papacy. It is my hope and my prayer that, it will help each of us grow in wisdom and faith, in spite of all the confusion that our post-modern culture likes to stir up.
So, this February 22nd (tomorrow!), let us be united in praying for Pope Francis and for all Catholics to be faithful to God’s will in their lives.
Thank you for your ongoing support and be assured of our daily prayers for you.