Understanding Today’s Feast: “Chair of Saint Peter”

Comment – The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church under Pope Francis is traversing a time of great confusion and anxiety. A large portion of Catholics believe that the current Pontiff is failing in his duty to sufficiently protect the sacred Deposit of Faith and the traditional practices of the Church. But we must remain calm and remember that we have Canon Law, unchanging dogmas and doctrine, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and many renowned encyclicals that will always safeguard the sacred teachings of Christ’s Bride, the Church, no matter who sits in the Chair of Saint Peter.

Pastor aeternus does not allow any infallibility for the Church or Pope for new doctrines. Any doctrines defined must be “conformable with Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Traditions”:

For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles.

God alone will judge Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, as indeed He will judge every single one of us. Our duty is to remain faithful to the Truth. And to pray for our shepherds, the good and the not so good.

From ‘My Catholic Life’

Against the farthest wall of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is not a statue of Saint Peter, as one might imagine, but a gorgeous heroic-sized sculpture with a chair as its focus. To celebrate the Chair of St. Peter is to celebrate the unity of the Church. The chair is a symbol of Saint Peter’s authority, and that authority is not meant for conquest like military power. Ecclesiastical authority is directed toward unity. Jesus Christ could have gathered an unorganized group of disciples united only by their common love of Him. He didn’t. He could have written the Bible Himself, handed it to His followers, and said, “Obey this text.” He didn’t. Jesus called to Himself, by name, twelve men. He endowed them with the same powers He possessed and left this organized band of brothers as an identifiable, priestly fraternity specifically commissioned to baptize and to preach. In North Africa at the time of Saint Augustine, twelve co-consecrating bishops were canonically required at the ordination of a bishop, mirroring “The Twelve” called by Christ. What a profound liturgical custom! Today the Church requires only three co-consecrators. 

What is even more striking about Christ’s establishment of an orderly Church structure is its double organizing principle. The Twelve’s headship over the many is itself subjected to the internal headship of Saint Peter. He is the keeper of the keys, the rock upon which the Lord built His Church. This all makes sense. What good would a constitution be without a Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes over its interpretation? Any authoritative text needs a living organ to stand outside and above it to arbitrate, interpret, and define, with authority equal to the text itself, any and all misinterpretations, confusions, or honest disputes. Just as a constitution needs a court, the Bible needs a Magisterium. And that Magisterium needs a head as well. 

The authority of the papal office, doctrinally, is a negative charism preserving the Church from teaching error. It is not a guarantee that the pope will teach, explain, or live the faith perfectly. Christ himself guaranteed that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. That’s a negative promise. But isn’t this promise also a prophecy that the Church, and the office of Peter, will be a lightning rod absorbing every strike from the forces of evil? That this Church, and no other, will be the target of the darkest of powers? A real Church has real enemies.

From the Saint Andrew Daily Missal:

The Chair of Saint Peter – 18th January (Extraordinary Form)

The manifestation of the divinity of Jesus, which characterizes the Season after Epiphany, demands of us the recognition of His Kingship over our souls.

Christ is the Head of the Church. But as He is to reascend some day to heaven, He communicates His divine power to a man, for after the Incarnation, it is by human intermediaries that God wills normally to establish His dealings with us. The man whom Jesus constitutes “Prince” of souls (Introit), and “on whom He builds His Church” (Gospel), is St. Peter. As Vicar of Christ he will sit in the chair once occupied by Jesus and will hold in his hands the keys as symbol of supreme authority.

We read in the Epistle, the beginning of the first letter of St. Peter. All the letters of the apostle bear the mark of his primacy. Rome is to be the capital of the kingdom of heaven upon earth. It is to Rome that Peter will come, it is on Rome’s blessed soil that he will shed his blood, he will be Bishop of Rome. Wherefore we must see in this feast a liturgical testimony to the primacy of honour and jurisdiction attached to the chair of Rome. This material chair is still preserved in the apse of the basilica of St. Peter. 

St. Paul, during his sojourn at Corinth, in the year 58, wrote an Epistle to tbe Romans. Towards the year 62, he was led to Rome a captive and remained there two years. Imprisoned again in the year 67 he was put to death, like St. Peter, in the henceforth eternal city. Wherefore the liturgy associates, in a second Collect, the glorious name of the Apostle with that of the first Bishop of Rome. 

Let us today pray for the Pope, successor of St. Peter, that he may freely exercise the divine powers communicated to him by Jesus, Son of God.

Statuit ei Dominus testamentum pacis, et principem fecit eum: ut sit illi sacerdotii dignitas in aeternum. * Memento Domine David et omnis mansuetudinis ejus.
The Lord made to him a covenant of peace, and made him a prince; that the dignity of the priesthood should be to him for ever. * O Lord, remember David: and all his meekness. (Ecclus. 45:30 and Psalm 131:1. From the Introit at Mass).

Deus, qui beato Petro Apóstolo tuo, collátis clavibus regni coeléstis, ligandi atque solvéndi pontifícium tradidísti: concéde; ut, intercessiónis ejus auxilio, a peccatorum nostrórum néxibus liberémur. 
O God, Who, committing to blessed Peter, Thine apostle, the keys of the heavenly kingdom, didst bestow on him the pontifical function of binding and loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins.
(Collect)

Deus, qui multitúdinem géntium beati Pauli Apóstoli praedicatióne docuisti: da nobis, quaesumus: ut cujus commemoratiónem colimus, ejus apud te patrocínia sentiámus.
O God, Who by the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul didst teach the multitude of the gentiles, grant us, we pray Thee, that, honouring his commemoration, we may experience the benefit of his patronal influence with Thee.
(Commemoration of St Paul)

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