FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

Any time one visits St. Peter’s Basilica is a special time – time to look at over 500 years of Church history (the cornerstone was laid in 1506) and art and liturgy, time to ponder the sheer grandeur and magnificence of this house of worship, time to think about the first Pope, St. Peter, for whom this church is named and who is buried below – way below! – the main altar in an area excavated last century known as the scavi.

A visit is also time for reflection, for prayer, for sitting down in a quiet corner, perhaps the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a side altar or one of the small chapels below the basilica, in the grotto area. It is also surely a time for Mass!

However, there are two days a year when visiting the Basilica of St. Peter becomes an ultra special occasion and today, February 22 is one of them! Today is the feast of the Cathedra or Chair of Peter, a recurrence dating back to the fourth century that honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Pete

On this day – and it is really quite remarkable! – the famous statue of the first Pope, the one on the right side of the main aisle of the basilica whose right foot is worn shiny from the faithful touching it over the centuries, is adorned with lavish vestments, a papal ring and the triple tiara. A bouquet of several dozen red roses is usually placed at the foot of the column bearing the statue of a seated St. Peter and rope barriers are positioned just for this single day to keep the faithful from touching or kissing the statue.

Peter before he appears in finery –

By the way, the second day that St. Peter is dressed in all his finery is June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

I first visited the basilica on this feast day in 1991, the first year I was working at the Vatican Information Service. To learn the history and background of this celebration for a story I had to write for VIS, I interviewed several people in the Vatican, one of whom, Msgr. Michele Maccarrone, was an expert on the Chair of Peter. In fact, he gave me one of the few remaining copies of a 1985 issue of the Italian periodical, “Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia,” (Review of Church History in Italy) entirely dedicated to “The Chair of Peter, From Symbol to Relic.” He wrote part of that article and the footnotes make reference to his other works on the Chair of Peter.

The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his throne and from whence he preaches. Another word for “cathedra” is “sede” (seat or see): the “see” is the place from which a bishop governs his diocese. Thus, for example, the Holy See (also called the See of Peter) is the see of the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

The Chair of Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years, the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair, where you view it today, in 1666.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.

Some terrific photos by my EWTN colleague Daniel Ibanez –

We thus know that Pope St. Peter could not have used this chair but his successors have spoken of it as a symbol.

On Sunday, February 22, 2004, in reflections made during the Angelus, Pope John Paul remarked that, “the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith. This is what the ‘ministerium petrinum’ is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community. Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles.”

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as “a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.”

Last year, at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis spoke of this feast, saying, “Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the day of the special communion of believers with the Successor of St Peter and the Holy See,” and he asked the faithful to pray for his Petrine ministry.

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION

Pope Francis on Saturday, February 24, will receive in a private audience relatives of Asia Bibi – Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, respectively her husband and daughter – and Mrs. Rebecca Bitrus, a victim of Boko Haram. They will be accompanied by Alessandro Monteduro, the direct of ACN, Aid to the Church in Need.

The evening of February 24 at 6 pm, the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution. Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lighted, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past December 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.

That event is sponsored is ACN, as it has done in other cities in previous years. Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists February 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third. One of the children was killed, she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”

FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

Any time one visits St. Peter’s Basilica is a special time – time to look at over 500 years of Church history (the cornerstone was laid in 1506) and art and liturgy, time to ponder the sheer grandeur and magnificence of this house of worship, time to think about the first Pope, St. Peter, for whom this church is named and who is buried below – way below! – the main altar in an area excavated last century known as the scavi.

A visit is also time for reflection, for prayer, for sitting down in a quiet corner, perhaps the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a side altar or one of the small chapels below the basilica, in the grotto area. It is also surely a time for Mass!

However, there are two days a year when visiting the Basilica of St. Peter becomes an ultra special occasion and today, February 22 is one of them! Today is the feast of the Cathedra or Chair of Peter, a recurrence dating back to the fourth century that honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter.

St. Peter when he is not vested on his special days –

On this day – and it is really quite remarkable! – the famous statue of the first Pope, the one on the right side of the main aisle of the basilica whose right foot is worn shiny from the faithful touching it over the centuries, is adorned with lavish vestments, a papal ring and the triple tiara. A bouquet of several dozen red roses is usually placed at the foot of the column bearing the statue of a seated St. Peter and rope barriers are positioned just for this single day to keep the faithful from touching or kissing the statue.

On his feast days –

By the way, the second day that St. Peter is dressed in all his finery is June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

I first visited the basilica on this feast day in 1991, the first year I was working at the Vatican Information Service. To learn the history and background of this celebration for a story I had to write for VIS, I interviewed several people in the Vatican, one of whom, Msgr. Michele Maccarrone, was an expert on the Chair of Peter. In fact, he gave me one of the few remaining copies of a 1985 issue of the Italian periodical, “Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia,” (Review of Church History in Italy) entirely dedicated to “The Chair of Peter, From Symbol to Relic.” He wrote part of that article and the footnotes make reference to his other works on the Chair of Peter.

The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his throne and from whence he preaches. Another word for “cathedra” is “sede” (seat or see): the “see” is the place from which a bishop governs his diocese. Thus, for example, the Holy See (also called the See of Peter) is the see of the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Some terrific photos taken by my talented EWTN colleague, Daniel Ibanez –

The Chair of Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years, the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair, where you view it today, in 1666.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.

We thus know that Pope St. Peter could not have used this chair but his successors have spoken of it as a symbol.

On Sunday, February 22, 2004, in reflections made during the Angelus, Pope John Paul remarked that, “the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith. This is what the ‘ministerium petrinum’ is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community. Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles.”

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as “a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.”

Last year, at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis spoke of this feast, saying, “Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the day of the special communion of believers with the Successor of St Peter and the Holy See,” and he asked the faithful to pray for his Petrine ministry.

POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WYD: DO NOT BE AFRAID! – SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: LEARNING TO DRINK FROM OUR OWN THIRST – SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE PRODIGAL SON

Pope Francis’ Message for WYD 2018 was published today in several languages and summaries are offered at vaticannews.va

For the full text, however, of this very beautiful Message to young people – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30) – you must go to Press Office and click on Daily Bulletin and this brings you to http://www.vatican.va where you can scroll down to your preferred language:
http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/02/22/0142/00290.html#ing

POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WYD: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Pope Francis’ message for the 33rd World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at diocesan level on Palm Sunday, March 25th, focuses on helping young people to overcome their fears and discern their true vocation (photos vaticannews) – By Philippa Hitchen

In the message, published by the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope notes that the forthcoming celebration marks another step in preparation for the international World Youth Day due to take place in Panama in January 2019. It also precedes the Synod of Bishops on the theme of youth scheduled for October this year, highlighting the importance of young people in the life of the whole Church.

Name your fears

Reflecting on the words of the Angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid!”, spoken to Mary in St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis asks young people to name their own fears. Today, he says, there are many youngsters who continuously photo-shop their images or hide behind false identities, in an attempt to adapt to artificial and unattainable standards. The uncertainty of the jobs market, a sense of inadequacy and a lack of emotional security are other fears that afflict young people, he says.

Discernment

In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, the Pope continues, discernment is vital so that we don’t waste energy being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. The Bible doesn’t ignore the human experience of fear, he says, noting how Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Peter, the apostles and even Jesus himself experienced fear and anguish. The phrase “Do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times in the Bible, the Pope says, “as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year”.

Don’t hide behind screens

Pope Francis says discernment should not just be an individual effort at introspection, but also means opening ourselves up to God and to others who can guide us through their own experience. Authentic Christians, he insists, are not afraid to open themselves to others and he urges young people not to close themselves up in a dark room “in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smart phone”.

Do you accept the challenge?

Just as the Angel calls Mary by name, the Pope continues, so each one of us is called personally by God. Through God’s grace, we can take courage, despite all the doubts, difficulties and temptations that crop up along our way. If we allow ourselves to be touched by Mary’s example, he says, we too can learn to love God and to dedicate ourselves to the weakest and poorest among us. “Dear young people,” the Pope concludes, “as WYD in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves with joy and enthusiasm. WYD is for the courageous! Do you accept the challenge?”

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: LEARNING TO DRINK FROM OUR OWN THIRST

Jesus’ own struggle with human weakness and temptation was Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça’s focus in the Wednesday afternoon meditation of spiritual exercises to the Pope and the Roman Curia, in Ariccia.

By Debora Donnini

In the seventh meditation of the Curial spiritual exercises in Ariccia, Father José Tolentino Mendonça proposes that our poverty is the place where Jesus intervenes. The greatest obstacle to the spiritual life is not our fragility, but our rigidity and self-sufficiency. Thus we need to learn from our own thirst. And so, Fr. Tolentino turned his reflections on thirst toward the Passion of Jesus.

Thirst is a path

Fr. Tolentino tells us that spirituality needs to be lived as a communitarian adventure. Gustavo Guitiérrez highlights in his book: “Drinking from a well is the spiritual journey of a people.” The well from which one drinks is a concrete spiritual life. That humanity which we struggle to embrace, our own, and the humanity of others, is the very humanity that Jesus embraces. For he lovingly bows down toward our reality, not toward an ideal that we construct. The mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God means adopting a non-ideological vision of life.

Letting go of the obsession for a perfect life

In a certain sense, thirst humanizes us and is the way that we become spiritually mature” Fr. Tolentino reminds us that it takes a long time to let go of the obsession for perfection in order to conquer the vice of projecting false images onto reality. Thomas Merton wrote that Christ wanted to identify himself with what we do not love about ourselves. This is why he took on himself our misery and our suffering. St Paul also testifies to the theory that faith is paradoxical: “when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.

The three temptations in the desert

The first temptation is for bread. Jesus knows our material needs, but reminds us that it is not by bread alone that we live. His response does not deny reality, but helps us consider that we are a “desert” which needs to be inhabited by the Spirit. To understand the second temptation, Fr. Tolentino used the example of the Israelites in the desert who require Moses to give them something to drink. We like them think that believing means having our thirst satisfied. But Jesus “teaches us to hand over our thirst in silence and abandonment as a prayer.” Jesus responds to the last temptation regarding idols: “The Lord your God you shall adore.” The saying of the Risen Lord in the Gospel of Matthew is helpful: “All power has been given in heaven and on earth.”

Jesus manifests his power in the extreme offering of Himself

The devil wants to be adored, but his power is only apparent, while Christ’s is associated with the mystery of the Christ—the extreme offering of himself. It is an enormous risk when the temptation of power distances us from the mystery of the cross, and thus we distance ourselves from service to our brothers and sisters notes Fr. Tolentino. Jesus teaches us how not to allow ourselves to become slaves to anyone nor to make anyone else a slave, but to worship God alone and to serve others as pastors.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE PRODIGAL SON

The story of the prodigal son is not a parable but a mirror. This was the theme of Fr. José Tolentino Mendoça’s meditation for the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia on Thursday morning.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

We have all heard the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times. We know the story well – a man has two sons and the younger asks his father for his part of the inheritance. The parable of the prodigal son is our story.

This parable is about each one of us, Fr. Tolentino says. “Within us are feelings that are suffocated, things that need to be clarified, pathologies, countless threads that need to be connected.” In other words, there are many aspects of our lives that need reconciliation. The gift that Jesus wants to give us is his word. In that word, conflicts and fear are transformed. “Only mercy, that excessive love that God teaches us, is able to redeem us.”

Mercy is not deserved

The behavior of the older son helps us understand God’s mercy even more. Mercy has nothing to do with giving to someone what they deserve. Rather, Fr. Tolentino explains, “Mercy is offering to another precisely what they do not deserve.” It is difficult to define mercy precisely because “mercy does not encase itself in one definition.” Mercy can be understood only if we allow it to “incarnate itself”” within us “so that we might touch it.”

Mercy is excessive love

Concluding his reflections, Fr. Tolentino expresses the fact that mercy is always excessive. The moderate person, the person who wants to play it safe, will never understand the Gospel of Mercy. This is because, “The Gospel of Mercy requires that our love be excessive” like the Father’s in the parable who understands everything without saying much. The Father shows us that mercy is gratuitous, it is the art of healing and rebuilding, the experience of forgiveness, the completely unexpected expression of tenderness. In the end, it is an excessive gift.