Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
(I Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19)
After celebrating all presidents on Presidents’ Day, American Catholics should have no problem understanding the purpose of today’s feast. The Chair of Peter refers to those who occupy St. Peter’s seat of authority – the popes. Over the centuries, 265 men have sat on that throne of responsibility although the number is disputed because of irregularities during the Middle Ages.
With Pope Benedict’s announcement of retirement, the world has come to realize that the Chair of Peter it is hardly a ceremonial position. One news correspondent in Rome says that each cardinal going into the conclave to elect a new pope prays that the winner will not be he. Although part of the reason may be humility, the newsman says it is mostly because like most people, cardinals look forward to a peaceful old age.
It is said that on Presidents’ Day, Americans go shopping. What then should we do on the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair? The obvious answer is to offer a prayer for the man who holds the office. He must always teach wisely, offer the sacraments piously, and decide judiciously. Some outside the Roman Catholic Church denounce him as an anti-Christ. Some within the Church betray him. Yes, he is assured of Jesus’ own prayer (cf., Luke 22:32), but he is all too aware of his own human limitations and faults.