Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The Gospel for the Mass of the Chair of Peter, celebrated on February 22nd, records Christ's promise to Peter: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. I will entrust to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:18-19).

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is a liturgical reminder of this undeniable reality. Jesus Christ is "the Head of His body, which is the Church" (Ephesians 5:23). Our Lord, however, has ascended into heaven; He is no longer with us in His physical presence. So, He left someone here in His place, someone that we could see and hear. That someone was Simon Peter. Jesus Christ made him the visible head of His Church.

The Pope is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. A vicar is one who stands in the place of another and has his full authority. The Pope has jurisdiction over the whole Church in its beliefs, moral teachings and discipline. He "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful" (Universal Catechism, N. 882).

Peter's power did not end with him but is passed on until Jesus comes again. Thus, Peter lives in his successors, Linus, Sixtus, Gregory, Leo, Benedict, Pius, John, and Paul. Today, he lives in John Paul II, the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff and Christ's Vicar on earth.

The Mass of the Chair of Peter prays: "O God, Who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle peter the keys of the kingdom, did confer upon him the pontifical power of binding and loosing, grant that by the help of his intercession, we may be freed from the bonds of sin.”
Despite the Church's prayer, the Holy Father's teaching authority is under violent attack. Many modern Catholics erroneously equate his teachings with mere opinion. Some claim that they are free to follow dissenting theologians. Others insist that individual conscience is supreme even when it conflicts with the teachings of the Church.

John Paul II addressed these errors during his pastoral visit to the United States America in 1987. He told the American bishops in Los Angeles: "It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the Church's teachings on many questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage . . . It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a "good Catholic" and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere."

Let us pray that we practice always the obedience of faith that is required of a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus.

Father Richard J. Rego, S.T.L.