If we really think about it, the Chair of Peter, the Papacy, is a great and wonderful gift of God. A gift we often take for granted, misunderstand, or misinterpret.
One 'charge' is that Peter was no greater than any of the other Apostles. In a way, that's true. St. Cyprian, the martyr-bishop of Carthage wrote about the 'Chair of Peter' and the person who held that 'office'. He points out that He (Christ) assigned power to all the Apostles and that they were all Peter was. However, a 'primacy' was given to Peter alone. We can see this in Scripture. "And Jesus came and said to them (the Apostles), 'All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'" (Matthew. 28:18-19).
Note that Christ bestows on the Apostles His own authority. To teach as he taught, and that He will be with them for all time, through their successors. Many latch onto this passage as 'proof' that no 'bishop' holds any real primacy. Hence we have some who follow 'national' Churches, where the national bishop holds the primacy. Others see this as to mean that God gives His authority to ALL of His disciples. But if we really read the entire passage, we note that He is speaking only to His Apostles, not just His disciples. (Though many newer editions replace Apostles with disciples)
Christ also gives to all His Apostles the authority to forgive sins. " Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" (John 20: 21-23).
And the Lord promised them the Holy Spirit to know what to teach; "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you...I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you."(John 14:25-26 &16:12-15).
Now it's true that the Lord bestows the Holy Spirit to all His followers, but the gifts He gives is for the building of the Church. Hence not all receive the Holy Spirit to do as the Apostles did (ref. 1 Corinthians 12:4-31).
So far, we see no difference between Peter and the rest of the Apostles.
However, if we read the Scriptures more closely, we see a 'primacy' is given
to Peter, as well as special and unique 'gifts' that correspond to this
First, it is Peter, not the rest of the Apostles, who is called the Rock
on which the Church is to be built.
The "rock" (Greek, "petra") referred to here is St. Peter himself, not his faith or Jesus Christ. Christ appears here not as the foundation, but as the architect who "builds." The Church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors - living men (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:5). Today, the overwhelming consensus of the great majority of all biblical scholars and commentators is in favor of the traditional Catholic understanding. Here St. Peter is spoken of as the foundation-stone of the Church, making him head and superior of the family of God - that is, the seed of the doctrine of the papacy. Moreover, "Rock" embodies a metaphor applied to him by Christ in a sense analogous to the suffering and despised Messiah (see 1 Peter 2:4-8; Matthew 21:42). Without a solid foundation a house falls. St. Peter is the foundation, but not founder of the Church; administrator, but not Lord of the Church. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) gives us other shepherds as well (Ephesians 4:11)." (The Pre-Eminence of St. Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs by: Dave Armstrong - a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism.) The 'keys' Christ gives to Peter denotes a special responsibilty.
The "power" of the keys has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, as in Isaiah 22:22 (see Isaiah 9:6; Job 12:14; Apocalypse/Revelation 3:7). From this power flows the use of censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal discipline, the imposition of penances and legislative powers. In the Old Testament, a steward, or prime minister, is a man who is "over a house" (Genesis 41:40; 43:19; 44:4; 1 Kings 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18; Isaiah 22:15, 20-21)." (Ibid) Even his (Peter's) authority to 'loose and bind' is different from the Apostles authority to forgive sin.
"Binding" and "loosing" were technical rabbinical terms, which meant to "forbid" and "permit" with reference to the interpretation of the law and, secondarily, to "condemn," "place under the ban" or "acquit." Thus St. Peter and the Popes are given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and life by virtue of revelation and the Spirit's leading (see John 16:13), as well as to demand obedience from the Church. "Binding and loosing" represent the legislative and judicial powers of the papacy and the bishops (Matthew 18:17-18; John 20:23). St. Peter, however, is the only apostle who receives these powers by name and in the singular, making him pre-eminent." (Ibid)
Peter is the only Apostle who Christ prays for that his faith will stand, and he is the only one told to strengthen and confirm his fellow Apostles. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32).
Peter is the only Apostle given Christ's title of the Good Shepherd, to be the good shepherd for His flock on earth. "Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.' A second time He said to him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep. He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep" (John 21:15-17). Peter is told to feed and tend Christ's flock on earth.
Now, why was it important for Christ to establish this 'primacy' of Peter? Why establish, as St. Cyprian writes, "a single Chair, thus establishing by His own authority the source and hallmark of the Church's oneness"? Christ taught with authority. They were not mere opinions. He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. Not A way, A truth, and A life. His teachings are the same and hold the same authority, yesterday, today and tomorrow. (ref. Hebrews 13:8)
Now, Christ could have promised the Holy Spirit to all His followers, the presumption of those who believe in personal interpretation of the Scriptures. ("The Lord has given me the Holy Spirit to understand His Word.") But Christ also knew that satan can quote Scripture as well. (ref. Matthew 4: 5-6) Even Martin Luther saw this; "There are as many sects and beliefs as there are heads. This fellow will have nothing to do with baptism; another denies the sacraments; a third believes there is another world between this and the Last Day. Some teach that Christ is not God; some say this, some say that. There is no rustic so rude that, if he dreams or fancies anything, it must be the whispers of the Holy Spirit and he himself is a prophet."
So Christ establishes one Chair, one office, to confirm, strengthen, and teach the entire Church. It is, if you will, the 'God keeping seal of approval'.
Now, many will say that this isn't true. That Peter was just another voice in the 1st Council of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:5-21) and that James was the head of the Council. But James was the 'host' of the Council as the bishop of Jerusalem. "Peter presides over and opens the first council of Christianity, and lays down principles afterward accepted by it (Acts 15:7-11)." (The Pre-Eminence of St. Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs by: Dave Armstrong - a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism.)
Others will point out that Paul chastised Peter for his actions toward the Gentiles. Here we see the confusion over the difference between 'infallibility' and 'impeccability'. No one said Peter was a perfect Christian. One author says Peter, especially before his denial and repentance, suffered from foot in mouth disease. Paul merely pointed out that Peter, always the devout Jew, couldn't act with a double standard. Either Gentiles were Christians or they weren't. Why say they were brothers and not eat with them when other Jews were around? This has been ongoing in the Church's history. The sexual excesses of Pope Alexander (the Borgia Pope), as well as others. Peter made mistakes. The 'commune' he established was a bust, it didn't work. But it wasn't a matter of faith and morals. Just as Pope Honorius I was accused of heresy because the Monophysite heretics misused his 'opinion' that though Christ was of two natures, they were of one will. (His writing to Patriarch Sergius were not well written and offered only an opinion as a fellow bishop, not a teaching as the Head of the Church)
Consider that it could only be the hand of God and the 'negative safeguard' of the gift of infallibility, that kept the 'bad' Popes from changing Church teaching to suit their own personal wants and desires.
So, it is fitting that we celebrate, commemorate, and contemplate the Feast of the Chair of Peter every year. For by this wonderful gift of God, we can be sure that we will not run off after fables, we will not follow a different 'shepherd' who says, "I am he!". We can be assured that the teachings of the Church as Christ's who sends the Holy Spirit to recall what He taught, to confirm His teaching, and assure that Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
On Monday I will elaborate more on the Teaching Authority of the Pope for he is infallible in faith and morals in Teaching ex cathedra "from the Chair of Peter."
SACRIFICE part three
If we're not sure what God wants of us, all we need to do is ask - "And all things, whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you shall receive" (Matthew 21:22). The best place to "ask in prayer" is where we are closest to Jesus and He is closest to our hearts - in the Blessed Sacrament residing in the Tabernacle, or if some of us are fortunate to have Adoration in our parishes - in the Monstrance. Go before Him and listen. He will answer. Maybe not immediately because we need first to be able to hear Him and we can't if we have too much worldly "noise" blocking the ears of our hearts and souls. That is why He asks us for prayer, penance, and sacrifice - to condition us to hear and respond.
When we practice this, we can understand better that sacrifice is not merely giving something up that we like; it goes far beyond that. It's seeking to live in the Will of God at all times, in all ways. For all of us, one of the greatest sacrifices we could give to God is to speak less, so as to grow in interior silence so we might hear Him speak to usÖnot just in the Blessed Sacrament, but wherever we are and whatever we are doing. If giving up something is going to help us grow in virtue, then pray, and seek that virtue. Again we need to examine our conscience and discover what our vices are, our temptations, our trials, our persecutions and then with the Holy Spirit discern which virtue is the opposite of these and pray for that virtue to blossom in our soul. That dying to self is the one true mark of total sacrifice that Jesus asks of everyone. How we go about it and to what measure is the measure Jesus asks of each person individually. The way to discern this is to converse openly with Him, imitate Our Lord in everything we undertake, and invite Him to participate in all that we do, every second of the day.
It can't hurt to invite our guardian angels to pray with us and for us in order to keep us constantly focused on our heavenly goal. Above all we must have trust in God and seek to live the Theological Virtues. Faith lifts us up that we, in our finite minds, can believe. Hope (trust) anchors that faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ and seeks for us to annihilate self, so that we are transformed into the likeness of Our Lord and Savior by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Love (charity) enables us, no matter the trials, temptations and persecutions, to remain crucified with Him who was crucified so as to redeem us through His Most Precious Blood.
Let us all hope and pray that this season of Lent be for each one of us a total commitment to God, to the Dogmas, Doctrines and Traditions of Holy Mother Chute, to the Magisterium of the Chute, keeping us humble, obedient, little children tucked in the Father's sleeve and willingly nailed to the Cross of Christ. Only then will we accelerate the Triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart, which will usher in the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart, our one, and only safe, secure Refuge!
Let us therefore do as He asks, and pray, pray, pray for through our prayer we will learn the true meaning of sacrifice, seek every opportunity to make sacrifice, and will dismiss as nothing the cost of the sacrifice, for our eyes, our heart and soul will be on Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, Who is the Perfect Sacrifice and He has left us the Perfect Sacrifice: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!
Consider, my Little Ones, that in Bethlehem, because the hour had not yet come for my Divine Son, God warned Joseph and we, the Holy Family, fled into exile leaving Bethlehem to suffer Herod'í slaughter of the Holy Innocents.
Now on this night we prayed, knowing that on the morrow we would leave, according to the Divine Will, not fleeing from the enemy, but embracing the cruelty of the enemy and his instruments - men.† It would be now the Slaughter of The InnocentóGod made Man, the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ.
Here in Lazarusí home many would find comfort and spiritual strength. This was all according to the divine plan, for even though satanís power grew every hour and soon all of Jerusalem would be in his frenzied grasp, here at Lazarusí home a refuge was formed, and kept alight by the pure light of strong faith.
And, my Little Ones, I ask you each now to recognize your own vital need of a secure refuge.† Before y Divine Sonís heart was pierced by a lance on Calvary and oceans of Divine mercy were poured forth, my Divine Son established a refuge in this place where he was so honored, loved and served.
Thus, as you progress in your meditations I ask each of you to place yourselves willingly into the refuge of The Sacred Heart of Jesus through my Immaculate Heart.† Then, my Little Ones, you are each to become a place of refuge as Lazarus was.† It is not dependent upon a richly furnished home.† It is not a geographical location.† You are to be beacons of light guiding the lost flock back.† You are to open wide the doors of your loving hearts and by sharing your faith, strengthen both your own and that of your brother and sister.† When you do this, my Little Ones, you are at great peace.† And as the refuge of Lazarusí home remained untouched by all evil elements, so shall your souls remain pure and spotless in the time of great darkness.
Then shall God, in His power and glory, reveal His care for His Little Ones, just as My Divine Son prepared and cared for His flock as the darkness approached.
My Dear Children, my Divine Sonís passion, death and resurrection fulfilled the redemptive act.† But all mankind throughout all the ages must correspond, and unite with the redemptive act if salvation is to be won.
Ponder well your readiness to stand firm against the modernism, heresy, blasphemy and chaos which surround you everywhere.† Ponder well your littleness, and cast yourself at the foot of my Sonís Cross.† There is the refuge, the mercy, the strength that will not fail you, but lead you into the eternal embrace of God.
Pray! Meditate.† Walk with my Son in His holy passion.† The hour has come for all the world!† Heed my words which I give to you with immaculate love. Prepare!
Death of Saint Casimir, Polish ruler who died at the age of 25. For more, see DAILY LITURGY.
Pope Pius IX, 255th successor of Peter, in a sweeping move to found new dioceses and re-establish old hierarchies in Europe, restores the See of Utrecht and brings the hierarchy of Netherlands back into tow. It was a resurgence of Catholicism in this Dutch region which in recent years has fallen back into apathy, schism and despair.
Pope John Paul II publishes his first encyclical Redemptor hominis - "The Redeemer of man" as his first step in preparing mankind for the millennium and a Christ-centered society. It showed a tremendous grasp of intelligence, compassion and understanding of cultures that continues to flourish over these past two decades.