Today we celebrate a very special feast day: The Chair of Saint Peter. On this day we reflect on Christ’s declaration to make Peter the leader of His Church:
…you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to 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).
Importance of the Chair of Saint Peter
Today we celebrate the papal authority of the Catholic Church; granted to Peter and his successors, by Christ. It is through Saint Peter, as our first pope, that Christ institutes human leadership and apostolic succession of His Church. Christ did this as a means to preserve the faith for subsequent generations. Jesus deemed it the Peter’s responsibility, along with the apostles, to preserve the deposit of faith. Throughout the centuries, this has been accomplished via the leadership of the Pope and the Magisterium.
Purpose of the Chair of Saint Peter
When giving Saint Peter the keys to heaven, Jesus declared that He would abide by whatever Peter and the apostles deemed as sinful or proper. With this declaration, Christ instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Penance or Confession). Therefore, it became Peter and the apostle’s responsibility to teach moral truths to the faithful and to forgive sins. It also became their responsibility to appoint successors to carry on this work.
In these two very powerful sentences from Matthew’s Gospel, Christ graced us with a means to transmit the faith and become reconciled to God and the Church. It is through this Chair of Saint Peter, and the Church, that Christ paves the road to salvation for each of us. Through one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, through receipt of the sacraments, we unite ourselves to Christ. Joined together as members of one Church, we confidently affirm that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:19).
The Chair of Saint Peter sits behind the main altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica, in Rome (at the entrance to the grave of Saint Peter), as a reminder to all successors of their moral responsibility to preserve the Deposit of Faith.