The Chair of Saint Peter

From The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You:

I made my first ever pilgrimage to Rome two years ago this very week. Traveling with me were my wife Amy and our children. The youngest, Michael Jacob was 13 months old at the time spent most of that week traveling on the backs of either his mother or me. 

As soon as we arrived in Rome and had dropped our baggage off at the apartment that would be our home for the next nine days we hurried off to the piazza of Saint Peter’s only three blocks away.

For a few minutes we just stood there. How much of what we had studied, wrote about and experienced in our lives originated within this holy spot! Like the ancient pilgrims setting out for Jerusalem, the words of the Psalmist came to mind:

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
 Let us go to the house of the Lord!
And now we have set foot within your gates…”
(Psalm 122:1-2 Christian Community Bible)

Indeed the colonnades of Bernini seemed to embrace us and invite us into the Basilica. But there was a problem, we were all very tired and the security line stretched around those same colonnades. After some discussion, and watching the speed at which the line moved, we decided that we hadn’t traveled all this way to sleep—a theme that would recur throughout our novena of days in Rome and no doubt were responsible for the bout of walking pneumonia that I later spent the remainder of Lent 2006 recovering from.

The line moved quickly and in no time we were in.

Entering the Basilica, we walked through the large doors and were suddenly within a sacred space whose image I have seen in pictures and television thousands of times. Amazing! Thoughts of the Second Vatican Council that took place here, which gave us the reform of the liturgy and especially the Mass flooded my mind.

I had Michael Jacob on my back and when we had walked about halfway up the nave of the Basilica, I darted into a side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration and prayer. There were quite a few people in the chapel, representative of the Church; priests, brothers, nuns, lay people from a variety of places but only one child—the one on my back.

I knelt in the back and thanked God for safely bringing us to our destination and asked for His blessing upon our time of prayer in the Eternal City. It was then that Michael Jacob spoke, uttering one word in his baby voice but very clearly: “Christ.”

He said nothing else.

He had never said that word before, at the time his vocabulary was pretty much limited to six or seven words, the most used of which was “No” that he spoke with great emphasis. I arose, genuflected and made my way back out into the nave of the Basilica. And I wondered.

Mass was going on in Spanish at the Chair of St. Peter and the Spanish Cardinal who was presiding was preaching his homily. I gleaned that it was about Saint Peter for he kept repeating in Spanish the profession of St. Peter that led to Jesus declaring him the “rock” upon which He would build His Church, which in English is: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)

Looking above the High Altar of Saint Peter’s I saw the same profession written in Latin in huge letters and then my little son’s message seemed to hit me. This same Christ (Messiah, God’s anointed, the Savior) that St. Peter was able to recognize in Jesus is still with us in the Eucharist. Of course I knew and believed that before, but it was a blessing to hear a 13 month old declare it too!

It was Jesus who chose the twelve apostles and made Peter their leader. It was Jesus who established His Church—who also said that it would be home to both “weeds and wheat” meaning “sinners and saints.” It was Jesus who referred to this Church as His Bride—meaning all of us who are members are His alone. It was Jesus who gave us the Eucharist as His abiding presence to be adored and received.

For more on the succession of the Apostles and the Biblical Basis of the Papacy, check out:

The Apostles

The Biblical Basis for the Papacy

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