Category Archives: Papacy

Peter, the first Pope

“Was Peter really the first Pope?

Catholics don’t just appeal to Matthew 16:18-19 to make this point.

They also make an argument from Luke 22:31-32. There, Jesus says, “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.”

Here we find are two clues that, when taken together, reveal Peter’s unique role as leader of the Church. The first is Jesus’ prayer of protection. Jesus informs the apostles that Satan desires to sift all of them, which we know from the use of the Greek second person plural pronoun, humas. When Jesus speaks of his protection prayer in the next verse, however, the Greek text switches to second person singular, sou. Jesus thus singles out Peter when he makes the promise, “I have prayed for you [Greek, sou] that your faith may not fail.” Jesus then commands Peter, and only Peter to strengthen the brethren.

If Jesus intended all the apostles to be equal in their mission of leading his Church, it’s hard to see why Jesus would have promised only Peter a special protection that’s connected to his unique command for Peter to strengthen the brethren. Peter receives a special prayer of protection from Jesus because he’s the preeminent apostle who must strengthen the others.

Some Protestant comebacks to this argument attack the inference from the unique promise to protect Peter in faith; others attack the inferred significance of the unique command to strengthen the brethren. Let’s look at one example

“Jesus prays for others as well.”

This comeback aims to undercut the significance of the prayer for Peter by appealing to Jesus’ general role as intercessor. Some Protestant apologists argue, “Jesus’ prayer for Peter is in keeping with his general intercessory ministry for all believers.” They then goes on to cite Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25 and John 17:15, which affirm that Christ intercedes for us. So Jesus was not signaling a special role for Peter but merely doing what he does for all his flock—interceding before the Father.

Answering the Comeback

It’s true that Jesus has a general ministry of intercession for all believers. But this argument ignores the context of Jesus’ prayer for Peter, which intentionally follows his telling the apostles that Satan desired to sift all of them. Jesus is not exercising his general intercessory ministry for all believers in this passage because Luke explicitly tells us the prayer is for Peter alone, even though Satan was going to test them all. That Jesus has a general intercessory role as our high priest in heaven doesn’t take away from the fact that, here, Jesus prays for Peter in a unique way. And that unique prayer reveals Peter’s unique role as chief leader in the Church.”

Love & fidelity,

Feb 22 – Feast of the Chair of Peter, Unity & Love

-sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1657–1666, gilt bronze, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, please click on the image for greater detail

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, an occasion that has been marked since approximately the fourth century. While a physical “Chair of Peter” remains in the Vatican, today’s feast commemorates more than a revered relic. As Pope Benedict XVI said during his papal audience on February 19, 2012:

The Chair of St Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica is a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity…The Chair of Peter is therefore the sign of authority, but of Christ’s authority, based on faith and on love.

This feast today, then, calls each of us to reflect on the gift and mission of the papacy. Christ bestowed particular authority on Peter, the first pope, and this papal authority has continued to be passed down in an unbroken line. While some popes have harbored faults in their personal lives, through them, the Holy Spirit has continued to lead the Catholic Church. However, oftentimes, people forget about the sacred calling and mission of the pope. Many individuals try to use the pope to further their own agendas. They take the pontiff’s words and try to fit them into a particular box of ideals. Furthermore, if the pope says something about which they do not agree, these same people will disregard him and ignore the doctrine which he preaches. We can easily fail to recognize what a tremendous gift we have in the papacy. Too often, we become like “fair-weathered friends” and only appreciate the pope when his words are easy to accept.

However, on today’s feast, we can stop and think about the gift of the papacy. Christ’s representative is on Earth, leading us closer to God—is this not incredible? Jesus Christ specifically chose a pope in the early days of the Church, and ever since St. Peter, God has guided the Church in unity through the pope. What a great gift and blessing we have been granted! It is beautiful to see how throughout the centuries, the pope has been an instrument of unity. For example, in the Acts of the Apostles, we read about some of the challenges that the early Church faced. One of these occurred at the Council of Jerusalem, where the apostles were arguing about how Mosaic Law should or should not be implemented. As the Scriptures note, “After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them…” (Acts 15:7). He then outlined the truth of God’s saving work, and when he was finished, “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:12). Then, St. James the Apostle exhorted those present to listen to and follow the words and example of St. Peter.

Even in the earliest days and trials of the Christians, the pope was working to bring them all together in unity and love. This same papal authority and work towards unity continue to this day. The papacy is a gift, by which God holds the faithful together, draws them closer to Himself, and guides them through the humble work of a mere man.  The pope is not a celebrity, superstar, or mere figurehead; instead, he is Christ’s servant, known by the centuries-old title “servant of the servants of God.”

On this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, let us pray for the pope, his work, and his intentions. Countless times, Pope Francis has asked people to pray for him—yet how often do we complete this simple task?  As a humble servant-leader of the entire Church, the pope is continually faced with many tremendous tasks. He greatly needs our prayers, that he may be refreshed and full of God’s love as he serves. Furthermore, today, let us also thank God for the great gift of the papacy, by which He continues to lead us.

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.
—Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience on February 22, 2006


Apostolic Succession

Jim Papandrea taught me one of my courses for my certification as a catechist in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Dr. Papandrea is one of the world’s foremost scholar’s on the heretic and schismatic Novation of Rome.

“The most relevant teaching for our purposes here is a concept called apostolic succession—the first bishops of the Church were the successors of the apostles, and they carried on the apostles’ ministry and teachings. This assumes that through the commissioning, consecration, and ordination of Church leaders, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was also passed down to the next generation.

Furthermore, apostolic succession affirms that Christian truths were accurately transmitted within the Church, so that the teachings of any Church authority at any time could be traced back in an unbroken chain to the apostles, and through them to Jesus himself. You knew you could trust the teachings of your bishop because he would have gotten his teachings from his predecessor, and so on, going all the way back to Christ.

To be sure, some bishops did deviate from what they had received, and to that extent they are considered heretics. But that’s the point. When they were faithful to the Tradition, their teachings were trustworthy. So this is not to claim that there was never dissent or disagreement in the early Church—indeed there was, and it was precisely this disagreement that led to the discussion of theological concepts, and eventually to authoritative decisions about how to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ, and how to interpret Scripture.

Eventually the debates led to councils of bishops, the successors of the apostles gathering to clarify the correct interpretations of Jesus’ intentions for the Church and of the apostolic writings. These conclusions of the early Church Fathers and the councils of bishops were confirmed as the dogmas of Christianity—the theological positions that were consistent with the conclusions of the previous generations, going all the way back to the apostles.

Let’s meet one of the early Church Fathers, and see what they said about apostolic authority and succession.

St. Clement, Bishop of Rome (writing c. A.D. 93)

As the fourth bishop of Rome, Clement wrote a letter to the church in the city of Corinth, Greece. We know this letter as First Clement, though we have no other certain letters from this bishop. What is remarkable about this letter is that Clement writes with authority over the Christians in another city where he was not the bishop. His authority comes from his assumption that he holds an office in which he is the successor of Peter, the leader of the apostles. And even though the Church in Corinth could claim that its own apostolic succession goes back to the apostle Paul, Clement’s letter presumes that Peter’s authority is greater. We will examine the role of the bishop of Rome (the pope) later, but for now, here is what Clement says about succession:

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God . . . And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits of their labors, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe . . . they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

Therefore it is right for us, having studied so many and such great examples, to bow the neck and, adopting the attitude of obedience, to submit to those who are the leaders of our souls . . . For you will give us great joy and gladness if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit.”

Notice how in these passages Clement claims the authority of an apostle for himself, and even implies that this affords him a kind of inspiration. This assumes that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is on him by virtue of his office, and thus the audience of his letter should listen to him as though it were Peter himself who sent it. Here we have an indication of one of the early successors of the apostles writing with apostolic authority.


Apostolic succession is based on the reality that religious truth must be preserved over time—it has a source, and must be handed on from that source in order for it to be faithfully transmitted to future generations. For Christians, our source is Jesus Christ. He handed on divine truth to his apostles, and they handed it on to the next generation of Christians who did not know Jesus personally. One of the ways that they handed on Jesus’ teachings was by writing the New Testament.

But that is not the only way that the apostles taught. They also directly taught their own disciples, who then became their chosen successors and the first bishops. These, in turn, taught the next generation of Church leaders, and so on. What this means is that we are connected to Jesus and the apostles through the Fathers of the Church. Let me say that again: It is the Fathers of the Church who connect our faith to that of the apostles and to Jesus.

Therefore, the Church Fathers are in a way the protectors and guarantors of truth. They matter because without them, disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture would escalate to division—a reality that has plagued the Protestant world since the Reformation. So the unity of the Church is not something we can think of in terms of the present day only. The unity of the Church also requires unity with its history—we must be connected to our collective past in order to be connected to each other, and to be part of the communion of saints, that “great cloud of witnesses.””


Apr 30 – Pope St Pius V, OP (1504-1572), Pope of the Rosary

-“St Pius V and St Charles Borromeo trampling Mohammed and Martin Luther”, by Giovanni Gasparo, oil on canvas, 220×160 cm , 2017, please click on the image for greater detail

Pope St. Pius V (1504–1572) was born as Antonio Ghislieri to a poor yet noble family in Bosco, Italy. He worked as a shepherd until the age of 14, after which he joined the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. He taught theology and philosophy, spent long hours in prayer, and fasted regularly. Due to his great intelligence and reputation for holiness he rose to a number of prominent positions in the Church, including Inquisitor and Bishop. In 1565 he was elected Pope and took the name Pope Pius V. As Supreme Pontiff he was a great reformer and worked to implement the decisions of the Council of Trent following the Protestant revolt. He reformed the clergy, supported the foreign missions, published a catechism, revised the breviary and missal, and named St. Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church. In his alliance with Venice and Spain, and with the aid of a rosary crusade among the faithful, he defeated the Ottoman Turks in the famous and decisive Battle of Lepanto in the Mediterranean sea on October 7, 1571. This miraculous victory saved Europe from being ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The Holy Father afterwards instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory (now Our Lady of the Rosary) in thanksgiving to Our Lady for leading the Christian forces to victory, and to encourage a greater devotion to the Holy Rosary throughout the universal Church. For this he is known as the “Pope of the Rosary.”

-by Br Paul Marich, OP

“For many generations, especially throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, several popes had negative reputations on account of their sinful lifestyles or corrupt governance. While still possessing the authority of the Vicar of Christ on earth, these popes were not living up to the life of holiness that Christ expected of Peter and his successors.

One exception in the midst of this chaos was St. Pius V, whose feast we celebrate today. A Dominican friar who reigned from 1566 to 1572, Pius made his mark in a relatively short papacy. He promulgated the catechism and missal that were formulated by the Council of Trent. He called for the praying of the Rosary when Christian naval forces were threatened by the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto. He excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I when she steered England back toward Protestantism. A legend also attributes to Pius the origin of why the pope wears white—he would not remove his white Dominican habit once elected pope!

For all that he accomplished as pope, the Church venerates him as a saint because of his virtue and holiness. Alongside his accomplishments, Pius was known to live a very austere life, rejecting many of the luxuries to which popes had been accustomed in his time. While he may have been elected the Successor of St. Peter, he never stopped being a humble Dominican friar. Prayer and penance preceded any work that he did in governing the universal Church. G.K. Chesterton, in his famous poem, Lepanto, described St. Pius V in this way:

“The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke.”

It can be very tempting to view our relationship with God, or our service to the Church, from a functional angle. “What am I doing? Can I make this better?” are some questions we may ask. Despite our best efforts, it is God who begins every good work in us, and it is he who brings it to completion. According to Lumen gentium, “it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” through a life of holiness (40). By our union with Christ through the regular reception of the sacraments, we come to share in his holiness. Only then are we properly disposed to carry out through action what the Holy Spirit places upon our hearts.

We recognize Pius V as a saint for his life of profound holiness. He was a shining star who turned to God in charity and humility in the midst of a world of darkness. His life of holiness, prompted by the movement of the Holy Spirit, led him to do great things for the Church, the impact of which remains with us to this day. His example directs us to a life in Christ. Through lives rooted in prayer and the sacraments, we too are made ready to face whatever struggles, difficulties, or tasks that lie ahead. May St. Pius V be our model, helping us to navigate through the voyage of life.”

-remains of Pius V in his tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore, please click on the image for greater detail


The Fisherman’s Ring: Annulus Piscatoris

-please click on the image for greater detail.  The more massive ring inset in the image is a historical ring for purposes of comparison with today’s style.

-Annulus Piscatoris of Pope Paul II (1417-1471), historically a ring for the bare hand was made, and more massive ones like the one above to fit over the Papal gloves during formal occasions.

The Piscatory Ring, or the Ring of the Fisherman, is first mentioned in a letter written by Pope Clement IV to his nephew Pietro Grossi in 1265. The Ring of the Fisherman was used for sealing all the pope’s private correspondence. Public documents, by contrast, were sealed by stamping a different papal seal onto lead which was attached to the document. Such documents were historically called papal bulls, named after the stamped bulla of lead. In that time, seals helped to verify that private documents had not been tampered with or opened in transit. With modern means of communication, this practice of sealing a document with wax and then pressing the signet into the wax has fallen out of use.

-a modern bulla attached by yellow cord to the Apostolic constitution Magni aestimamus issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

-Annulus Piscatoris of Pope St John Paul II, originally a crucifix belonging to Pope Paul VI, John Paul II had it shaped into a ring as a sign of continuity.

In keeping with this original and rather practical purpose, the ring of the fisherman was traditionally destroyed with a special hammer after the death of a pope. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had his papal disfigured so it could not be used as a seal anymore, to signify the end of his papacy, even though it is merely traditional and not used as a practical seal any longer.

According to the rules governing the interregnum and election of a pope, the College of Cardinals must “arrange for the destruction of the fisherman’s ring and of the lead seal with which apostolic letters are dispatched.” [From the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominis Gregis]

On March 6, 2013, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that this “destruction” had been completed, although he explained that the ring is not smashed or destroyed completely; rather, two deep cuts are made in its face so that it can no longer be used as a seal.

Retired Pope Benedict received the ring at his inauguration Mass along with his pallium, the woolen stole symbolizing a bishop’s authority. Both are based on ancient designs.

-Annulus Piscatoris of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, it has Pope Benedict’s name etched on it and a scene of St. Peter casting out his net, symbolizing how popes are successors of the Apostle Peter.

-Annulus Piscatoris of Pope Pius IX (1792-1878)

-Annulus Piscatoris of Pope Francis, compared to older rings, is made of gold-plated silver. It was made from the wax cast of a ring supposedly made for Pope St Paul VI (1897-1978) but was never created. The former personal secretary of Pope Paul VI kept the wax cast and gave it to Monsignor Ettore Malnati, who later on made the ring that was offered to Pope Francis.

Traditionally, upon the pope’s death, in the presence of other cardinals, the ring would be smashed with a ceremonial silver hammer.

After doctors have clinically confirmed the Pope’s death, traditionally, to be sure ceremonially the Pope is dead, the corpus is tapped three times on the forehead with this hammer along with calling out his Christian (first) name three times to be sure he is not just sleeping. This comes from a time long before our current knowledge of brain death.  Then the ring and the papal seal are smashed.  The papal apartments in the Vatican and Castelgondolfo are sealed to ensure no documents in process at the time of the Pope’s death are disturbed or published during the interregnum. At the inauguration of the next pope, a new ring would be presented to the new pope.


Infallibility 101

Sometimes Only A Single Sentence In A Document Is Infallible
Identifying Infallible Teachings

Sometimes people ask, “Is this document infallible?”

The question is problematic because the Magisterium doesn’t issue documents whose teaching is infallible from beginning to end. Instead, it issues documents that contain individual propositions that are infallible.

In Ineffabilis Deus (1854) and Munificentissimus Deus (1950)—the documents that defined the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary—only a single sentence in each document was infallible (i.e., the definitions themselves).

The rest of the documents provided context for the definitions.

A better question would be, “Is this teaching infallible?”

The initial presumption is that it’s not: “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.” (CIC 749 §3).

Note the forcefulness of the language: It mustn’t just be evident that a doctrine is infallible; it must be manifestly (clearly) evident. This places a weighty burden of proof on one wishing to claim that a teaching is infallible.

Neglect of this principle is a frequent source of problems. Many people casually assume a prior teaching is infallible and then encounter difficulties squaring it with a more recent one.

But the Church has always been careful about what it defines, and the rule has always been that a teaching is not to be regarded as infallible unless the contrary is clear.

So what factors overcome the presumption of non-infallibility?

This depends on how the Magisterium teaches it.
Vatican II provided what is currently the most doctrinally developed and authoritative explanation of the conditions in which the ordinary and universal magisterium teaches infallibly:

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held (Lumen Gentium, 25; cf. CIC 749 §2).

Vatican II thus indicates the following criteria must be met for the ordinary and universal magisterium to define a teaching:

1. The bishops of the world maintain communion among themselves.
2. They maintain communion with the successor of Peter.
3. They teach authentically (i.e., authoritatively).
4. They teach on a matter of faith and morals.
5. They are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.

The first two conditions require that the bishops not be in a state of schism, which is “the refusal of submission to the supreme pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CIC 751).

The third condition requires that they must teach on a matter authoritatively. It wouldn’t be enough for them to privately believe an opinion among themselves. It must be communicated to the faithful as an authoritative teaching.

The fourth condition requires the matter to concern “faith and morals.” That is, it must either be a revealed truth or one required to properly guard and explain revealed truth (§§428-450). Bear in mind that “morals” (Latin, mores) includes aspects of Christian life that go beyond the principles of moral theology (§429).

The final condition requires three specific things:

a) It requires the bishops be in agreement. This is generally understood as a moral unanimity among them. It wouldn’t be enough if only a portion or even a mere majority were in agreement, but it needn’t be every single bishop in the world.

b) The bishops must agree on one position. It isn’t enough if they consider a range of positions legitimate. They must agree on a single, specific truth.

c) They must agree this truth is “definitively to be held” by the faithful, thereby bringing all legitimate discussion to an end. If the bishops merely agreed that it should be held then the teaching would be authoritative but non-infallible. It is only when they agree a teaching is absolutely mandatory that infallibility is engaged.”

Love & truth,

The Papacy

“The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than [1.2 billion]…Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.“
-1840, Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859), an Evangelical Protestant, in a review of Leopold von Ranke’s “History of the Popes”


Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, Sermon by Pope St Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, (400-461 AD)

-partial restoration Saint Peter (or Saint Peter in his throne), Grao Vasco (also known as Vasco Fernandes), 1506

The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter’s faith.

“Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of His power that God in His goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that He has given to others what He has not refused to bestow on them.

The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of Him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.

But when He presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.

Peter says: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus replies: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father Who is in heaven (cf Matthew 16:16-17). You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.

He continues: And I say to you (Matthew 16:18) In other words, as my Father has revealed to you My godhead, so I in My turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter (Matthew 16:18) though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one (cf Isaiah 28:16, Ephesians 2:14), the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by My strength, so that which is My very own because of My power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). On this strong foundation, He says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of My Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Matthew 16:19).

The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.”

*From sermon 4 de natali ipsius, 2-3: PL, 54, 149-151 by Saint Leo the Great, pope.

Love & unity,

Feb 22 – Chair of Peter, The Visible Sign of Our Unity

-sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1657–1666, gilt bronze, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, please click on the image for greater detail

-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a celebration of the teaching authority of the Vicar of Christ. We don’t usually think of authority as a blessing, but instead as a cost worth paying for the security we enjoy—upon such philosophy was our democracy founded. Yet today we rightly revel in the great gift we have received: living under the authority of Peter.

The Church is founded upon the rock of Peter, upon his confession of Jesus as Christ and Son of the Living God, revealed to him “not by flesh and blood,” but by the Heavenly Father (Matt 16:17). Through the magisterial teaching of the popes, Peter’s headship and governance has continued through centuries and millennia, and has been brought even to us. The Rock of Peter is stable, unmovable, an anchor and comfort in an age that is unmoored and lost. It is given by Christ through the bishop of Rome, the successors of St. Peter, and against it not even the gates of the netherworld will prevail.

The authority of Peter is a spiritual inheritance, stewarded by the Holy Father and belonging to the whole Christian people as they are governed by that authority. But we have an image of it in a physical reality: Peter’s chair. Just as the throne is the place where a king sits to judge, Peter’s chair symbolizes his authority to definitively pronounce teachings. As a symbol of the original, historical chair of Peter, a 6th-century chair resides in a place of honor in Rome. Enclosed in a gilded bronze casing, it is raised in the air, halfway between heaven and earth, shielding those who shelter beneath it, visible to all who enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It is a tangible sign of the continuity in doctrine and authority that has outlived empires and despots, survived attacks physical and spiritual, and thrived amidst the challenges of erroneous philosophies and false religions. It stands fast, a rock on which we shelter and in which we can revel, thanks be to God!

Marco Zoppo (Paduan, 1433 – 1478 ), Saint Peter, c. 1468, tempera on poplar panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.271

-Saint Peter (c. 1468) by Marco Zoppo depicts Peter as an old man holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel.

-“The Crucifixion of Saint Peter”, Caravaggio, 1600 until 1601, medium oil on canvas, width: 51 cm (20.1 in), of detail, Cerasi Chapel, Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Peter, feeling himself unworthy to be crucified, since he was not a Roman citizen, in the same orientation as the Lord, requested to be crucified upside down, which was granted.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love & unity,

Sep 21 – St Matthew


-Caravaggio, The Call of Matthew, ~1600, Oil on canvas, 322 cm × 340 cm (127 in × 130 in), Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome


“…but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I ​​am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me.”

The motto is taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable, who writes in his comments on the Gospel story of the calling of Matthew: “Jesus saw a publican, and since he looked at him with feelings of love and chose him, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The pope adds: “I think the Latin gerund miserando is impossible to translate in both Italian and Spanish. I like to translate it with another gerund that does not exist: misericordiando [“mercy-ing”].

Pope Francis continues his reflection and says, jumping to another topic: “I do not know Rome well. I know a few things. These include the Basilica of St. Mary Major; I always used to go there. I know St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s…but when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio.

That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.””