Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

February 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Feast Days, Liz Estler, Praying Through Art

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle


“I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.”

The Church has celebrated this Feast of the Chair of Peter, in Rome, since the 4th century, as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon Saint Peter, the Apostle, when Jesus said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell 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.”[2] “How great and wonderful is this sharing in his power that God in his goodness has given to this man.”[3]

Christ entrusted the apostles with their mission just as he had been sent by the Father (cf Jn 20:21) and willed that their successors be shepherds in his Church until the end of the world. But, so that the episcopate might be one and undivided, he put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion.[4]

Jesus’ words to Peter do “not mean that the Church and the office of Peter will not be attacked from all sides but rather that it will be the magnetic pole that attracts the darkest powers of world history…”[5] Yet, we should not be surprised. We’ve seen this over and over again. But, God is no foolish builder. The rains fall, the floods come, the winds blow and buffet this House, this Chair of Peter, but it does not collapse. It has been built on solid rock.[6] If the Church, the Body of Christ, were not of divine origin, She would have been destroyed long ago. Rather, we see Her hardened through suffering yet sheltering the tender and sweet fruit of the Spirit exhaled on the Cross.[7] This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.[8] As members of His Body, let us pray for our Holy Mother the Church, and our Holy Father, echoing Christ’s prayer for unity that all may be consecrated in the truth[9] and be made one.[10]

[1] Isaiah 22:22.

[2] Matthew 16:18-19.

[3] From a sermon by St. Leo the Great, pope, (Sermo 4 de natali ipsius, 2-3: PL 54, 149-151), from the Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for February 22.

[4] Cf Lumen Gentium 18, 21 November 1964, referencing Pastores Aeternus: Denz. 1821. Vatican Council I.

[5] The Chair of Peter and the Structure of the Church, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2nd edition, 2007.

[6] Cf Matthew 7:25.

[7] Cf The Chair of Peter and the Structure of the Church, op cit.

[8] Cf Psalm 118:24.

[9] Cf John 17:17.

[10] Cf John 17:21.


Art: Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter's Basilica, 03.05.2008, Sergey Smirnov, CC; Emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys, 19 January 2007, Cronholm144, PD-Worldwide; both Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Liz Estler

Editor, Liz holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree (St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts), Liturgy Certificate (Boston Archdiocese), and a BS degree in Biology and Spanish (Nebraska Wesleyan University - Lincoln). She has served as hospital chaplain associate, sacristan, translator and in other parish ministries. She was a regular columnist for a military newspaper in Europe and has been published in a professional journal. She once waded in the Trevi Fountain!

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • Camila

    Thanks Liz! I recently read this:

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; this is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledge with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking” (Lumen Gentium 25)

    • LizEst

      Yes! Thank you Camila…and God bless you!

  • judeen

    we just studied this in bible study.. did you know that God called abraham the rock when He changed His name? this was the 1st covenant… and then the 2nd covenent God changed peters name and called Him the rock . this is the start of the 2nd covenent and the start of Jesus church.. this also is a good scripture for other christian faiths that claim James was the leader….
    Peter could not read or write.. He was married… a simple man who had trouble putting His whole heart into things and ended up with a anger problem which Jesus addressed… but Faith so stronge He walked on water to Jesus… and Jesus saved him showing doubt is distructive…

    • LizEst

      judeen–This is very interesting. Abraham’s name, as God called him, is commonly understood as “father of a multitude” or “father of many”. Aside from the time in Isaiah 51:1-2 (and not Genesis where he receives his name from God), when a case might be made for Abraham being referred to as a rock, only God was called the Rock in the Old Testament and Rock was never used as a proper, or actual, name for a Jewish person. Thanks for commenting…and God bless you.

      • judeen

        i guess my bible study is wronge.. by jeff cavins…

        • LizEst

          I understand Jeff Cavins is a good Bible study. But, my point is that this is not a common observation. It’s a stretch to say this.

          When I look at the New American Bible for Isaiah 51:1c-2b, it says “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the pit from which you were quarried; Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah who gave you birth…” Then, when I go down to the notations it says “Rock…pit: your glorious ancestry.” In other words, it is saying that the reference to rock means your glorious ancestry. It doesn’t say rock refers to Abraham.

          It’s the same phrasing in the New Revised Stardard Version, the Revised English Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, the Jewish Study Bible and the Douay Bible. No one of these say that Abraham was called a rock by God. No one of these capitalize the word rock as if it were a first name. It seems to me that this interpretation, which someone is teaching, is reading something into Scripture that does not appear to be there. The only thing the notation is saying is that it refers to the ancestry, not just one person.

          And, just as an aside, Sarah is also mentioned in the same sentence! By the interpretation given by the person teaching this, Sarah could be the rock as well! Why was she left out? Or, maybe they are saying that Sarah is the quarry?!! See how silly this all gets?! It’s not you, judeen. It’s how it is being taught. Perhaps something is lost in translation!

          • judeen

            hi,,, Your right.!! it took me al long time for there was alot of scripture readings with it.. and this is the one that you used is where the question is.. so I did.. look for it.. surprized for with the tape which explained the names in other laugueages… too . I am humbled which is a blessing thank you… but this is where the question talks about rock.. also Jesus is the rock.. the foundation… the solid part of the church…it talks about names changed … abram, sarhai.. and jacobs… and peters… shara is part of abraham mother of the linage… she is part of it… I understand it.. and it comes from Isaiha.. so does this mean it is from God.. He was a prophet.. speacking for God.. direction from God… Oh well.. I am not studied… but love scripture.. and love God… it is deep .. yet there is so many answers to our problems in scripture and in following Gods ways

          • LizEst

            Keep studying, judeen…and continue to ask for the Holy Spirit to help you with that. God bless you!

  • Jeanette

    I read this today from the Lives of the Saints and wanted to share it:
    “Church historians affirm positively that St. Peter founded the See of Antioch before he went to Rome. Antioch was then the capital of the east. St. Gregory the Great states that the Prince of the Apostles was bishop of that city for seven years. It is also a fact, based upon the unanimous consent of Christian antiquity, that St. Peter was at Rome and founded the Church there. However, his sojourn in the capital of the Roman Empire was not continuous, as he was often absent when performing his apostolic functions in other countries. This feast (Feb. 22) which commemorates St. Peter’s pontifical authority, formerly was celebrated on two different days: January 18th in honour of his Pontificate in Rome, and on February 22nd in honour of his Pontificate in Antioch.” Interesting.

    • LizEst

      Interesting indeed. Thank you for sharing, Jeanette. In fact, the Patriarch of Antioch (the Maronite Catholic Rite) always takes the name Peter, or Boutros, as part of his name when he becomes patriarch…as a nod to St. Peter, the first person who held that See. God bless you!

      • Jeanette

        Thanks Liz. God bless you too!

  • ThirstforTruth

    “…the tender and sweet fruit of the Spirit exhaled on the Cross”. Such
    powerful words from von Balthasar. Thanks Liz for this wonderful post
    on the Church’s apostolic foundation, particularly as it regards St Peter,
    and the churches he founded in both Antioch and Rome. Wonderful
    connection between East and West, their historical unity.

    • LizEst

      You’re welcome, ThirstforTruth! The glory goes to the Lord and thanks to all who have contributed additional information here. God bless you!

Skip to toolbar