Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] Saint Peter's Chair at Rome (Gueranger)
Posted on 01/17/2018 9:13:33 PM PST by CMRosary
THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL told Mary, in the Annunciation, that the Son who was to be born of her should be a King, and that of his Kingdom there should be no end. Hence, when the Magi were led from the East to the Crib of Jesus, they proclaimed it in Jerusalem, that they came to seek a King. But this new Empire needed a Capital; and whereas the King, who was to fix his throne in it was, according to the eternal decrees, to re-ascend into heaven, it was necessary that the visible character of his Royalty should be left here on earth, and this even to the end of the world. He that should be invested with this visible character of Christ our King would be the Vicar of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ chose Simon for his sublime dignity of being his Vicar. He changed his name into one which signifies the Rock, that is “Peter”; and in giving him this new name, he tells us that the whole Church throughout the world is to rest upon this man, as upon a Rock, which nothing shall ever move. But this promise of our Lord included another—namely that as Peter was to close his earthly career by the Cross, he would give him Successors, in whom Peter and his authority should live to the end of time.
But again: there must be some mark or sign of this succession, to designate to the world who the Pontiff is, on whom, to the end of the world, the Church is to be built. There are so many Bishops in the Church—in which one of them is Peter continued! This Prince of the Apostles founded and governed several Churches; but only one of these was watered with his blood, and that one was Rome; only one of these is enriched with his Tomb, and that one is Rome; the Bishop of Rome, therefore, is the Successor of Peter, and consequently the Vicar of Christ. It is of the Bishop of Rome alone that it is said: Upon thee will I build my Church; and again: To thee will I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and again: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not—do thou confirm thy brethren: and again: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep.
Protestantism saw the force of this argument, and therefore strove to throw doubts on St. Peter’s having lived and died in Rome. They who labored to establish doubts of this kind rightly hoped that if they could gain their point, they would destroy the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and even the very notion of a Head of the Church. But History has refuted this puerile objection, and now all learned Protestants agree with Catholics in admitting a fact, which is one of the most incontestable, even on the ground of human authority.
It was in order to nullify, by the authority of the Liturgy, this strange pretension of Protestants, that Pope Paul the Fourth, in 1558, restored the ancient Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome, and fixed it on the 18th of January. For many centuries, the Church had not solemnized the mystery of the Pontificate of the Prince of the Apostles on any distinct feast, but had made the single Feast of February 22nd serve for both the Chair at Antioch and the Chair at Rome. From that time forward, the 22nd of February has been kept for the Chair at Antioch, which was the first occupied by the Apostle.
Today, therefore, the Kingship of our Emmanuel shines forth in all its splendor, and the children of the Church rejoice in finding themselves to be Brethren and fellow citizens, united in the Feast of their common Capital, the Holy City of Rome. When they look around them, and find so many sects, separated from each other, and almost forced into decay because they have no center of union—they give thanks to the Son of God for his having provided for the preservation of his Church and Truth, by his instituting a visible Head who never dies, and in whom Peter is forever continued, just as Christ himself is continued in Peter. Men are no longer sheep without a Shepherd; the word spoken at the beginning is uninterruptedly perpetuated through all ages; the primitive mission is never suspended, and, by the Roman Pontiff, the end of time is fastened on to the world’s commencement. “What a consolation for the children of God!” cries out Bossuet, in his Essay on Universal History, “and what conviction that they are in possession of the truth, when they see that from Innocent the Eleventh, who now (1681) so worthily occupies the first See of the Church, we go back, in unbroken succession, even to St. Peter, whom Jesus appointed Prince of the Apostles; that from St. Peter, we come, traversing the line of the Pontiffs who ministered under the Law, even to Aaron, yea, even to Moses; thence, even to the Patriarchs and even to the beginning of the world!”
When Peter enters Rome, therefore, he comes to realize and explain the destinies of this Queen of Cities; he comes to promise her an Empire even greater than the one she possesses. This new Empire is not to be founded by the sword, as was the first. Rome has been hitherto the proud mistress of nations; henceforth, she is to be the Mother of the World by Charity; and through all peaceful, yet her Empire shall last to the end of time. Let us listen to St. Leo the Great, describing to us, in one of the finest of his Sermons, and in his own magnificent style, the humble yet all-eventful entrance of the Fisherman of Genesareth into the Capital of the Pagan world.
“The good, and just, and omnipotent God who never refused his mercy to the human race, and instructed all men, in general, in the knowledge of himself by his superabundant benefits—took pity, by a more hidden counsel and a deeper love, on the voluntary blindness of them that had gone astray, and on the wickedness which was growing in its proneness to evil; and sent, therefore, into the world his co-equal and co-eternal Word. The which Word being made Flesh did so unite the divine to the human nature, as that the deep debasement of the one was the highest uplifting of the other.
“But that the effect of this unspeakable gift might be diffused throughout the entire world, the providence of God had been preparing the Roman Empire, which had so far extended its limits as to embrace in itself all the nations of the earth. For nothing could be better suited to the divine plan than the confederation of various kingdoms under one and the same Empire; and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world would the more rapidly be effected by having the several nations united under the government of one common City.
“But this City, ignoring the author of this her promotion, while mistress of almost every nation under the sun, was the slave of every nation’s errors, and prided himself on having got a grand religion, because she had admitted every false doctrine. So that, the faster the devil’s hold of her, the more admirable her deliverance by Christ.
“For when the twelve Apostles, after receiving, by the Holy Ghost, the gift of tongues, divided among themselves the world they had to evangelize—the most blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostolic order, was sent to the Capital of the Roman Empire, in order that the light of truth, which had been revealed for the salvation of all nations, might the more effectively flow, from the head itself, into the whole body of the world.
“The fact was, that there were in this City people belonging to every nation, and the rest of the world soon learned whatever was taught at Rome. Here, therefore, were to be refuted the opinions of philosophy; here, the follies of human wisdom to be exploded; here, the worship of devils to be convicted of blasphemy; here, the impiety of all the sacrifices to be first abolished; for it was here that an official superstition had systematized into one great whole the fragmentary errors of every other portion of the earth.
“To this City, therefore, O most blessed Apostle Peter, thou fearest not to come! The companion of thy glory, Paul the Apostle, is not with thee, for he is busy founding other Churches; yet, thou enterest this forest of wild beasts and, with greater courage than when walking on the waters, thou settest foot on this deep stormy sea! Thou that didst tremble before a servant-girl in the house of Caiphas, art fearless now before this Romem, this mistress of the world. Is it that the power of Claudius is less than the authority of Pilate? or the cruelty of Nero less than the savageness of the Jews? Not so: but the vehemence of thy love made thee heedless of thy risks; and having come that thou mightest love, thou forgottest to fear. Thou didst imbibe this sentiment of fearless charity, on that day, when the profession of thy love for thy Master was made perfect by the mystery of his thrice put question. And what asks he of thee, after thus probing thy heart, but that thou feed the sheep of Him thou lovest, with the food whereon thyself had feasted?
“Then, too, there were the miracles thou hadst wrought, the gifts of grace thou hadst received, the proofs of the great works thou hadst achieved—all giving thee fresh courage. Thou hadst taught the truth to such of the children of Israel as had embraced the faith; thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, where first began the glorious Christian title; thou hadst preached the gospel in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; and assured of the success of thy work, and of the many years thou hadst yet to live, thou didst bring the trophy of the Cross of Christ into the very walls of Rome, where the counsels of God had already determined that thou shouldst have both the honor of power, and the glory of martyrdom.”
The future of the human race, now under the guidance of the Church, is therefore centered in Rome, and the destinies of that City are interwoven with those of her undying Pontiff. We, the children of the Church, though differing in race and tongue and character, yet are we all Romans by holy religion; as Romans we are united, by Peter, to Christ; and this our glorious name is the link to that great Fraternity of Catholics throughout the world.
Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor—these are our rulers in the order of spiritual Government. Every Pastor whose authority emanates not from the See of Rome is a stranger to us, and an intruder. So likewise, in the order of our Faith, that is, of what we believe, Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor, teach us divine doctrine, and how to distinguish truth from error. Every Symbol of Faith, every doctrinal judgment, every teaching contrary to the Symbol and judgments and teachings of the See of Rome, is of man and not of God, and must be rejected, hated, and anathematized. On the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Antioch (February 22), we will speak of the Apostolic See as the one only source of governing power in the Church; today we will consider and honor the Chair at Rome as the source and rule of our Faith. Here again, let us borrow the sublime words of St. Leo, and hear him discuss the claims of Peter to Infallibility of teaching. The Holy Doctor will teach us (in his Fourth Sermon) how to understand the full force of those words which were spoken by our Lord, and which he intended should be, for all ages, the grand charter of Faith.
“The word made Flesh was dwelling among us, and he, our Savior, had spent his whole self for the reparation of the human race. There was nothing too complicated for his wisdom, nothing too difficult for his power. The elements were subject to him, Spirits ministered to him, Angels obeyed him, nor could the mystery of human Redemption be ineffectual, for God, both in his Unity and Trinity, was the worker of that mystery. And yet Peter is chosen from the rest of the entire world to be the one, the only one, put over the vocation of all nations, and over all the Apostles, and over all the Fathers of the Church: that so, while there were to be many Priests and many Pastors in the people of God, Peter should govern, by the special power given to him, all those whom Christ also rules by his own supreme power. Great and wonderful, dearly Beloved, is this fellowship with Christ’s power granted, by divine condescension, to this man! Moreover, if our Lord willed that there should be something in common to Peter and the rest of the Princes of his Church, it was only on this condition—that whatsoever he gave to the rest, he gave it to them through Peter.”
“Again: our Lord questions all the Apostles as to what men say of him; and, as far as the telling him the opinions of human ignorance goes, they all, indifferently, join in making answer. But as soon as the sentiment of the disciples themselves is called for, he is the first to confess our Lord’s divinity, who is the first in dignity among the Apostles. These were his words: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; which when he had said, our Lord thus answered him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father, who is in heaven: that is, blessed art thou, in that my Father hath taught thee, and human opinion hath not misled thee, but heavenly inspiration hath instructed thee; not flesh and blood, but He, whose Only Begotten Son I am, hath shown me to thee. And I say to thee: that is, as my Father hath manifested to thee my divinity, so do I now declare to thee thine own dignity. That thou art Peter (the Rock): that is, though I am the immovable Rock, the Corner-Stone, who make both one, and the Foundation, other than which no man can lay; yet art thou also a Rock, because thou art solidly based by my power, and what I have by right, thou hast by participation. And upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: that is, I will construct an everlasting temple upon thy Strength, and my Church, which is to reach to heaven, shall grow up on the firmness of this thy faith.
“On the eve of his Passion, which was to test the courage of his disciples, our Lord said to Peter: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. All the Apostles were in danger of being tempted to fear, and all stood in need of the divine help, for the devil desired to sift and crush them all; and yet it is especially for Peter that our Lord is careful; it is for Peter’s faith that he offers an express prayer; as though the others would be sure to be firm, if the mind of their leader were unflinching. So that the strength of all the rest is in Peter, and the assistance of divine grace is distributed in this order—Peter is to receive firmness through Christ, and he himself then give it to the Apostles.”
In another of his Sermons, the same holy Doctor explains to us how it is that Peter ever lives and ever teaches in the Chair of Rome. After having cited the passage from the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew (verses 16-19), he says: “This promise, of Him who is truth itself, must therefore be a permanent fact—and Peter, the unceasing Rock of strength, must be the ceaseless ruler of the Church. For we have only to consider the pre-eminence that is given to him, and the mysterious titles conferred on him, and we at once see the fellowship he has with our Lord Jesus Christ: he is called the Rock (Peter); he is named the Foundation; he is appointed keeper of the gates of heaven; he is made judge, with such power of loosing and binding, that his sentence holds even in heaven. These commissions and duties and responsibilities, wherewith he was invested, he discharges with fuller perfection and power, now that he is in Him and with Him, from whom he received all these honors.
“If, therefore, we do anything that is right, if we decree anything that is right, if by our daily supplications we obtain anything from the divine mercy—it is his doing and his merit, whose power lives, and whose authority is supreme, in this his own Chair. All this, dearly Beloved, was obtained by that confession which, being inspired into the Apostle’s heart by God the Father, soared above all the incertitudes of human opinions, and drew upon him who spoke it the solidity of a Rock, that was to be proof against every attack. For throughout the whole Church, Peter is every day still proclaiming: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and every tongue that confesses the Lord is guided by the teaching of this word. This is the faith which conquers the devil and sets his captives free. This is the faith which delivers men from the world and takes them to heaven, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. For such is the solidity wherewith God has strengthened it, that neither heretical depravity has been able to corrupt, nor pagan perfidy to crush it.”
Thus speaks St. Leo. “Let it not, therefore, be said,” observes Bossuet, in his Sermon on the Unity of the Church, “let it not be said, or thought, that this ministry of Peter finishes with his life on earth. That which is given as the support of a Church which is to last forever, can never be taken away. Peter will live in his successors; Peter will speak, in his Chair, to the end of time. So speak the Fathers; so speak the six hundred and thirty Bishops of the Council of Chalcedon.” And again: “Thus, the Roman Church is ever a Virgin Church; the Faith of Rome is always the Faith of the Church; what has once been believed will be forever believed; the same voice is heard all over the world; and Peter, in his successors, is now, as he was during his life, the foundation on which the Faithful rest. Jesus Christ has said that it shall be so; and heaven and earth shall pass away rather than his word.”
Full of gratitude, therefore, to the God of truth, who has vouchsafed to raise up this Chair in his Church, we will listen, with submission of intellect and heart, to the teaching which emanates from it. Rejecting with indignation those dangerous theories which can only serve to keep up sects within the Church; and confessing, with all the past ages, that the promises made to St. Peter continue in his successors—we will conclude, aided by the twofold light of logic and history, that the teachings, addressed to the Church by the Roman Pontiff, can never contain error, and can contain nothing but the doctrine of truth. Such has always been the sense of the Church, and her practice has been the expression of her spirit. Now, if we acknowledge a permanent miracle in the uninterrupted succession of the Bishop of Rome, in spite of all the revolutions of eighteen centuries—we acknowledge it to be a still higher prodigy that, notwithstanding the instability of man’s opinions and judgments, the Chair of Rome has faithfully preserved the truth without the slightest admixture of error, whereas the sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, were scarcely able to maintain the true Faith for a few centuries, and have become, so frequently, those Chairs of pestilence spoken of by the Royal Prophet.
We are in that season of the ecclesiastical year which is devoted to honoring the Incarnation and Birth of the Son of God, and the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin: it behoves us to remember, especially on this present Feast, that it is to the See of Peter that we owe the preservation of these dogmas, which are the very basis of our holy religion. Rome not only taught them to us when she sent us the saintly missioners who evangelized our country; but moreover, when heresy attempted to throw its mists and clouds over these high Mysteries, it was Rome that secured the triumph to truth by her sovereign decision. At Ephesus—when Nestorius was condemned, and the dogma which he assailed, was solemnly proclaimed, that is, that the Divine Nature and the Human Nature, which are in Christ, make but one true Person, and that Mary is consequently the true Mother of God—the two hundred Fathers of that General Council thus spoke: “Compelled by the Letter of our Most Holy Father Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Church, we have proceeded, in spite of our tears, to the condemnation of Nestorius.” At Chalcedon—where the Church had to proclaim, against Eutyches, the distinction of the two natures in the Incarnate Word, God and Man—the six hundred and thirty Fathers, after hearing the Letter of the Roman Pontiff, gave their decision, and said: “Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo.”
Here, then, is the privilege of Rome: to watch by Faith over the eternal interests of mankind, as she watched previously, for long ages, and by the sword, over the temporal interests of the then known world. Let us love and reverence this City, our Mother and our Guide. Today we are called upon to celebrate her praise; let us do so with filial affection. Let us listen to some of the ancient Hymns in honor of St. Peter, and of which some were used in the Liturgy of certain Churches. First of all, there are the admirable verses of Prudentius, which form the Prayer of St. Laurence for Christian Rome, and which the Poet supposes him to be making as he is burning on the gridiron.
The Gothic Church of Spain sang this hymns of her Mozarabic Breviary, on the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair.
The Hymn we now offer to our readers is the one which is fastened to the balustrade of St. Peter’s confession in the Vatican Basilica. It is intended for the use of pilgrims.
And lastly, let us salute the Prince of the Apostles with these solemn words, which are used by the Church of Rome in today’s Office.
And, that we may conform to the tradition of the same Church of Rome, which never celebrates a Feast of St. Peter without making a commemoration of St. Paul, who, that he might add to the glory of her who is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, came within her walls and paid her the triple tribute of his Apostolate, his teaching, and his martyrdom—let us say this Antiphon and Collect in honor of the Apostle of the Gentiles.
We are founded on Christ in our faith and our hopes, because, O glorious Prince of the Apostles! we are founded on thee, who art the Rock he has set. We are the sheep of the flock of Jesus, because we obey thee as our shepherd. By following thee, O Peter! we are made sure of our being admitted into the kingdom of heaven, because our Lord gave the Keys of his kingdom to thee. Having the happiness of being thy members, we may also count ourselves as the members of Jesus Christ himself; for He, the invisible Head of the Church, recognizes none as his members, save those that are members of the visible Head whom he appointed. So too, when we adhere to the faith of the Roman Pontiff and obey his orders—we are professing thy faith, O Peter, we are following thy commands; for if Christ teaches and governs by thee, thou teachest and governest by the Roman Pontiff.
Eternal thanks, then, to our Emmanuel for that he has not left us orphans; but before returning to heaven, vouchsafed to provide us with a Father and a Shepherd, even to the end of time! On the evening before his passion, keeping up his love for us even to the end, he left us his sacred Body and Blood for our food. After his glorious Resurrection, and a few hours before ascending to the right hand of his Father, he called his Apostles around him, and constituted his Church (his Fold), and said to Peter: Feed my Lambs, Feed my Sheep. Thus, dear Jesus! didst thou secure perpetuity to thy Church; thou gavest her Unity, for that alone could preserve her and defend her from both external and internal enemies. Glory be to thee, O Divine Architect! for that thou didst build the House of thy Church on the Rock which was never to be shaken, that is, on Peter! Winds and storms and waves have beat upon that house, but it hath stood, for it was built on a Rock.
O Rome! on this day, when the whole Church proclaims thy glory by blessing God for having built her on thy Rock—receive the renewal of our promise to love thee and be faithful to thee. Thou shalt ever be our Mother and our Mistress, our guide and our hope. Thy faith shall ever be ours; for he that is not with thee is not with Jesus Christ. In thee, all men are Brethren. Thou art not a foreign City to us; nor is thy Pontiff a foreign Sovereign to us, for he is our Father. It is by thee that we live the spiritual life, the life of both heart and intellect; and thou it is that preparest us to dwell one day in that other City of which thou art the image—the City of Heaven, into which men enter by thee.
Bless, O Prince of the Apostles! the flock committed to thy care; but forget not them that have unfortunately left the fold. There are whole nations whom thou didst bring up and civilize by the hands of thy Successors, who now have alienated themselves from thee and are living on their wretched existence the more miserable, because they feel not the unhappiness of being separated from the Shepherd. They are victims either of schism or of heresy. Without Christ, made visible in his Vicar, Christianity becomes sterile, and at last, extinct. Those indiscreet doctrines, which tend to throw a doubt on the richness of the prerogatives bestowed by Christ on thee, that is, on thee who wast to hold his place to the end of time—such doctrines produce a cold heart in those who profess them and dispose them, but too frequently, to give to Cæsar that spiritual and religious obedience which they owe, yet refuse, to Peter. O supreme Pastor! do thou cure all these evils. Hasten the return of the nations that have separated themselves from thee. Let the heresy of the sixteenth century soon become a thing of the past. Open thine arms and again press to thy heart the country once so dear to thee—England—our fatherland—and pray for her, that she may regain her right to be called the beautiful “Island of Saints.” Stir up the people of our northern Europe, to redouble their ardor in the search of the Faith of their fathers; and let them learn the great truth, that a religion out of union with the Chair at Rome is powerless to give salvation to its members. Destroy the Russian colossus of schism, heresy, and despotism, which tyrannizes over the consciences of so many millions of our dear fellow creatures, and ambitions to drag the rest of the world into apostacy from Jesus, by making them the slaves of her Czar. Reclaim the East to her ancient fidelity, and let her Patriarchal Sees regain their dignity, by submission to the one Apostolic See.
And we, O Blessed Apostle! who, by the mercy of God and the watchfulness of thy paternal love, are still faithful, oh! preserve us in the faith of Rome, and submission to thy Successor. Instruct us in the mysteries which have been confided to thy teaching. What the Father revealed to thee, do thou reveal to us: show us our Jesus, thy beloved Master; lead us to his Crib; and let us, after thine own example, be blessed by not being scandalized at his deep humiliations, and by ever saying thy beautiful confession: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
The perfect day to pray specifically for a true pope.
This is an inappropriate use of the caucus thread. The article specifically mentions and demeans protestants and is therefore ineligible.
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