A chair seems like a strange thing to celebrate, but here’s why it’s significant.
On February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (or the CathedraPetri). The word “chair” or cathedra designates a bishop’s seat — the symbol of his authority as a pastor of his diocese. Hence, the chair of St. Peter, from which he presided over the faithful, is the seat of the first pope, the bishop of Rome. It has become, the very symbol of the mission confided to all the future popes.
A celebration that offers us the opportunity to contemplate the mystery of the Church
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. – Matthew 16:18-19
It is with these words that Jesus established the authority of Peter and that of his successors. If the pope is “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful” (Lumen gentium, 23) it is not due to his personal merits, but because he has been chosen by Jesus to serve the servants of God. To be successful in carrying out this difficult task, Jesus has promised him his unique help: “But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk.22:32).
The feast of the Chair of St Peter invites us to join our prayer to that of Jesus, so Pope Francis and his future successors become that everlasting rock on which the Church can repose.
This celebration also offers us an opportunity to contemplate the mystery of the Church, fragile and vulnerable, yet destined to always triumph over the powers of death. Whenever, we are tempted to criticize the Church, and papal teachings, and to view them through the prism of our own beliefs, let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us see what is essential.