The Chair of St. Peter
In brushing up for “Catholic Jeopardy,” it might help to know that there is only one feast on the calendar for a thing, rather than a person or mystery. It’s for a chair: Saint Peter’s chair in fact after the Resurrection, there can be no doubt that the disciples reserved a special place for Simon Peter in the upper room. Later, Peter became the bishop of Antioch in today’s Syria, the place where we were first called Christians. From there, he went to Rome, the center of the Empire, where it is said that Peter sat in a chair in the house of Priscilla and Aquila to instruct his flock. Jesus, in entrusting the keys of the Kingdom to Peter and his successors, entrusted his compassion and mercy to them, and charged them with pointing to the Kingdom of God. Compassion and mercy are to resonate through their teaching.
Since the ancient sign of a teacher is the chair (“disciple” literally means one who sits at the feet of a teacher), Peter’s chair has long been treasured. Today there is a symbolic shrine of Peter’s chair above the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This monument is the last work of Bernini, a huge bronze throne supported by four doctors of the Church: Augustine and Ambrose from the Western Church, and Chrysostom and Athanasius from the East. High above it is the alabaster window of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
~Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.