Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Chair of St. Peter and Christian Unity

Today (on the old calendar) is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Coincidence?  I think not.  In fact, I've been a Catholic just long enough to know that there are very few coincidences on the liturgical calendar--intentional or otherwise.  This one, I dare say, is intentional, but very often I find certain feast days coinciding with significant events in my own life or in the wider world.  But I digress.

It was certainly no accident that the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for the U.S. and Canada was officially established so close to this date.  And certainly it is the appropriate date to begin this week of prayer for the unity for which our Lord prayed, for without a visible institutional locus of unity, it seems to me that schism and its evil twin, heterodoxy, are inevitable.

Having experienced first hand what ecclesiastical chaos looks like, I am especially grateful for this particular aspect of the Catholic Church.  Far from being a burden, the teaching authority of the Church and the obligation of obedience to her has instead been a means of discovering true freedom in Christ.  It has been a great relief not having to be my own pope anymore.

In honor of the day,  here is an excerpt from something by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson entitled, The Grace of the Chair of St. Peter:
Turn, then, once more to the Catholic Church and see how in the Life which she offers, as in none other, there is presented to us a means of fulfilling our end. For it is she alone who even demands in the spiritual sphere a complete and entire abnegation of self.
From every other Christian body comes the cry, Save your soul, assert your individuality, follow your conscience, form your opinions; while she, and she alone, demands from her children the sacrifice by hers, and the obedience of their will to her lightest command. For she, and she alone, is conscious of possessing that divinity, in complete submission to which lies the salvation of humanity. For she, as the coherent and organic mystical Body of Christ, calls upon those who look to her to become, not merely her children, but her very members; not to obey her as soldiers obey a leader or citizens a government, but as the hands and eyes and feet obey a brain.

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