Because We Are A Bible-Believing Church III: The Chair of St. Peter

I have been on this planet for roughly 49 and a half years. I have been a Christian for roughly 39 and a half of those years and a Catholic Christian for 5 years come the Easter Vigil. So what? So I never knew until a few years ago that February 22 is the Feast Day of the Chair of St. Peter.

I also was ignorant of the fact that Catholic tradition states that it was on this day that Our Lord made His declaration about St. Peter as being the keeper of the keys.

Consider this one of those “pleasures of finding things out” moments I wrote about on around New Years a few years back. In italics below is a note I found on Catholic Exchange about this day in Church history.  My edits and expansions of additional Bible references are included, but full credit for this post should go to CE.

Rookie that I am, I really, really have a lot to learn about the history of the Church. But I have found that an understanding of history is very helpful as I make my way through this world in other areas.  Why wouldn’t the same be true of Church history?

Here begins the article from Catholic Exchange:

Upon This Rock

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of the Chair of Peter. This celebration dates back to at least the fourth century. The Calendar of Philocalus, made in the year 354 and having dates going back to the year 311, marks February 22 for this feast. According to very ancient Western liturgies, February 22 was the date that Christ appointed Peter to sit in His place as the authority over His Church.

When Jesus asks the apostles “Who do you say that I am?” Peter alone replied as follows,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

The “chair” of course, is the position, the authority that was given to Peter. This can also be called the Petrine authority or the authority of the pope. Peter, alone among the Apostles, was given the keys to the kingdom. Jesus said to him, “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.” (Mt. 16:19) The Apostles would immediately understand, as would any first-century Jew, what Jesus was referring to when He said “keys to the kingdom.” This was a reference to Isaiah 22 where it refers to a king delegating his special authority over his kingdom to his prime minister. In essence, Jesus was setting up His kingdom on earth (the Catholic Church) and he was delegating His authority to Peter to rule over it until He comes again. In giving Peter the authority to bind and loose, Jesus was essentially stating that He would back up the decisions that Peter would make. Of course, the Church teaches us that this does not refer to all Peter’s actions, but in matters of faith and morals, Peter does have the authority to speak for Christ.

And all this despite Simon Peter’s weaknesses and flaws as a regular guy. Our Lord foretells that Peter will deny him. But first, He tells the Apostles this at the Last Supper,

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you  that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And He singles out Peter with the following information that He prayed for Peter before fortelling his denial of Him,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:28-32)

Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church. This promise is made to guide Peter and the popes throughout the ages, in union with the bishops, in shepherding His Church. Peter, or the pope, however, is the shepherd who watches over the flock until Christ returns. We see this in Scripture also when Christ, after His resurrection and just prior to His Ascension, says to Peter, calling him by his former name (before Christ changed it):

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Referring to the other apostles)
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).

Jesus is our true Shepherd, but He has asked Peter to watch over His flock until He returns to earth. Christ is the King of Kings and He has delegated His authority to Peter and all those after Peter who would sit in the “Chair of Peter” throughout the ages until He comes again in His glory. So Scripture makes it very clear why the Church celebrates this special occasion.

Thanks be to God.

In Praise of Polyphony (Music for Mondays)

You can blame this article and my good friend (and frequent YIMC commenter) James for this post. Seal and the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughn will have to step aside for a week, to make way for Palestrina, Clemens non Papa, Byrd, and 20th-century composer Eric Whitacre. This is music as it was meant to be, four hundred years ago. I could imagine Warren Jewell tapping his feet to this stuff, if it had a beat. 

We begin with the Nunc Dimittis, set to music by Giovanni Pierluigi di Palestrina (1525–1594).

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Next up, “Ego Flos Campi” by Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510?–1555?).

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Here’s “Vigillate” by William Byrd (1540?–1623).

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Finally, here is a 20th-century example of polyphony, Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque.”

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The Poll Results Are In

Over the past week we ran a poll to find out how frequently our readers go to confession. The poll closed last night at midnight. It’s pleasing to have received over 250 votes and perhaps surprising to learn that about 80 percent of our voting readers go to confession. Of course, we’re looking at a small and hardly random sample. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that significantly less than 80 percent of all American Catholics go to confession.

It figures that the readership of a Catholic blog like this one would take its faith seriously and therefore would be more likely to seek Reconciliation.

Also pleasing is the fact that we have a measurable, though small number of non-Catholic readers (about 7 percent, according to the poll). Perhaps many of these are discerning about converting to the Catholic faith. That leaves just 12-13 percent of our readers who said that they are Catholics who go to confession “seldom or never.”

Those who attend confession relatively often are the ones that struck me most. About one-third of respondents said they go to confession at least once a month. Then again, if my understanding is correct, most Catholics used to go to confession weekly. Readers like Mujerlatina have reported on this. Yet today, just 10 of our respondents, or 3 percent of readers participating in the poll, now go to confession once a week!

If we make the same assumption here that we made above—that readers of YIM Catholic are a relatively devout bunch—then it’s shocking that as few as 1 or 2 percent of American Catholics today go to confession weekly.

A legacy of Vatican II? Or what?

Confession: Thanks to Gloria.TV and Archbishop Sheen

Readers of this blog know how much we have been discussing the Sacrament of Reconciliation here lately.  Webster started it the day before St. Valentine’s Day. He followed it up with this post the day after Valentine’s Day and a poll that drew over 250 votes. I threw in this post on Scriptural references to the Sacrament and Webster wrapped the discussion up with the thought that we can’t help ourselves.

Prior to these posts, I had a little fun juxtaposing pop singer Seal with some thoughts from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Completely speculative on my part (for sure) to try making sense of Seal’s lyrics and Sheen’s thoughts. But I ask you, where else but at YIM Catholic would you ever have seen these two linked in a post? Sheeeeesh!

After returning from my daughter’s Girl Scout Thinking Day event, I was pleasantly surprised to see a video of Bishop Sheen speaking on Confession in a post by Padre Steve at his blog Da Mihi Animas. Bishop Sheen’s video is below.  But look at what other treasures there are over at Gloria.tv as well. Music clips, news clips, tons more Bishop Sheen clips, marriage tips, etc. It’s almost like a Hulu for Catholics!

I couldn’t keep this resource to myself, but felt compelled to share it with you all. Want a search string on Confession? They have it. I hope you enjoy this and bookmark Gloria.tv for Catholic programming available on your schedule.  They have over 306 pages of programming so far, and hopefully more in the pipeline. Here is Archbishop Sheen on Confession:

http://www.gloria.tv/media/51377/embed

A hearty Bravo Zulu (well done) and thank you to Padre Steve!

For Lenten Music from the East

I found this today, while playing tiddly-winks (er, I mean plotting a course to the next waypoint) with Webster in the cockpit. It is from the Eastern side of the family and very appropriate for Lent, don’t you think?

This is based, in part, on Psalm 141,

Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me, hearken unto me, Lord I have cried unto Thee, Hearken unto me, attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry unto Thee, hearken unto me O Lord.

Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice, hearken unto me O Lord.

Set O Lord and watch me before my mouth and a door of enclosure round about my lips.

Incline not my heart unto words of evil to make excuse with excuses in sins.

With men that work in iniquity and I will not join with their chosen.

The righteous man will chasten me with mercy and reprove me as for the oil of the sinner, let it not anoint my head.

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For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies

This is your co-pilot speaking. It’s been kinda quiet here at YIM Catholic today. Well, that’s because it’s Lent and Webster and I are cruising at 38,000 feet.  Oh, not literally, but figuratively for the next 38 days. But we haven’t flown the coop completely. We’re still around, but when you are on a long cross-country flight (like the 40 days of Lent) you have to be gentle with the controls so as not to upset the passengers. [Read more...]

YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity” Week 5

This week we read Book III, Chapters 6, 7, and 8.

Its discussion time, Book Club members! This week’s readings are all from Book III, and Mr. Lewis is showing how politically incorrect Christianity is. All these new changes that many denominations are going through today? I think Jack would be dismayed, but that is my two cents only. I’ll throw my hat in the ring with G. K. Chesterton, who wrote,

The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

Chapter 6 is on Christian Marriage. Nothing new here for practicing Catholics. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this Sacrament is an easy, slam dunk either. It is a Sacrament that is also a vocation. Jack has a lot to say, and all of it is sound and in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, if not extremely unpopular today. But he said this institution of marriage should possibly be set up as a two-fold institution, one for the Church (think Sacrament) and one outside the Church.

Jack holds forth on a concept not discussed much in terms of a marital relationship, justice, as well as on the different viewpoints between say government and the Church in terms of our ability to control our appetites and impulses. He writes,

If, as I think, it is not like all our other impulses, but is morbidly inflamed, then we should be especially careful not to let it lead us into dishonesty.

He then makes some salient points about the problem of divorce and how one party (government) sees it as just another contract, which holds about as much weight as any other contract; meanwhile, Christians (and the Church) see divorce as a train wreck to be avoided at all costs. Anyone who works in the legal field can tell you that no-fault divorce has become a major growth industry since Jack wrote these words. And as a child of divorce, I am not shocked: I agree with Jack. Who then has the audacity to say,

So much for the Christian doctrine about the permanence of marriage. Something else, even more unpopular, remains to be dealt with. Christian wives promise to obey their husbands.

And that means you agree with this too, Frank? Uh-huh. Looking forward to reading the comments!

While contemplating burning me at the stake, and cursing the name of C. S. Lewis, move on to Chapter 7, on forgiveness—and just in the nick of time! I think Jack does a really good job here of talking about forgiveness with a real-world perspective, especially with the command to love others as ourselves. Here Lewis lets the cat out of the bag on the falseness of self-love. He says, Look in the mirror and realize that if you don’t love everything about yourself, then guess what? Think of that when you are loving your neighbor.

I don’t know how many of you like his argument about soldiers fighting one another, as a “nothing personal” situation.  He uses an example based on the war that had just concluded, mentioning the Gestapo and other scary words.  Here’s Jack,
The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything-God and our friends and ourselves included-as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
Loving an enemy doesn’t mean that punishing them is unwarranted either. As Jack says, and I’ll paraphrase, just because I love myself doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty if I commit murder. Now, before we get into a fur-ball about the death penalty and Church teaching, what Jack is saying makes sense. Think about this in terms of the posts we have been doing about the Sacrament of Confession. Think of this in terms of what a real examination of conscience is. It means taking a hard look at the part of ourselves that we don’t love, repenting for it, praying about it, and coming to the Sacrament for forgiveness and absolution in a concrete way.
After all, our souls are immortal. Jack explains the Christian perspective like so (bold is mine):
I imagine somebody will say, “Well, if one is allowed to condemn the enemy’s acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Christian morality and the ordinary view?” All the difference in the world. Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one’s own back, must be simply killed.
Chapter 8 is on The Great Sin, which Jack identifies as Pride. Personally, I had to come to terms with this one, and when I finally did, I had no choice but to become a Catholic. I still have to fight this one and probably always will. Blaise Pascal spelled it out for me, Thomas à Kempis held forth on it, and St. Teresa of Avila too.  She pointed me to the capper in my own personal struggle with pride, Francisco de Osuna’s Third Spiritual Alphabet. Look back at this hot link and you will see where I think Jack may have gotten some of his material. Here is a chapter de Osuna writes entitled The Devil’s Army, which is mainly about pride.

Back when I was waiting for my RCIA class to get started, I had a discussion with someone about how pride was my biggest weakness. I hadn’t read Jack’s book yet, but the conversation was hauntingly similar to these passages. In the end I simply said, If you don’t believe you have a problem with pride, then you haven’t examined this issue closely enough. I knew I did and left it at that. Which is almost exactly the same way Jack sums up this chapter:

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.
And with a collective sigh of relief, I hope you read that being “proud” of your regiment, son, daughter, etc., really is not Pride. Most likely it means that you have a fond love of or for that entity. Pride is disordered love of self, and one which puts self above all others. Including above God. Ouch!
Now it’s your turn, YIMC Book Club members! How did you take these chapters? What were the passages that resonated with you. Don’t hold back!

Because I Am Dust and So Are You

I told a friend yesterday morning that I was “really excited about Lent,” and the words sounded strange coming out of my mouth. It was a bit like saying I couldn’t wait for my own funeral. Tonight I will go to sleep with a cross of ashes on my forehead, a gritty reminder of my own imminent death. 

When I was a Protestant child, I remember wiping the dirt off a friend’s head at school, only to be informed that I shouldn’t have done that. Two years ago, as I was nearing my own reception into the Church, I had ashes placed on my forehead for the first time. Afterwards, in the coffee shop, I wore my winter hat down over my brow so that no one would see. Last year, I wore my ashes a bit more openly leaving church.

Today I went back for seconds.

I attended morning mass with Katie and watched with joy as an 11-year-old boy who says he wants to be a priest served at the altar. Then tonight came the clincher, when I served as a lector at evening mass, and Father Barnes asked Michael and me to help him distribute the ashes. So after the homily I stood at the head of the Blessed Mother’s aisle with a small bowl of burned palm leaves and ground ashen crosses into people’s foreheads with my thumb. Try it sometime.

Try repeating “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” to a procession of friends, acquaintances, and total strangers while you press a vivid reminder into their heads that they are little more than ashes themselves. Try it with an 80-year-old woman bent over a walker for whom this could be the last Ash Wednesday. Try it with an 8-year-old boy who looks up at you wonderingly, not sure whether to wear a long face or giggle, a child who will probably outlive you, but by how much, and does it matter? “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Try it with a teenage girl, whose carefully shaped bangs form a nearly impassable barrier. Try it with a friend who greets you with a warm smile, which you return warmly, while saying, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

There is an awesome formality to serving communion, which I have also had the opportunity to do, and nothing personal passes between the server and the communicant usually. Distributing ashes on the first day of Lent is a different, utterly intimate gesture. Some, receiving the ashes, say “Amen,” as with communion. Some say “Thank you.” Some only smile and turn away.

All of us will turn away soon enough. I will go to sleep tonight with a cross of ashes on my forehead. And the great season of Lent has begun.

Because Gregory the Great Wrote Such a Poem for Lent

The Season of Lent is upon us. This is one of those mysterious times of the year that, before I was a Catholic, I always wondered about. Growing up, we never observed Lent. Of course, now I know that Lent is celebrated by not only the Catholic Church but also the Orthodox Church, and it is even celebrated by some of the mainline Protestant churches. [Read more...]

Because I Can’t Help Myself

I’m a small-time book publisher, and though I haven’t done the hard research, I’m pretty sure that if you look at the history of the trade, do-it-yourself books peaked before self-help books. The first told my father’s generation how to fix a leaky faucet. The second told my generation how to feed a hungry heart. Late in my own life, with my father gone, I am more convinced than ever that his generation (WWII) was great, mine (Boomers) second-rate. Pretty much everything you need to know about us is in those books.

My father never had much truck with self-help or psychotherapy (long story), but I’m sure that if he had been a Catholic, instead of a stauch Episcopalian, he would have gone to confession regularly. He believed in doing things right; he believed in authority; and, while a strong man of some certainty, he did not believe that he knew it all.

In fact, when I told my father I was converting to Catholicism, he moved in five minutes from astonishment to confession, telling me, “There are a couple of things in my life that I have always been deeply ashamed of.” He made it clear that he had never told anyone of these things, not even my mother, who was sitting by his side and listening along with me.

I think my father told us this because he associated Catholicism with confession and secretly hungered for it. I’m sure that if he had gone to confession, Dad would not have questioned the methodology or the priesthood. Behind the screen or face-to-face? Whatever you tell me to do, Father. Good confession? I’ll do my best. Lead these men and take that enemy position? Yes, sir. 

My generation decided somewhere along the way that it didn’t need authority. Which is completely delusional, of course, since we are famous for falling for every single latest fad, from diets to self-help regimens. We hunger for authority, we just don’t admit it. We’ll fall for the Maharishi, then Werner Erhard, then Deepak Chopra, then God Knows Who Next, but we don’t need priests, we don’t need the apostolate, we don’t need any intermediaries between us and God. We can find God on our own, thank you very much. Don’t even need GPS.

The above reflections follow a day of comments on my second post about confession this week. You can read the whole exchange here. What draws my attention is this:

I’ve never gotten anything from confession with a priest that came close to what I’ve gotten from God. I guess I will never understand desiring all these intermediaries, these layers, these mortal substitutes for the real thing. Once you’ve tasted the real thing, you don’t want anything else—you can’t want anything else. Nothing less than God will do.

So there’s the question: Why do we need intermediaries?

Because in the end we can’t help ourselves. Think about it. This is even what you say sometimes to the priest (or to yourself) when he asks, “Why do you keep falling into this sin? Why do you keep making this mistake?” Because, Father, I can’t help myself. 

Turning our hearts around, the real meaning of repentance, is a big big job. Every year, the Church gives us a whole 46-day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter to call us back to repentance. That’s a long time, with many prayers and sacraments, including confession, hopefully. We need all the help we can get, seems to be the message.

Why do we need intermediaries?

Because here it is Lent again, and the same job of repentance is staring me in the face. Bless me, Father, for I too have sinned.


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