We celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, the symbolic presentation of the office of the Pope, on February 22. Pictured above is the Altar of the Chair in the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter. This is the way it is decorated every year for the Feast.
“Cathedra” literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called “cathedral,” and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his “magisterium,” that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community.
When the bishop takes possession of the local church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd’s crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity. The “cathedra” or Bishop’s Chair in our diocese is located at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Workman in La Crosse.
The Altar of the Chair is located in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, and is a work of Bernini, made in the shape of a great bronze throne, supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church, two from the West, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and two from the East, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius.
On this Feast day, we are particularly called to reflect on the Papacy and pray in a particular way for the ministry that God has entrusted to Pope Benedict XVI. Now, of course, we add a prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Cardinals are called to elect his successor in a historic conclave. At the center of the Altar one may gaze on the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the Chair, thus invoking the Holy Spirit on these last days of Pope Benedict’s courageous and humble ministry and in special prayer for his successor.
A special Pontifical Mass, followed by Eucharistic Adoration will be celebrated in our cathedral this Friday February 22 at 12:10 PM on the Feast. All are welcome as we gather in celebration of the Petrine Ministry.
But, of course, I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.