For those of us turning towards the journey to the Catholic Church, next Tuesday’s feast is of real significance. The feast of the Chair of St Peter gives us an opportunity to reflect on our longing for unity with the Holy Father, the Pope, the successor of St Peter, and to pray for that desire to be fulfilled through the Ordinariate.
To celebrate the ‘Chair’ of St Peter is to celebrate the authority of the Pope. Just as there is a Chair for a bishop (cathedra means chair, hence cathedral is the seat of the bishop), so there is a Chair – a point of authority – for the chief shepherd, the Holy Father. On that day we celebrate his authority – the sure foundation of the Christian Faith (Christ said: You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…).
Last year we were encouraged by the then bishops of Ebbsfleet, Richborough, and Fulham, to pray on 22 February for the unity of Christians. We knew that the Ordinariate would happen, but we did not know when. Now we can see that those prayers have been answered.
The Ordinary, Fr Newton, has asked us to keep this day again this year. This time, however, our thoughts are to turn towards the role of the bishop of Rome (the Pope), in ‘thanksgiving for the vision of Pope Benedict which has brought us to this point’.
The Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Bishop Kieran Conry, has also released a letter to encourage all Catholics to reflect on the visit of Pope Benedict last year. For those of us who went to Hyde Park, it will be a visit we never forget. Bishop Conry has suggested that we use the 22 February, the feast of the Chair of St Peter, to pray for the Holy Father ‘in a special way’, and to consider how we might use that experience – that time of grace – to be better evangelists and proponents of the faith.
Bishop Conry also suggested that it is a good opportunity to read some of the Holy Father’s writings, if you haven’t already, and to study some of the Catechism. To help with that you might like to get a copy of the Compendium to the Catechism (click here).
So our task on Tuesday 22 February is twofold: pray for the Holy Father, and thank God for his ministry and for the Ordinariate. If you can find time to visit a Catholic Church that day, to pray and give thanks before the Blessed Sacrament, then do – we saw an abundance of graces last year and, my goodness, we need that grace now!
At Hyde Park the Holy Father used this prayer of Blessed John Henry, which is commended by Bishop Conry for use on 22 February:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel Thy presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!
Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest,
so to shine as to be a light to others;
the light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee;
none of it will be mine;
it will be Thou shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise Thee in the way Thou dost love best
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach Thee without preaching,
not by words but by my example,
by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fulness of the love my heart bears to Thee.