When a chair is not a Chair – The Chair of Saint Peter

There is an actual physical object known as the Chair of St. Peter. It is at the Vatican, at the back of St. Peter’s Basilica. The actual chair is about 22 inches above the ground about 3 feet wide.  The sides are about 2 feet wide and the back is about 3 and a half foot high.  The entire chair is about four and a half feet high.

More important is what this chair represents.

After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene is told by the angels, “Christ has risen, tell his disciples and Peter.” John and Peter raced to the tomb and believed. They didn’t fully understand until Pentecost.  Pentecost was when Jesus returned to heaven and gave us the Holy Spirit. It is then that Peter can become the spokesman for the disciples. He led the others against the civil Roman government who want to stop their preaching.  He led at the Council of Jerusalem.  He was the first to preach to the Gentiles. With the healing power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit in him, he raised a person from the dead and cured the crippled.  People would carry the sick into the streets so when Peter passed by his shadow would touch the sick.

This did not mean that Peter didn’t make mistakes, For a time Peter stopped eating with Gentiles because he didn’t want to upset the Jewish Christians.  Paul told Peter he was wrong and Peter returned to eating with the Gentiles.

Before Jesus left, he foretold Peter of his death which would glorify God. Peter was martyred under Nero’s reign.

This feast remembers Jesus choosing Peter to lead the Church. It is celebrating the office of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome, which makes the person holding that position as the head of the Church.

Did St. Peter really sit in this chair? Just a few years ago Pope Benedict said the chair is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his successive popes.  The feast of the Chair of Peter is important and celebrates the mission Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter and the popes who followed him. That mission is to safeguard and share the faith with the Christian community.

For more information and teaching materials:
Chair of Saint Peter lesson plans

Saint Valentine

There are actually a few saints with the same name who are called Saint Valentine. One was a bishop of Terni. Another was a priest and doctor in Rome.  Saint Valentine from Rome is likely who is celebrated since he is a martyr.  Valentine’s priestly life kept him close to his people.

One legend says Saint Valentine was under house arrest.  While discussing religion and faith with Judge Asterius. Valentine said Jesus was the one true God. The judge put Valentine and his faith to the test immediately. Judge Asterius’s daughter was brought to Valentine.  She was blind. Valentine was told to restore her sight. The judge said if Valentine succeeded, he would do anything for Valentine.  Valentine placed his hands on the girl’s eyes and restored her ability to see.Judge Asterius followed Valentine’s requests.  He removed and destroyed all idols in his home. He fasted. He was baptized along with his family and 44 members of his household.  He went on to free all of his Christian inmates.

Valentine was arrested again for converting people to Christianity. He was sent to Emperor Claudius II. He was imprisoned for helping persecuted Christians. He was also secretly marrying Christian couples. This may have meant that husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. There was a law which said the marriage of young people was illegal.  It was believed unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers. Married soldiers may have worried about their family if they died. Roman society was very permissive at this time. The Church teaches that marriage is very important. It is between one man and one woman, and for life.  Marriage was encouraged. This was very much against what Roman society believed.

Claudius and Valentine began to talk. A friendship began. Then Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius was furious. He demanded Valentine renounce his faith.

Emperor Valerian issued a law in 257 forbidding Mass or sacraments. Valentine was martyred under Emperor Claudius. Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution, beating, stoning and finally beheading. He was martyred in 269.  Saint Valentine is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages.

Saint Scholastica

Saint Scholastica was born around 480 in Italy. Her parents were wealthy. She dedicated her life to God from the time she was very young. Her father depended on her after Scholastica’s mother had died, and didn’t want her to go, but he could not refuse God his child.  She is the twin sister of Saint Benedict, who formed the Benedictine order. They grew up together until he left home to continue his studies. He created a monastery near Monte Cassino.  She created the first Benedictine convent for nuns about five miles from his monastery.  They visited each other once a year.  She was not allowed in his monastery, so they met at a home between the two monasteries. They spent their visits praying and discussing spiritual matters.  

At one of these meetings, St. Scholastica begged her brother to stay until the next day.  St. Benedict refused to break his own rule that he not spend the night outside of his monastery.  She prayed and a major thunderstorm came.  It was storming so hard no one could return home. Benedict asked, “What have you done?”

She answered. “I asked and you would not listen, so I asked my God and He did listen.”

So they spent the rest of the night praying, discussion the faith, and the power of prayer.  The next day, both left.  Three days later Saint Scholastica died. In a vision, Saint Benedict saw her soul, in the form of a shining white dove go to heaven.  She died in 543.  Benedict had her buried in the tomb he had prepared for himself.  She is the patron saint of nuns and against thunderstorms.

Candlemas-Presentation of the Lord

This feast day is also known as Candlemas and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin.  It was called Candlemas because a priest blessed beeswax candles for use through the year. It is called Presentation of Jesus at the Temple because it is the day Mary and Joseph took forty-day old Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary was considered unclean for 40 days after having a baby. This was a law of the Torah.  Mary and Joseph were poor so they couldn’t afford to pay for a lamb.  Instead, they sacrificed a pair of turtledoves or pigeons.  When they took Jesus to the Temple, they met Simeon.

God has promised Simeon he wouldn’t die before getting to see the Messiah.  After seeing Jesus Simeon said he could die in peace. Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow.  She never left the temple.  She spent her time worshiping in prayer and fasting.  

With Anna present, Simeon purified Mary with prayer. Simeon and Anna were older people who were so dedicated to prayer they were able to recognize baby Jesus as the Messiah.  Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon said about baby Jesus. Simeon said the child would be the rise and fall of many in Israel and a sword would pierce Mary’s heart.