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

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