22 February 2014

A chair and a boat

Because Saint Peter was a fisherman by trade before the Lord called after himself and it was to Peter entrusted the care of his Church, the Church has often been called the Barque (a type of ship) of Peter. This is why the central part of the church where the faithful gather is the called the nave, a word closely connected with naval and navy.

In one of his sermons for today's Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Saint Anthony of Padua connected the symbolism of the chair with that of the ship:
Alternatively, the 'chair' is the remembrance of death, in which one sits by humbling oneself. No one can steer his boat properly, unless he takes care to sit in the stern. The 'boat', narrow at the front and the rear, but wide in the middle, is human life, which is narrow indeed at its entrance and exit, which are wretched and bitter, but wide in the middle, wandering and wanton. No one can steer it properly unless he takes care to humble himself in the remembrance of death. And note that it says 'wisest'. The steersman who sits in the stern, the rearmost part of the ship, is, and must be, the wisest of all. He sees everyone, watches over everything, stirs up the lazy, encourages those who labor, promises a lull in the storm - indeed, calm - and cheers them up with the hope of a good harbor. In this way, he who humbles himself in the remembrance of death arranges his whole life properly, and supervises its circumstances. He knows well how to eradicate idleness, strengthen himself in labor, hope in the Lord's mercy in time of adversity, and direct his life to the harbor of eternal life (Sermon on the Chair of Saint Peter, 10).
Peter sat on his chair, his seat of over authority to watch over the ship of the Church, first at Antioch and then at Rome, where he gave his life for his Master.

The task of every Pope is to help us to steer the boats of our lives across the waters the life - sometimes calm and other times tumultuous - safely into the harbor of heaven. He does so by showing and teaching us to live the Gospel faithfully and with integrity and he points out the dangerous waters by reminding of sin and calling us to repentance.

Let us today pray for Pope Francis, that he may be a wise and prudent helmsman, and let us pray also for ourselves, that we will always seek to remain in his barque and do as our captain bids.

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