“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:13-19)

On this day the Church invites us to celebrate the Cathedra of St. Peter, to meditate on his primacy over the other apostles and to renew, in this way, our filial love for the white figure of the Pope.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:16). On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church (Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4 3: PL 54,150 – 152; 51,1: PL 54, 309B; 62, 2: PL 54, 350-351; 83, 3: PL 54, 431-432).”[1]

“Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;(Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5.) Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”(Mt 16:18). Christ, the “living Stone”, (1 Pt 2:4) thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it (Cf. Lk 22:32).”[2]

“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock (Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17). “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head” (LG 22 #2). This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.”[3]

In the face of this reality, how much love and solicitude in prayer do we owe to the Holy Father!

How many examples have been given to us by the Saints, of sacrifices and prayer for the Vicar of Christ!

They teach us by their words and by the example of their lives the invincible love for the Pope.

Of Saint Jacinta Marto, Sister Lucia recounts: “Love for the Holy Father took such root in Jacinta that whenever she offered a sacrifice to Jesus, she added: ‘And for the Holy Father’. At the end of the Rosary, she always prayed three Hail Marys for the Holy Father.”[4]

From St. John Bosco, we learn of the three white loves: Our Lady, the Eucharist and the Pope.

Padre Pio loved the Pope as Christ on earth, and offered his life for him daily. He would say: “My first thought each day in morning prayer is for the Pope.”

Finally, we would like to bring up the illustrious example of St. Catherine of Siena, whose life was distinguished by a fervent love for the Vicar of Christ and in whose honour we, the SSVM, dedicate this year.

In her various writings one can see her vision of faith with regard to the Holy Father. She firmly believes that the Pope is “the Sweet Christ on earth” and that he holds “the keys to the Blood of Christ”.

Christ Himself revealed it to her in the following way: “Keep in mind, dearest daughter, that in manifesting to you the excellence of His virtue, I will show you more fully the dignity in which I have placed my ministers. It is the key of the blood of my only-begotten Son that opened eternal life, which for a long time was closed by the sin of Adam. But after I gave you my Truth, that is, the Word of my only-begotten Son, who suffered death and a passion, by his death he destroyed your death, bathing you in his blood. So his blood and his death, by virtue of his divine nature united with the human, opened up eternal life. To whom did he leave the keys of this blood? To the glorious apostle St. Peter and to the others who have come and will come after him until the last day of judgment. They have and will have the same authority as Peter. By no fault of theirs is that authority diminished, nor is perfection withheld from the blood or from any sacrament…”[5]

And so she firmly declares: “Whoever disobeys the Christ on earth, who acts on behalf of Christ in heaven, will have no part in the fruit of the blood of the Son of God.”[6]

Therefore, the demand for holiness and devotion that Christ asks for the Pope is very great. This is why St. Catherine, in love, is moved to pray, suffer and sacrifice for the Vicar of Christ and the Church.

This is what the saint prayed: “Open the eyes of your Vicar on earth so that he may not love You for himself, nor himself for himself, but may love You for You and himself for You: for when he loves You for himself, we all suffer, since in him are our life and our death, and he has the charge of gathering us, the sheep that are perishing. If he loves himself for You and loves You for You, we live, because from the Good Shepherd we receive an example of life”.[7]

May the example of our brethren in heaven move us to grow in our regard for the figure of the Holy Father in faith, and to pray and sacrifice effectively for his holiness and for his fidelity to the ministry and office received from the Incarnate Word.

We finish with a quote from our Directory of Spirituality: “We make the teaching of Saint Ignatius of Loyola our own: ‘If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.’ Therefore, being certain that this is the will of Jesus Christ, ‘Let us remain deaf when someone speaks to us disregarding the Pope, or not explicitly in favour of the Pope, and when one is not in favour of the Church’s wholesome and precise doctrine; these are not fruits of the Heavenly Father, but wicked sprouts of heresies that produce murderous fruit.’ Let us always remember ‘that the Pope should be loved in the cross; and whoever does not love him in the cross, does not seriously love him. To be in everything with the Pope means to be in everything with God; to love Jesus Christ and to love the Pope is the same love,’ since ‘to love the Pope, to love the Church, is to love Jesus Christ.’”[8]

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 424.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 552.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 881.

[4] Fr. Luis Kondor SVD, Memories of Sister Lucía, vol. I, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fátima (Portugal), 2006, p. 50.

[5] Works of Saint Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, Ed. BAC, Madrid (Spain), 1996, §115, p. 267.

[6] Fr. José Salvador y Conde O.P., Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, Letter 207, Ed. San Esteban, Salamanca (Spain), 1982, p.761

[7] Works of Saint Catherine of Siena, Prayers and Soliloquies, Ed. BAC, Madrid (Spain), 1996, §1, p. 447.

[8] Spirituality Directory of the SSVM, 312.

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