Letter from Fr. Allen: Chair of St Peter - February 21, 2019



Dear Friends,

The image [below] shows the great reliquary of the Chair of St. Peter in the apse of St Peter's Basilica. The reliquary, in gilt bronze, is the work of the great renaissance artist Bernini. I'm not usually a fan of the baroque myself, but the reliquary is an astonishing work of art, with its contrast of putti and monumental Doctors of the Church eastern and western (Chrysostom and Athanasius, Augustine and Ambrose).

But all that of course is only the reliquary. The relic it contains is an oak chair, not at all comfortable looking, trimmed with ivory. It is missing pieces and pretty worm-eaten as well. The chair was a gift to Pope John VIII from Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor, in the AD 875. For many centuries it was believed to have been the actual chair St Peter, that in which he sat to teach while in Rome, though more modern investigations by the Vatican have revealed that it dates from the 6th century. Nevertheless, the chair represents teaching authority of Peter and his successors, and their vocation and duty to preside over the whole Church in charity. 

As you know, our Ordinariate takes its name from this Chair and the gift of authority and love it represents (particular for those of us for whom, in former days, "the lack of papal primacy and the Magisterium [was] experienced as an ecclesial deficit," as Cardinal Müller once put it). This year our "Solemnity of the Title" is transferred from its usual date of February 22nd to this Sunday. We will keep the feast at our 11AM Mass, and continue our prayer and praise with Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 4.30PM. I hope you will join us!

I ask you to pray for the Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church, called by Pope Francis, which began earlier today at the Vatican, that the meeting will be an effective exercise of the power of Peter's Chair, and so a turning point in battle against the filth of sexual abuse in the Church. Today is the memorial of St. Peter Damien, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, a reformer who crusaded against clerical sexual abuse and licentiousness in his own time. May he intercede for the Church our time as well!

God bless you,
Fr Allen