Celebrating the Chair of St. Peter

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I was blessed to spend some time with the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Boston when I first entered vocation work.  Even though I had been ordained 1 ½ years by then and had taken seriously my own understanding and commitment to obedience and thought I understood the way the hierarchy of the Church worked; Fr. Hennessy shared with me something that I have never forgotten, that shapes the way I look at everything I do as a priest and as a Catholic Christian.  After speaking of “best practices” and the highlights and challenges of a Vocation Director; Father reminded me that it was Jesus, the Lord Himself who had appointed me and it is He who I work for – we all do.  He was not being disrespectful towards my bishop, Cardinal Collins (or his for that matter) but he impressed upon me that our bishops don’t take lightly the decisions they make and pray fervently in their appointments.  If I’m only looking at my ministry as something I’m doing for my bishop, I won’t be doing what he wants or needs of me.  If I see what I am doing as for the Lord whom we are both obedient to; I am going to miss part of the picture my bishop depends upon me to see.  My bishop fills the same roll I do to him for someone else: the pope.  Again, God’s choice through prayer (prayer of the College of Cardinals).  I’ve been thinking of this one today as we celebrate the Chair of St. Peter, and as I think of the Holy Father and the Holy Fathers I have known.  There have been 5 popes in my lifetime, and many more in the lifetimes of others.  They are all so very different.  Some we relate to perhaps better than others.  Some we remember with fondness, some we learned much from, some are more present, some are more “mysterious” and offer profound fatherly wisdom to us – but one of the greatest things we can remind ourselves is that they are most profoundly Servants of the Lord and our servants.  We need to value the papacy as it far exceeds anything the man in the “chair” can offer.  But we need to respect the man who is in the Chair, for the Office he holds is of the Lord.  He may not be perfect (in fact he isn’t and wouldn’t claim to be) but neither was St. Peter.  We are blessed as Catholic Christians to have St. Peter’s successor, for like St. Peter himself, he keeps us together, he keeps us on track and on course and he keeps us, as he seeks to keep Himself close to the Master so that we all can live our lives fully and completely as Disciples of the Lord in the ways that we do.

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