February 22: Some Thoughts on The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

st. peter 2st. peter

Since the fourth century the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle has been celebrated at Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle.  This is an image of Pope St. Peter sitting on the throne from the Jubilee Year of 1950. Although the artwork of the item is crude, the plastic container embedded into the statue has a little case of dirt from his tomb. The container has the symbol of the papacy on it, the cross keys and tiara.

The statue is a replica of the one in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Notice the extended foot of the saint has been reverenced so many times it has literally been rubbed smooth.

st. peter in rome

Father Rich:

Last Monday we had President’s Day in the United States, which was established in 1885 to honor President George Washington’s birthday. Officially it is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of February, giving our federal government a three day weekend. However his actual birth is this Monday, the 22nd of February, which I find interesting, because that day is a national holiday in another country: Vatican City State. What President’s Day is to the United States, February 22nd is to the Vatican.

It might as well be called “Pope’s Day,” but it isn’t. The Church celebrates the feast day “The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle” every February 22nd, honoring the authority of the office of Pope. And, like in the US for President’s Day, all official Vatican offices are closed and  on holiday on this date.

Because of my long fascination with the history of the papacy, for years this has been my favorite liturgical feast day. And for the Catholic Church it is a pretty high ranking feast, as it is one of the few times during Lent that the commemoration takes precedence over the season: liturgically speaking, Monday the 22nd is not Lent.

So I hope you all enjoy a great Pope’s Day on Monday.

I know I will.  –Father Rich

Father brought relics  to Mass to venerate after Mass: they are first class relics of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.  He also used a 19th century chalice, which is new to his papal artifacts’ Collection.  Details about all of these precious artifacts made be found at Papal Artifacts.com.

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chalice, new

The chalice is a very ornate and beautiful artifact that dates between the years 1814 and 1870. Unlike the chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII,  it does not have a particular pope’s coat of arms. And so we can only surmise that it was used by a pope, but we know it was used in service of the pope because of the maker’s mark located on the lip of the chalice.

Every metal worker, jeweler, and medal maker or silversmith addmaker’s marks to the items they create. This practice also allows us to identify the time period in which the item was created.

This chalice indicates it was made between 1814-1870 because it has a maker’s mark of the cross keys and tiara–a very, very tiny mark in this piece of metal. This was just to show it was made in service to the Holy Father.  In the case of this chalice, it was added to the lip, the middle and the base.  On the base, the name of the priest who gave this chalice to St. Charles’ Church is also included.

Beginning in 1814 fine metal artists in the Papal States used this particular maker’s mark. Napoleon Bonaparte had released Pius VII from custody after nearly four years. Jubilation was so great in Rome upon his release that the artists started putting this maker’s mark of cross keys and tiara on their works in honor of the Holy Father’s safety. That practice continued until 1870 when the Papal States were taken over by United Italy.

There is no indication that any one particular pope used this chalice, but the symbol of the cross keys and tiara maker’s mark deem this totally appropriate for this Collection.

It is interesting to speculate in whose hands and on what altars this 200-year-old chalice was used. It always goes back to the central source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist. It is part of the living history of the Eucharist and the priests who are its celebrants. It helps us to recognize that the Eucharist is a part of the living history of the papacy.   Father Richard Kunst.