Chair of Peter

Matthew 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved

Meaning of “the Chair”

Why do we celebrate “the chair” of St. Peter? The Benedictine scholars at the Abbey of Beuron in Germany offer the following thoughts. For ten days in February the ancient pagan Romans remembered their deceased relatives. Food and a chair (cathedra) were readied for them. The Christians substituted a feast remembering Peter, their father in faith.

In time the chair became a symbol for the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome. And where he preached, and taught, and celebrated the Holy Eucharist, became known as the cathedral. So, echoing the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, we celebrate the important teaching office in Catholic Church: “You are Peter… I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.


St. Peter, whose heart was pierced with one look from Jesus, pray for us.
St. Peter; who cried out, “Lord, you know that I love you,” pray for us.
St. Peter, bound in chains for Christ, pray for us.
St. Peter, whose very shadow healed the sick, pray for us.
St. Peter, that we may have a constant and mutual charity among ourselves, pray for us.
That we may be zealous in loyalty to your successor, Pope Francis, pray for us.
That we may be prudent and watchful in prayer, pray for us.
That we may die the death of the just, pray for us.

—Excerpt from the Litany of St. Peter