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.