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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Chair of Peter

Most American Catholics, like their countrymen of other faiths, are aware that today is the birthday of George Washington, our first president as well as the general who won American independence.

In the Church calendar, however, Feb. 22 has another significance. For today is also the Feast of the Chair of Peter. The Liturgy of the Hours explains it this way: "Since the fourth century, the feast of the Chair of Peter has been celebrated at Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle."

Imperfect as that unity is, and imperfect as Peter was and his successors have been, I am grateful for the gift of authority represented by that chair at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It is a blessing to Catholics, not a burden.

The current occupant of that chair, Pope Benedict XVI, recently sat down with German journalist Peter Seewald for six hours of conversation that were published in book form as Light of the World. It is a fascinating insight into the mind of a great theologian who is also a great pastor.

You may have read some controversial excerpts from this book that became journalistic fodder for a few news cycles late last year. The book is a lot more than that, and excerpts just don't do it justice. Buy a copy or pick it up at the library and see for yourself.

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