Today’s feast tells you what you need to know about Christian unity

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Chair of St. Peter
Chair of St. Peter in St. Peter's Basilica. Shutterstock

The chair of St. Peter the Apostle

Feast day: February 22

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which honors the special role given to the apostle Peter by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Christ asks his apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And it is Simon Peter who responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” At this reply, Jesus confers on him a new name with a special mission, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 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” (Matthew 16:13-19). Today’s feast day recognizes this teaching authority of the Gospel given to St. Peter and his successors in the papacy.

Honoring this special authoritative mission given to each pope is also a means of rejoicing in the unity of the Church bestowed on her by Christ. It is this unity of all Christians through the papacy which distinguishes the Christian faith. Jesus has left us, his followers, with a means of understanding the Truth which he imparted particularly to his apostles.

Today’s feast dates back to the third century and is separate from the celebration of Peter’s martyrdom of June 29. Historically, February 22 was also considered the anniversary of the day when Peter bore witness to the divinity of Christ by the Sea of Tiberias, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)

The early Church Father St. Jerome shares his joy of this feast day with us: “I decided to consult the Chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once I received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built.”

And from St. Augustine we learn, “The institution of today’s solemnity took the name ‘Chair’ from our predecessors due to the fact that it is said that the first apostle, Peter, occupied this Episcopal Cathedra. It is right, therefore, that the Churches venerate the origins of this See, which the Apostle accepted for the good of the Churches.”


Thank you, Lord Jesus, for caring so much for all of us as your followers, that you gave us a visible authority for guidance to keep all Christians together. May we ever thank you for protecting us under the guidance of all of your shepherds but especially under that given to the successors of St. Peter.


Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Maryella Hierholzer

Maryella Hierholzer is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and did graduate work at Georgetown University. After concluding a career in the Washington area, she is now retired in Indiana where she is a teacher of adult and youth faith formation at her parish. She is also a volunteer at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne.