The feast of the chair of Saint Peter is on February 22nd! This feast celebrates both an actual, physical, very old chair housed at the back of St. Peter’s Basilica . . . and the spiritual authority that the chair represents, passed down through apostolic succession from St. Peter to our current Holy Father.
What is the Chair of Saint Peter?
According to Pope Benedict XVI:
This is a very ancient tradition, proven to have existed in Rome since the fourth century. On it we give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his Successors. . . .
Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.General Audience, Feb. 22, 2006
So, this feast day is a chance to honor a very cool relic and also the position of pope.
What if I have some thoughts about the pope?
That’s allowed! We are all within our rights as Catholics to have opinions about the pope. We can think our current pope is great, or has room for improvement, or even think he is problematic and dangerous. There have been great popes throughout history, and medium popes, and popes who were flat out terrible and immoral and ordered hits on their enemies. There have been popes who resigned and popes who were martyred and popes who were murdered. The Church has survived all of it, and will continue to do so, and we get to have thoughts about all of it.
I would argue that regardless what’s going on in the Vatican, we should avoid . . .
- tying our personal Catholic faith to the greatness or terribleness of any particular pope
- claiming that the pope isn’t really the pope
- spending time and energy publicly criticizing the pope
Pope Francis is our Holy Father. If I have a questions or concerns or issues with my dad, I take it up with him personally. I wouldn’t want to air family disputes publicly. I wouldn’t do it on YouTube. I might talk to my brothers and sisters, sure. But definitely, I’d call my dad up or send him an email. I’d explain how I was feeling and the facts as I understood them, and I’d let him know what I hoped he would do to fix the situation.
What would Saint Catherine of Siena do?
Saint Catherine of Siena gives us an amazing example of this!
She wrote a number of letters to Pope Gregory XI (see all of her letters here), sending her love and support and her opposition to his decision to flee from enemies in Rome and live in Avignon.
So take a lesson from the true father and shepherd. For you see that now is the time to give your life for the little sheep who have left the flock. You must seek and win them back by using patience and war—by war I mean by raising the standard of the sweet blazing cross and setting out against the unbelievers. So you must sleep no longer, but wake up and raise that standard courageously. I am confident that by God’s measureless goodness you will win back the unbelievers and [at the same time] correct the wrongdoing of Christians, because everyone will come running to the fragrance of the cross, even those who have rebelled against you most.Catherine of Siena: Letter 74
To Pope Gregory XI, in Avignon
And it worked! She eventually convinced him to return to Rome.
Writing A Letter to the Pope for the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter
So . . . on February 22nd, we send Pope Francis some letters. Mostly it’s just my kids telling him what they had for lunch or that we have pet chickens. But you never know, I might have a suggestion here or there. And since he doesn’t have an email address, we write on PAPER and put it in an envelope and I address it and put postage on it and put it in a mailbox. So old school. I love it.
How to write a letter to Pope Francis:
His address is:
His Holiness Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
The proper salutation for a Catholic writing to the pope is: Your Holiness, or: Most Holy Father,
The proper closing for a Catholic writing to the pope is: I have the honor to profess myself with the most profound respect, your Holiness’ most obedient and humble servant, or: I am, Your Holiness, most respectfully yours in Christ,
The postage from the US to Vatican City is $1.30 or a global forever stamp.
Upgrade your correspondence game by writing your letter on this fancy and free letter template here:
So whether you’d like to send your love, or your constructive criticism, or tell him about a great sandwich you once had, writing a letter is a great activity for the feast day!
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