Fr. Daniel Gifford
THE BOAT OF PETER
“The Teacher saw two boats moored by the shore; the fishermen had disembarked and
were washing their nets. He then asked permission to board the boat, which was Simon’s, and requested him to put out a little from the land. Sitting on that improvised seat, He began to teach the crowds from the boat. Thus, the boat of Peter becomes the chair of Jesus.” This insight from our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI invites us to ponder how subtly, yet strikingly the early call to discipleship issued to the humble fisherman in this weekend’s Gospel foreshadows his calling to become the first pope (recall that, in Biblical imagery, the chair symbolizes the seat from which the appointed one teaches with authority). As we read this call of the first pope, I would like to reflect upon the window (front cover) in our vestibule, which contains the crest of the pope at the time that our church was built: Pius XII.
This crest makes clear use of the imagery of the Church as the boat of Peter, since it not only contains the typical papal images of the keys and the papal tiara, but these are centered around an image of Noah’s dove, which he sent out from the ark to search for dry land. The branch in the dove’s mouth is symbolic that the time of trial endured by the flood, during which time they found safe refuge within the boat, would not last forever. In fact, it’s end was in sight. For us, we don’t always know that the end of our trials is quite yet in sight, but we can remain confident and hopeful in this far simpler truth: this will not last forever. Pius XII was given care of the flock during a very difficult time in history, filled with trial. His role within the trials of the Second World War are often misunderstood or misrepresented. You can find some interesting information on Formed.org (access through the link on our website if you haven’t yet set up a login) in the video, “Pius XII and the Holocaust,” as well as other helpful resources about him and other popes throughout history, especially in the movies and documentaries under the “Watch” tab. Various other resources will tell a wide array of tales of some of the less saintly popes throughout history. Sadly, it would be unrealistic to pretend that all of these sometimes embarrassing, other times far more troubling, tales are all mere fabrications designed to discredit the Church. However, it would be equally unrealistic to presume that there is no distortion, misrepresentation, and even sometimes outright fabrication that does take place in efforts to discredit Christ’s Church, as He promised that His Apostles would be hated, as so many hated Him first. It can be difficult to sift through these different representations. So, we must simply be cautious and discerning, slow to react, since history shows us time and again how hasty reaction can make problems worse, and quick to pray for our Church, both for her freedom and for her purification. The history of the papacy may indeed be well summarized by the dialogue in this week’s Gospel between Our Lord and the first pope. Peter falls to his knees and begs Him, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus simply replies, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” No pope has ever been perfect. All were sinners, like you and I. But, all were called to be saints. Many cooperated with grace and became saints. Others, it certainly seems, did not answer this call to holiness. The process of responding to this call involves ongoing humility and repentance, courageously allowing the Lord to transform our lives each day. As we continue to pray for our Holy Father and all of our leaders, may we also strive to be faithful to this process in our own lives, that we may allow the Lord to transform us into the saints we were made to be.
FEBRUARY BOYS TEC WEEKEND: As I have mentioned a few times already in the announcements, I will be serving as Spiritual Advisor for the February Boys TEC (Teens Encounter Christ). These three-day retreats for teens ages 16-20 can be very powerful turning points in the lives of young people. I can personally bear witness to this, as it was a strong part of my own journey as a teenager. Not only was it influential in my eventual discernment of seminary, but also in my initial conversion back to the faith. I am sharing this with the whole parish for two reasons. First, I will be devoting the bulk of my time and attention that weekend (February 23-25) to the retreat. But, also because I want to extend a special invitation, along with our fellow parishioner Mario Carlone, who is the leader for the weekend, to any young men 16-20 to join us for this weekend away from the busyness and drama that so often clutters our lives. Come away with us to spend a weekend with the Lord and you will not regret it! Young ladies will have a similar opportunity next month with the Girls TEC (Mar 30-Apr 1). Please help us by praying for the weekend and by inviting any young people in these age groups to consider this great opportunity.
In Christ through Mary, Fr. Gifford
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!