The Chair of Unity Octave

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The Chair of Unity Octave

St. Peter, the Foundation Stone of Christ’s True Church the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome is celebrated on January 18th. This important Feast was instituted, in part, in response to the ridiculous rumor spread by ignorant Protestant heretics that St. Peter had never come to Rome. Yet, following his seven year reign in Antioch, St. Peter did in fact travel to Rome to establish his See, and there shed his blood for our Crucified Savior. This Feast also enshrines the solemn dogma of Papal Infallibility, and the Supreme Apostolic Authority conferred upon St. Peter by Our Divine Lord. St. Paul the Apostle likewise came to Rome towards the close of his apostolic career, and was also martyred there for Christ. The Feast of his Conversion is observed on January 25th. Holy Mother Church has always united her praises for the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, with Her veneration for the zeal and holiness of St. Paul, a “vessel of election” for the spread of the infant Church. Thus, She has reserved eight days of solemn prayer–from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul–for the observance of “The Chair of Unity Octave”; eight days of solemn prayer for the Apostolic Catholic Church.

These eight days of solemn prayer for Unity possess a doctrinal significance which is of critical importance. As Catholics know, one of the chief essential “Marks” (or visible qualities) of the Church established by Christ is that Unity for which He prayed at the Last Supper. As Jesus asked “that they may be one…”, His prayer was immediately granted by the Eternal Father, as it was the request (on the very eve of His death) of His Only Begotten Son, to Whom nothing is refused. Therefore, His Church has now, and will always have, that Unity (or oneness) of teaching, worship, and government which is so evidently a sign of truth, “the same yesterday, today, and the same forever.” It was for this reason that Christ established Peter as “the Rock”, or Foundation of His Church, against which the Gates of Hell could never prevail.

Consistent with Christ’s words, therefore, the only unity for which the Church and her faithful children can pray, is that which results from the conversion of those who are outside the One, True Fold of the Church. Thus, each of the days of the Chair of Unity Octave is dedicated to prayers for the conversion of some poor segment of mankind which is still “walking in darkness,” imploring that they may open their hearts to God’s grace, and return to the true Shepherd of their souls. This is the exercise of true charity. To imagine, as do the liberal ecumenists of our day, that we can achieve “unity” by pretending that those outside the Church do not stand in desperate need of conversion, is to deny the foundation of Christ’s True Church, and to renounce the very reason for the heroic apostolic labors and martyrdom of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

The Church also prays for that unity which draws her faithful children closer together in a spirit of humility and charity, by their fervent living of the great “law of love” taught by Jesus Christ Our Lord. Finally, we are exhorted to pray and to work for that unity which results from our own humble obedience, respect, and loyalty to the Apostolic Authority of the Church, which will, in fulfillment of Christ’s promise, remain with us, even unto the consummation of the world.

St. Peter’s Chair at Rome

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St. Peter’s Chair at Rome

ST. PETER having triumphed over the devil in the East, pursued him to Rome in the person of Simon Magus. He who had formerly trembled at the voice of a poor maid, now feared not the very throne of idolatry and superstition. The capital of the empire of the world, and the centre of impiety, called for the zeal of the prince of the apostles. God had established the Roman empire, and extended its dominion beyond that of any former monarchy, for the more easy propagation of his gospel. Its metropolis was of the greatest importance for this enterprise. St. Peter took that province upon himself; and repairing to Rome there preached the faith and established his episcopal chair, whose successors the bishops of Rome have been accounted in all ages. That St. Peter founded that church by his preaching, is expressly asserted by Caius, 1 a priest of Rome under Pope Zephyrinus; who relates also that his body was then on the Vatican hill, and that of his fellow-labourer, St. Paul, on the Ostian road. That he and St. Paul planted the faith at Rome, and were both crowned with martyrdom at the same time, is affirmed by Dionysius, 2 bishop of Corinth, in the second age. St. Irenæus 3 who lived in the same age, calls the church at Rome “The greatest and most ancient church, founded by the two glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” Eusebius, in several places, 4 mentions St. Peter’s being at Rome, and the several important transactions of this apostle in that city. Not to mention Origen, 5 Hegesippus, 6 Arnobius, 7 St. Ambrose, 8 St. Austin, 9 St. Jerom, 10 St. Optatus, 11 Orosius, 12 and others on the same subject. 13 St. Cyprian 14 calls Rome the chair of St. Peter, (as Theodoret 15 calls it his throne,) which the general councils and ecclesiastical writers, through every age, and on every occasion, repeat. That St. Peter at least preached in Rome, founded that church, and died there by martyrdom under Nero, are facts the most incontestable by the testimony of all writers of different countries, who lived near that time; persons of unquestionable veracity, and who could not but be informed of the truth, in a point so interesting, and of its own nature so public and notorious, as to leave them no possibility of a mistake. This is also attested by monuments of every kind; also by the prerogatives, rights, and privileges, which that church enjoyed from those early ages, in consequence of this title. 1
It was an ancient custom, as Cardinal Baronius 16 and Thomassin 17 show by many examples, observed by churches to keep an annual festival of the consecration of their bishops. The feast of the chair of St. Peter is found in ancient Martyrologies, as in one under the name of St. Jerom, at Esternach, copied in the time of St. Willibrord, in 720. Christians justly celebrate the founding of this mother-church, the centre of Catholic communion, in thanksgiving to God for his mercies on his church, and to implore his future blessings. 2

Christ has taught us, in the divine model of prayer which he has delivered to us, that we are bound to recommend to him, before all other things, the exaltation of his own honour and glory, and to beg that the kingdom of his holy grace and love be planted in all hearts. If we love God above all things, and with our whole hearts, or have any true charity for our neighbour, this will be the centre of all our desires, that God be loved and served by all his creatures, and that he be glorified, in the most perfect manner, in our own souls. By placing this at the head of our requests, we shall most strongly engage God to crown all our just and holy desires. As one of his greatest mercies to his church, we most earnestly beseech him to raise up in it zealous pastors, eminently replenished with his Spirit, with which he animated his apostles. 3

Note 1. Apud Eus. l. 2. c. 24. alias 25.
Note 2. Ibid.
Note 3. L. 3. c. 3.
Note 4. L. 2. c. 13 and 15, &c.
Note 5. Ib. l. 3. c. 1.
Note 6. L. de Excid. Hier. c. 1. and 3.
Note 7. L. 3.
Note 8. Ser. de Basilicis.
Note 9. L. de Hæres, c. 1. &c.
Note 10. L. 17. ad Marcell.
Note 11. Adv. Parm.
Note 12. L. 7. c. 1.
Note 13. The general opinion with Eusebius, St. Jerom, and the Roman calendar, fixes the first arrival of St. Peter at Rome in the second year of Claudius. If this date be true, the apostle returned into the East soon after; for he was imprisoned in Judæa, by Agrippa, in the year of Christ 43. Lactantius does not mention this first coming of St. Peter to Rome, but only the second, saying, that he came to Rome in the reign of Nero, who put him and St. Paul to death. L. de Mort. Persec. n. 2.
Note 14. Ep. 55. ad Cornel. pap.
Note 15. L. 2. c. 17.
Note 16. Note in Martyr.
Note 17. Tr. des Fêtes, l. 2. c. 10.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.