"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." (Matthew 16:18)
Two and a half years ago, I walked under that glorious dome of St. Peter's Basilica and saw this verse inscribed around the dome looking down on the man who now walks in the shoes of the Fisherman. It is providential that we celebrate today the feast of The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle during the final day's of the pontificate of his successor Benedict XVI. This feast celebrates the unity we have to the Bishop of Rome who has worthily defended and spread the faith of our Lord during the last 8 years. We celebrate that Christ chose a man, frail as we are, to be the rock on which he would build his church. Now in these days of historic and unprecedented transition, we are called to prayer and to be more united to Peter both in the person of Pope Benedict during his final days and in the man who will soon succeed him. He will confront a world that has forgotten God, and a world that seeks to dictate to us what we ought to believe as Catholics.
I am always amused, bewildered, and frustrated all at the same time when I watch news coverage of the Pope's resignation and the election of his successor. Pundits, most of them not Catholic, seek to tell us what kind of pontiff the College of Cardinals should elects. I hear the words "progressive" and "change" tossed about as if the Church was in need of some radical change. Change is always in the air when a church is guided by the Spirit and that is what the world does not understand, but that change is personal, internal, and in the heart. The "change" the world is looking for is a faith that is more in line with the views and norms of the world. Unfortunately, that is not the the Church that was founded on the rock. Because we are founded on that rock, there are truths and morals that cannot and will not change. I hear constantly that the new Pope must do this and must change that. They say he must let priests get married. I am so honored and humbled that so many who aren't even Catholic are so concerned about my marital status when, quite frankly, I am not. What the world fails to recognize in our glorious Church is that she has been around for 2000 years and this bark of St. Peter has weathered strong tempests before, some self-inflicted, but the Good Lord always calms the storm and the steady hand of Peter steers us through these storms by preaching the same truths that Christ himself preached long ago. So many attack the Church for holding firm to these truths, for not budging on what is right and what is wrong, and for defending the faith and morals given to us by our Savior. When founding the Church, Christ promised that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." This is our faith. This is why we stand under the dome of St. Peter's, kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in our parishes, and profess every Sunday that we believe in "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Let the pundits pontificate and speculate as we kneel in prayer during this time of grace. We rely on the Holy Spirit and implore his guidance upon the College of Cardinals who are charged with the solemn task of electing one who is worthy to sit in the Chair of St. Peter.