CATHOLIC COLLEGE, BENDIGO
FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER
22nd February, 2013
Today we ask God’s blessing on the beginning of the school year and are mindful of the wonderful history and charism that underpin this special school community of Catholic College, Bendigo. As well, February 22nd is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which celebrates the papacy and St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome, so we have rich traditions to celebrate as we gather here this morning.
I am sure you will remember the Gospel reading when Christ said to Peter: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church’ (Matthew 16:18). This commission did not come into its own until after the Resurrection, when Jesus renewed his command to Peter: feed my lambs; feed my sheep (Jn 21:16). After that, at the first Pentecost, Peter began the task set before him, acting as spokesman for the apostles, healing the sick and baptising thousands. He led the Church in Jerusalem for a time, then in Antioch, and finally in Rome, where he died. St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, is built on the site where his remains are buried, where there is also a beautiful, symbolic ‘chair’.
However, the Chair, or Cathedra to use the Latin term, literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community.
In Sandhurst, this is our Sacred Heart Cathedral here in Bendigo. When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd's crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he is appointed to guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.
Since the fourth century, and particularly now as we wait for the election of our next Pope, the celebration of this feast has reminded us that it is the See of Peter that unites us. It reminds us that our unity is the unity of all Catholic bishops in the world, as successors of the apostles, with the Bishop of Rome as their servant-leader. Over the years, some of the Church’s leaders have made mistakes; but the Church endures. It has been through crisis after crisis in the last 2000 years, but it keeps being regenerated and re-vitalised. So today is a day when we celebrate the unity of the Church, under the leadership of St Peter’s successor, our Pope.
A charism, or special gift, offers a source of unity, it holds a story, energy, and a dynamic which becomes real and actual only when it is believed, acted upon and shared. Catholic College too, continues each year to be re-energized, at the same time, keeping the focus of the charism which comes through the foundress of the Mercy Sisters, Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy who made their first foundation at your college in 1892. Since then, the sisters and those dedicated staff working with them have shown that Mercy spirituality takes its life from the gift of God's mercy as experienced in the Scriptures. Mercy feels deep compassion for those in need and seeks to meet this need in ways that are practical and kind.
Today’s gospel indeed reminds us that we are all required to follow a path of deep virtue. Catholic College holds this charism sent down through the ages from Catherine McAuley and her first companions who had a passion for education and responded to the many needs of their time with patience, compassion and justice. In 2013, we are charged to continue these ideals and to work to maintain this source of unity in situations in which we find ourselves in today’s world.
As you commence your new school year, students, teachers and parents, in much the same way as Catherine McAuley you too will all be challenged to find ways to make the world a better place. Remember her daring vision and courage, immense practicality, heartfelt compassion and humour and above all remember that she was a woman of prayer with total trust in God. At Catholic College, Bendigo, let us continue to celebrate her charism with joy and deep gratitude.
However, like Catherine, Saint Peter and the early Christians, you will also be challenged to hold fast to your Catholic beliefs and to continue to trust in God. I urge you to pray. Talk often with God. Speak to Him about your goals, pray that He will guide and support you.
Remember the challenges of Saint Peter and the early Christians and the first sisters of Mercy. Creating anything meaningful takes time. So today, at the beginning of 2013, I have a request to make of you, and that is: Keep doing your best at whatever study and work you take on this year. Mindful of the Mercy charism, keep giving of yourself to others in the kindliness of good and supportive friendships and keep nurturing strong faith. Keep close to your mother, father and family. And above all, keep close to God. As you commence this important school year, May the Lord bless you all and keep you safe in His care.