The children of Good Shepherd Catholic School poured into the church on Feb. 22, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, and eagerly awaited the start of the celebration of a special all-school Mass. The gathering was made more memorable with the veneration of a first-class relic, a piece of bone, from the first Pope of the Catholic Church – St. Peter.
“We are going to celebrate today, something very special because we have something that belonged to Peter. We call it a relic,” Bishop John Noonan told the children. “It may be a piece of his clothes or a piece of something very special to Peter, but it is part of him. So today we honor St. Peter and we pray for the Pope, because he is a follower of St. Peter, that he will do a good job in feeding all of the sheep, feeding all of the people and helping them to know Jesus.”
The community of Good Shepherd venerated the relic during the celebration of four Masses throughout the day, including a Mass in Spanish.
Entrusted to Father Joseph O’Neil, M.S, pastor, by his longtime friend, the late Brother Peter Collins, M.S., the relic will ultimately find its permanent home in the altar of the parish’s new church currently under construction.
“Being able to venerate the relic of St. Peter was a wonderful and special event for the Year of Faith,” Father O’Neil said. “And as the Conclave gathers to name a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, it offers us boundless opportunities to pray for our retired leader and for our new pope.”
The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrates the papacy of St. Peter, the Church’s first pope. Matthew 16:13-18 recounts the moment Jesus chose Peter to sit in his place as the authority of the Church. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” and they replied, John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. He then turned to Peter, a member of his inner circle and asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus proclaimed that this revelation came to Peter through his Heavenly Father and said to him, “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.”
Relics: The Church has a tradition of honoring relics (a part of a saint’s body, any part of their clothing or something closely connected to them) of the saints and martyrs because the Church recognizes that in honoring the saints and martyrs in this way, the faithful also honor Christ for whom they lived and died. Thus, relics are meant to inspire Catholics with a greater devotion to God through a particular saint’s example.