Christian Unity – Foundation

+JMJ+ Welcome to Day 4 of the Octave of Christian Unity. In Conversation with God,* by Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal, is what I’m using as a jumping off place for this series of posts. I’ll refer to it as ICWG with volume & page number hereafter, or Ibid. Tonight’s keyword is Foundation, specifically, the Foundation of our Unity. Notes and links will be at the end of the post.

This chapter of the book begins with this sentence.

“The primacy of Peter is realized in the Church in the person of the Roman Pontiff.”

ICWG, vol 6, p. 39.

He then reminds us that Jesus began calling His disciples by calling Andrew and his brother Simon. Jesus immediately renamed Simon, giving him the name Peter. Now, Peter was not used as a proper name at that time. The word meant “rock” (Cephas in Aramaic, Petras in Greek). See this article by Steve Ray. Jesus renamed Simon because He was giving Simon a mission, just like God did in the Old Testament when He renamed Abram to Abraham. These name changes signify something. 

But they do more than signify. Remember what we are taught in catechism class, those of us blessed to have taken part in such a thing, a good one, I mean. We are taught that sacraments are symbols, yes, but, as Catholics, we do not hear the “mere” word that non-Catholics almost invariably hear when they hear the word “symbol” or “symbolizes” or “signifies.” What do we hear? We hear what is said. Symbol, symbolizes, signifies. But we also hear “efficacious symbol.” A symbol that affects that which it symbolizes. It actually brings about the thing that it signifies or symbolizes. So changing Abram’s name to Abraham was not some quaint bit of silliness but was actually and really bringing about a change in Abram’s mission and destiny and in the man and in the world because of it. 

I’ve read somewhere that the “H” that God inserted into Abram’s name signifies Life and notice that “H” is part of God’s own Name, YHVH. This addition of “H” to Abram’s name makes him the father of nations, even if those nations come about later and Abram/Abraham never sees them himself. Not in this lifetime, anyway. (Not a hint at reincarnation, but simply acknowledging that the Lord could allow him to see those generations in the next life, if He so willed.) 

Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter (Petros) to signify that He is going to build His Church upon the foundation, the Rock, that is Peter. Jesus is acting the way God acted upon Abram, because Jesus is God, God the Son. 

Now, it is true, ultimately, that Christ Himself is our foundation but Christ chose Simon Peter to be the leader of His Church. Not because of anything Peter was, not because he was rich or famous or particularly intellectual, or brave, or witty or charming, but because He wanted to work through him. This way Jesus would be able to point to Peter and say, “He can do all things through Me working through him. Period.” 

Peter went on in his life to prove that Jesus knew him very well and absolutely right. Peter did almost everything wrong, but Jesus forgave him and showed him kindness and love and mercy.

And Peter repented and went on to be faithful to the Lord even unto death on a cross like his Lord, though it was upside down as Peter desired because of his humility. 

And who can forget that Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat when he heard Jesus call him, and actually walked on water! To mock the man and look down on him, as some do, is appallingly lacking in humility unless one has walked on water lately and has video to prove it.

“Peter’s superiority is not due to his personality but to his vocation from Christ. The Second Vatican Council has taught, ‘The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’

Ibid., 41.

A most important event and text is the one where Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom, and tells him that whatever he (Peter) binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (See Matt 16:16-20.) This is Jesus giving Peter authority in the Church and over the Church. He is restoring the Davidic kingdom and making Peter His Prime Minister, an office that will continue with Peter’s successors. Also, in “those days of walled cities, giving over the keys was symbolic of handing over public authority.” Peter will be the Vicar of Christ, “responsible for nourishing the other apostles and all Christians, regardless of his own personal inadequacies.” (Ibid., 41-43.) And he definitely had inadequacies, as do all human beings.

“The Papacy is the guarantee of Christian unity and is the well-spring of true ecumenism…We should live the Communion of the Saints by praying every day for his person and intentions.”

Ibid., 44.

That the current situation is what it is, I take to mean that we have not prayed enough for the Pope or for the other bishops, either. We criticize and complain but when asked to pray for him, we balk. He needs our prayers as much as Moses needed the Israelites to hold his arms up.

“And when Moses lifted up his hands, Israel overcame: but if he let them down a little, Amalec overcame. And Moses’ hands were heavy: so they took a stone, and put under him, and he sat on it: and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands on both sides. And it came to pass that his hands were not weary until sunset.”

Exodus 17: 11-14, DRB.

Without his brothers (I don’t mean only relatives) holding up his arms, he could not have helped Israel win the battle. Jesus prayed for Peter. That’s even better than anything his fellow disciples could do for him. 

“And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.”

Luke 22:31-32, DRB.

If we do not help the Pope hold his arms up (and keep the faith), if we do not implore the Lord to intercede for him, we have perhaps ourselves to blame if he runs into some difficulties. At least, we cannot say that we did our part to help him if we do not pray for him.

Fr. Carvajal finishes this chapter with these words.

“Love for the Pope is a distinguishing characteristic of Catholics, and is a bond of unity. The Pope represents for us the tangible presence of Jesus, the sweet Christ on earth.”

Ibid., 44.

How many of us can read these words with serenity? Some can’t read them without serious anger. We need to pray for each other and for him. How can we speak of unity with our separated brethren when we don’t have unity among ourselves? (I didn’t say it would be easy. We need to do it anyway.)

Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and become who you were meant to be: a saint! May the Lord bless and keep you, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+

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Notes and Links

  • In Conversation with God, by Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal. 7 volumes, vinyl cover with dust jacket, boxed. I’ve used these since my early days of conversion.  And I always see something new and/or come to a deeper appreciation of it. (Amazon affiliate link. See Full Disclosure below.)
  • Not to be confused with that other set of books, Conversations with God, a very New Age set of books. I always need to point this out because there’s always someone who looks at me sideways when I say mention the Catholic books.
  • Did Jesus Re-name Simon the “Rock” – Confusion with Petra, Cephas, Rock and Peter, by Steve Ray, former Protestant pastor and convert to the Catholic Church.
  • Live Rosary Threads: Follow me @disciple96 on Twitter at 7pm Central, Tuesdays and Fridays. See the Rosary Project Live Archives to see what the threads are like. I’m adding Christian Unity tweets to the threads during the Octave. Maybe beyond.

Image credits:

  • In the series banner: The Last Supper, by Philippe de Champaigne. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
  • The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, by Caravaggio, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • Peter denying Christ, by Carl Bloch, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • The miraculous draught of fish, by Datei Konrad Witz, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • Saint Peter Attempting to Walk on Water, by Francois Boucher, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • Jesus Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter, by Guido Reni, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • Christ’s Charge to Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens, Wikimedia Commons, public domain, The Wallace Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.
  • Moses with Aaron and Hur holding his arms up, by Thomas Brigstocke, Aberystwyth University, School of Art Gallery and Museum.
  • St. Peter Preaching in Jerusalem, Charles Poerson, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
  • St. Peter Praying, by Matthias Stom, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Copyright: All material on Catholic Heart and Mind is Copyright © 2009-2021 Lee Lancaster, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. See Permissions and Copyright for more. Quoted material belongs to others and they retain their copyright. Most images and quoted material are in the public domain except where otherwise noted.

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