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PAPAL TITLE CHALLENGES US TO SERVE TOO...

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Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

Our liturgy today does not revolve around a piece of furniture! Rather it draws our attention to the position of the leadership in the Church: in modern parlance we would say that Peter was appointed by Jesus to be the 'chairman of the board' and the term 'chair' refers to the seat of power and the place from where an organisation is controlled.

The description 'Servant of the servants of God' has traditionally been the title of the person who occupies the Chair of Peter. It is a very interesting one for the person who holds earthly power over the Church: the power to bind and loose was given by Jesus to the Church, and the Pope in a unique way holds that power as a trust for all the people of God. Peter was the first to carry the weight of this awesome responsibility.

So often people in authority who hold power are seen as anything but servants. Many of them use their power for personal gain, in material wealth or more control over people's lives. Peter warns us in his Letter today against the dangers of coercion and profit, knowing only too well that his authority was given to him to be of service to the people.

St. Pope John Paul II reminded us regularly that we have a responsibility to serve. How many times have we heard him remind us that the poor are our brothers and sisters, warning us of the dangers of becoming too complacent in our affluence and power, and of ignoring those around us who are in need? He was making real the title 'Servant of the servants of God' - and asking us to make that mandate of service real in our lives.

A saint who can teach us devotion to the Holy Father the Pope is my Capuchin brother Padre Pio. His life spanned the reigns of St. Pope Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Blessed Pius XII, St. John XXIII and lasted into that of Blessed Paul VI. His first prayer each morning was for the reigning Pontiff who for him was the gentle Christ on Earth, “For me, after Christ, there is no one but the Pope.” He was grief-stricken when he heard the news of the death of Pope Pius X in 1914, calling him “a Pope whose equal Rome had never seen.”

St. Padre Pio had an intense and continual interest in everything the Pope said and did. Many times he was heard to repeat, “I would give my life a thousand times for the Pope and for the Church.” In an age when the deepest hurts inflicted on the Church and the Pope often come from within the ranks, he showed his great love and total obedience to the person and teaching of the Pope which form a very important part of his message for us today. When the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' was under attack both from inside and outside the Church, St. Padre Pio wrote to Pope Paul VI, “I know that your heart is suffering very much these days. I offer you my daily prayers and sufferings as a little and sincere thought from the least of your children, so that God will comfort you with His grace to follow the straight and painful way in defence of eternal truth which does not change with the passing of time.” Following the example of St. Padre Pio we should resolve to pray for the Pope every day that his faith will not fail and that he will be a tower of strength to lead all peoples to God.