Sunday, February 18, 2018

10 Ideas for Celebrating the Chair of St. Peter with Children

My youngest son has taken, recently, to looking at our calendar to read what holidays and holy days are coming up. This week, he noticed that February 22 is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. When I asked him what he thought that day is about, my daughter popped up saying, "because St. Peter was the first pope and the chair's a holy relic." My youngest then added that "St. Peter was given God's authority", and popes might have "big power" on the chair.

To a degree, both my daughter and son are right. St. Peter was, indeed, the first pope, and St. Peter's Chair has become a holy relic, which symbolizes, as His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus said, "
the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity." 

Further, when any pope speaks ex cathedra, which is Latin for "from the chair", his pronouncements are considered to be infallible. That is, indeed, a pretty powerful thing.  

However, "the power" is not really the pope's. It is God's, and the infallible pronouncements of the pope need not to be made when sitting on the actual physical Chair or St. Peter (or when seated at all for that matter.) Rather, when a pope speaks "from the chair", it is a figurative thing, which means that the pope is drawing on the fullness of authority granted him as a successor to St. Peter in offering teachings made about particular matters pertaining to faith and morals. So, not everything  the pope says is infallible and that which is given as infallible need not be proclaimed when seated on the chair.

That means that on January 22, when we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, we are not so much celebrating a physical chair as we are recognizing the
specialness -or primacy, of Peter and his successors - and recalling the authority God granted them in their mission to shepherd us - the Church - with their pastoral power

As we think about the symbolism of the Chair of St. Peter, we reflect upon the love, presence, and protection of Christ for us - the Church - as demonstrated in the special role Christ gave to St. Peter and his successors.

So How Do We Celebrate the Chair of St. Peter with Children?

1.  Look at the Chair of St. Peter and chat about its symbolism.

Take children on a virtual tour of the Chair of St. Peter by looking at various images of the actual piece of furniture encased in an ornate sculpture by Bernini located in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, and, then, discuss how this monumental physical object represents an even more stupendous spiritual authority.

2.  Have fun with measurements. 
Refer to the Catholic Encyclopedia, which states that the original seat:

" about one foot ten inches above the ground, and two feet eleven and seven-eighths inches wide; the sides are two feet one and one-half inches deep; the height of the back up to the tympanum is three feet five and one-third inches; the entire height of the chair is four feet seven and one-eighth inches. According to the examination then made by Padre Garucci and Giovanni Battista de Rossi, the oldest portion ... is a perfectly plain oaken arm-chair with four legs connected by cross-bars. The wood is much worm-eaten, and pieces have been cut from various spots at different times, evidently for relics. To the right and left of the seat four strong iron rings, intended for carrying-poles, are set into the legs..."

Then, get out measuring tools and - perhaps cardboard boxes - and measure out the dimensions of the original chair after taking a peak at what the chair looked like.

3.  Try an instant challenge.  It could also be fun to give children various materials such as popsicle sticks, toilet paper tubes, address labels, etc. and to see if they can create four-legged arm chairs with cross bars within a specified amount of time and, then, with further supplies, make it more grand and ornate during a second session of time. (We did a similar thing once making "Sabbath Chairs" as a design challenge.)

4.  Make edible chairs!

Alternately, you could provide cookies, crackers, nut butters, and more and challenge children to design edible chairs, much like Tracy at A Slice of Smith Life does annually. Alternately, you could make healthier fruit salad chairs like the ones on Catholic Cuisine.

While making chairs or enjoying some nibbles, chat 
about the successors to St. Peter, thinking about what Fr. Steve Grunrow says in "Why in the World Do Catholics Celebrate a Chair":

"Many men have been seated in the “chair” of Saint Peter over the centuries.  Some were saints, others scoundrels, and many more barely left any impression on the Church at all.
In the end, what is important about the papacy is not the individuals who have served as successors of St. Peter, great or infamous as they might be, but the enduring testimony to the Lord Jesus that the mission and ministry of the popes represent: '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.'"

5.  Discuss St. Peter as the Rock on which the church was built.

You might view the following talk about this and, then, chat about it:

While discussing Peter as the rock, and, then, his successors, it might also be lovely to pause and pray for the pope and his intentions.

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6.  Cuddle up with a picture book.  There are plenty of quality picture books about St. Peter out there.  One of my favorites during this time of year is Follow Me: Peter Lays Down His Net (which is currently 57% off at Amazon).

It does not tell of St. Peter as the first pope, but, rather uses beautiful illustrations and child-friendly text to retell the Gospel stories about Jesus' death and resurrection as framed by the relationship between Jesus and Peter.  In the book, we witness how Peter willingly followed Jesus, then denied Christ, but, ultimately, was forgiven and, then, chose to fully embrace Christ's love and to carry on in Jesus' footsteps by telling others about Him and serving in His name.

The story is an affirming one which reminds us that Jesus loves and forgives each of us and wants us to be with Him forever.

7.  Draw a rooster
When retelling the story of Peter and Jesus' relationship, we hear of how Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. We also hear of how he affirmed his love for Christ three times upon Christ's resurrection. You may wish to chat about this while drawing roosters, reminding children that, like Peter, we all deny Jesus through our words, actions, and failings at times, but, also, like Peter, we can all make amends and affirm our love for Jesus, basking in Christ's mercy and love. 

We did just this very thing last week as a part of our AMP club activities and it went beautifully.

You can connect the chat even more with this feast day by discussing how Peter went from being a fisherman to a fisher or men, to denying, to reaffirming, and, finally, to being Christ's successor here on earth, sitting in the Chair of Peter spreading God's Word and sharing His love.

8.  Eat chicken or rockfish.Along the same lines, you could also serve any sort of chicken dish. 

For my meat eaters, I was thinking of serving chicken sandwiches cut into heart shapes to remind us of Peter's denial followed by forgiveness and love.  Or, you could go with rockfish (as suggested at Catholic Cuisine) since St. Peter was a fisherman and the rock on which the church was built.

Remember, today is not so much about the Chair of St. Peter itself 
but of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to keep Jesus' flock united in faith and charity.

9.  Make some keys.

A common symbol of St. Peter is keys - the keys to the kingdom.  So, another activity might be crafting simple keys for costuming as my son did last All Saints Day or, better yet, because children love faith through food, making keys out of cookie dough, pancake batter, or bread dough.

10.  Play Commissioned.  If you have children that like games, Commissioned by Chara games includes St. Peter in it and is a game my children enjoy and recommend.

Or, let your children's interests take the lead, tailoring activities and edibles to their preferences and using what you do as a fun way to connect and share meaningful conversation and teaching about the significance Chair of St. Peter.

I'd love to hear how you celebrate the day, so, if you have a chance, pop on over to the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page or leave a comment here to share. Thanks!


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