Lesson III—St. Peter the Head of Christ’s Church

Q. Were the Apostles to exercise their powers as they pleased?
A. They were only to exercise their powers under the supreme authority of St. Peter.

Q. Why?
A. Because Jesus Christ appointed St. Peter to be His Representative on earth, and the visible Head of His whole Church.

Q. But is not Christ Himself the Head of the Church?
A. Christ is the invisible Head, but Peter is the visible Head of the Church.

Q. Was it necessary that the Church of Christ should have a Visible Head as well as the Invisible One?
A. Yes; because the entire community of pastors and the faithful are the visible body of the Church of Christ, and a visible body or society must also have a visible head.

Q. Why?
A. Because the principle of supreme authority is a fundamental principle of reason and experience.

Q. What do you mean by this?
A. I mean that reason and experience teach us that there can be no order, no law, no civilization without supreme authority; in other words, supreme authority is the foundation of order and law.

Q. Can we see the necessity of such authority whithersoever we turn?
A. We can.

Q. Give some examples?
A. Every ship or steamboat must have its captain. Every railroad engine must have its engineer. In every society we find a president. In every government there must be a president or a monarch.

Q. Do we find the principle of authority in practice even amongst the savages?
A. Yes; and even amongst brute beasts, even among the tiny insects. We find, for instance, that the ants and the bees have their queen or supreme ruler.

Q. What follows from this?
A. That the same God who observes such wonderful order in the most simple works of nature; the same God who planted in our reason the principle of order and authority, must necessarily observe this order in the greatest of His works—in the establishment of His Church.

Q. How do we know that Christ has established this principle of supreme authority in His Church?
A. We know it from the fact that He gave greater powers to St. Peter than to the rest of the Apostles.

Q. How do we know this?
A. From the words of Christ Himself, who said to Peter: “I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. xvi. 18.

Q. What did our Lord understand by this “rock?”
A. St. Peter himself.

Q. Why so?
A. Because Christ called him Cephas, which is a Syriac word, and means a rock.

Q. What else did our Lord say to St. Peter on this occasion?
A. “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth it shall be loosed also in heaven.” V.19

Q. But did not Jesus Christ say the same to the rest of the Apostles?
A. He addressed these words to all the Apostles in common, but He addressed them to St. Peter in particular, saying: “I say to THEE, thou art Peter,” etc.

Q. Why did He say so?
A. To show clearly that He wished to bestow on St. Peter some especial power.

Q. Did our Lord make this more clear on some other occasion?
A. Yes; when He said to St. Peter: “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” John xxi. 15-17.

Q. What did He mean by lambs?
A. The faithful.

Q. What did He mean by sheep?
A. The pastors.

Q. Why did Jesus Christ speak thus?
A. To show that just as sheep feed the lambs, so also pastors feed the souls of the faithful.

Q. What follows from this?
A. That Christ intrusted to Peter both the pastors and the faithful.

Q. Did the Apostles themselves recognize Peter’s supremacy?
A. They did.

Q. Who called together the disciples, and presided over the council which they held in Jerusalem to elect a new Apostle in the place of Judas?
A. St. Peter.

Q. Might this new Apostle have been chosen by St. Peter himself?
A. Yes; undoubtedly.

Q. Who says so?
A. St. John Chrysostom, who lived in the fifth century.

Q. Who first preached Jesus crucified, and converted by his sermon three thousand persons?
A. St. Peter.

Q. Who first declared that the Gentiles were to be admitted to Baptism, according to a divine revelation which he had received on that subject?
A. St. Peter.

Q. Who first decided in an assembly of the Apostles at Jerusalem that Christians were no longer to be subjected to the Jewish law of circumcision?
A. St. Peter.

Q. What are we to learn from this?
A. That St. Peter was the Head of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Q. Why?
A. Because he exercised the office of supreme Head of the Church on all those occasions.

Q. When the evangelists give the names of the Apostles whom do they always name first?
A. St. Peter.

Q. What are the words of St. Matthew, x.2?
A. “The names of the twelve apostles: The first Simon, who is called Peter.”

Q. Might it not be said that St. Peter was always named the first either because he was the eldest or because he had been called to the apostleship before the rest?
A. No; because St. Andrew was both older than Peter and had become a disciple of Christ before him.

Q. What follows from this?
A. That the rest of the Apostles acknowledged Peter as the head of the Church.

Q. What Father of the Church writes: “It was not St. Andrew that was appointed head; it was St. Peter”?
A. St. Ambrose, who lived in the fourth century. C. 12, in 2 Corinth.

Q. What Father used this expression: “Behold the Apostle St. Peter, in whom power shines with so much brightness”?
A. St. Augustine, who lived in the fourth century. 2 Lib. de Bapt.

Q. And who writes: “St. Peter was made the chief of the Apostles in order that unity should be preserved in the Church”?
A. St. Optatus, who lived in the fourth century. 2 Lib. adv. Parmen.

Q. And who again wrote as follows: “It is known in all ages that Peter was the Prince and Head of the Apostles, the foundation-stone of the Catholic Church. This is a fact which no one doubts”?
A. The Fathers of the General Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431.

Q. What doctrine do we learn from the writings of those Fathers of the Church?
A. That they and the faithful of all ages acknowledged Peter as the Head of the Church of Christ.

Q. Was it Christ’s will that this office of head should be continued from St. Peter to his successors to the end of the world?
A. It was.

Q. Why?
A. Because Christ founded His Church to last to the end of time.

Q. Who has always been acknowledged as the visible Head of the Church of Christ after the death of St. Peter?
A. The Pope or Bishop of Rome.

Q. Why do you say that the Popes or Bishops of Rome are the successors of St. Peter?
A. Because St. Peter established his See at Rome, and died there.

Q. How do you answer those who say that St. Peter never went to Rome?
A. I would ask them three questions:
1. If St. Peter did not suffer martyrdom at Rome, under the Emperor Nero, where did he die?
2. If St. Peter did not die at Rome, from what place, and at what time were his remains carried thither?
3. Did not the Fathers of the Church who lived in the first ages of Christendom, know better who was the first Bishop of Rome than the Protestants of our day can know?

Q. What does St. Augustine say about Peter being at Rome?
A. “After Peter came Linus, and Clement followed after Linus.” Epist. ad Generos.

Q. What other Father writes: “St. Peter was the first who occupied the See of Rome, after him came Linus, and after Linus came Clement”?
A. St. Optatus. 2 Lib. adv. Parmen.

Q. And who tells us that “Rome has become the capital of Christendom because it was there that St. Peter established his See”?
A. St. Leo the Great. Serm. I. in Nat. Apost.

Q. What clearly follows from the writings of those Fathers of the Church?
A. That the Popes or Bishops of Rome were always held to be the successors of St. Peter.

Q. Was the office of teacher, of priest, and of ruler in the persons of the other apostles also to continue throughout all time?
A. It was.

Q. How do we know this?
A. From the fact that Jesus Christ gave power to the Apostles to choose others, and ordain them as Bishops, and appoint them as rulers of His Church.

Q. In what words did He give this power?
A. In these: “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.”

Q. What is the meaning of those words?
A. The meaning is unmistakably this: As My Heavenly Father has empowered me to choose you to take My place on earth, so I empower you to choose others to take your place.

Q. From what other words of our Lord do we know that the threefold office of the Apostles was to continue to the end of the world?
A. From these words of our Lord: “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 20); that is, I am with you in your successors to the end of the world.

Q. When Jesus Christ chose the Apostles to preach His holy doctrine, and establish His Church all over the world, was it necessary for them to remember the whole doctrine of Christ, understand it perfectly, and preach it in that sense in which Jesus Christ had preached it and wished it to be understood by the whole world?
A. Yes; this was absolutely necessary.

Q. Did Jesus Christ assure the Apostles that He would bestow upon them the grace to remember His whole doctrine, and understand it well?
A. He did.

Q. On what occasion did He give them this assurance?
A. When He said: “The Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” John xiv. 26.

Q. What effect, then, did the Holy Ghost work in the Apostles when He came down upon them on Whitsunday?
A. He reminded them of all that they had seen and heard from Jesus Christ, and He enlightened them so as to understand His doctrine, and preach it in that sense in which Jesus Christ wished it to be understood and practised.

Q. What is this grace, which the Holy Ghost bestowed upon the Apostles, called?
A. The grace or gift of infallibility in teaching.

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