When I was a young boy, many wise teachers, along with my parents, would tell me to “put on my thinking cap” whenever I was struggling and needing to ponder a problem and find an answer.
It was a funny little saying … as if I kept a variety of special caps in a closet, one for thinking, one for playing, one for sleeping, and so on.
But over time I came to realize that we do indeed wear a number of caps in our lives. There are times when we don’t want to think, we just want to act. We don’t want to look twice before we cross the road, we just want to take off running – forget that speeding car coming right at us.
Today we celebrate a rather odd feast day, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. Yes, we honor a chair today. Not just any chair, but one that reinforces the Catholic Church’s foundation by Christ, on the “rock” of the Church, who was and is St. Peter.
Many people know about this “chair of St. Peter” as the place where the Pope can go and “sit” and make infallible statements of faith that Catholics must follow. It’s not quite that simple and such ex-cathedra statements have only been done twice in the Church’s long history – the Immaculate Conception of Mary and Mary’s Assumption into heaven.
But this notion that the Pope – who actually has the authority to guide the Church on a number of different levels – should sit in a chair to make a ruling, is a little like a child being told to put on his or her thinking cap.
God often challenges us with decisions to be made, passions to follow, forks in the road. And in our busy lives, it is very tempting to make these important life decisions in haste, without much thought and certainly without putting on our thinking caps.
We decide by making lists of “pros and cons.” We consider the outcomes on a number of levels. We see what everyone else is doing. Channeling my mom now, “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?” (God love our moms and grandma’s for their wisdom).
What we should do instead is to take our decisions to prayer. We should let them nestle into our heart and then spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. We should pray a Rosary as we meditate on the issues at hand, perhaps while taking a long walk with God.
In other words, put on our thinking caps and consider what God wants us to do with our lives, not necessarily what we want, or what everyone thinks we should do.
St. Peter, in today’s Gospel, clearly was having a good day with his choice of caps when Jesus asked him the $64,000 question.
“When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 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.”
Astute readers of the Gospel can quickly point out that Peter did not always have the right response, but over time as his eyes were opened further to the truth of Christ and the mission of salvation, Peter emerged as the “rock” he was called to become.
As the Church grew and expanded across the earth, that wisdom and power of this chair of St. Peter extended to other Apostles, to Bishops, every priest and pastor faithful to the Catholic Church. Each day, these shepherds of Holy Mother Church dedicate themselves to prayer, meditation and work – weaving a non-stop fabric of salvation that continues to expand and bring its flock closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.
These shepherds are always wearing their thinking caps … constantly trying to align their minds with the God’s wisdom so that they can tend to their flocks.
Two lessons here.
One … pray for your priests, deacons and parish leaders; your pastors, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. Pray that they will continue to do as Peter did and think not as man, but as God.
And two … make sure you have your own thinking cap handy when it comes time to make the next important decision in your own life.
Your mom will be proud.