Old keys, new hats

The most famous statue of St. Peter the Apostle is also a little mysterious.  The life-like bronze statue, displayed in St. Peter’s Basilica, is seated upon a marble throne, one hand holding the symbolic keys, the other hand raised in blessing.  The mystery lies in the fact that no one is certain how old the statue really is.  While historical evidence about the statue dates it to the 15th century, according to a long-standing tradition it dates back another thousand years.  It is said that Pope St. Leo the Great commissioned the statue in thanksgiving for the preservation of Rome from Attila the Hun’s attack.

Over the ages, countless streams of pilgrims kissing St. Peter’s foot, a sign of their unity with and obedience to Christ’s Vicar, have worn his foot down to a smooth, thin, sliver of bronze.  Today Pope Francis also honored St. Peter by reverencing the statue, which was arrayed in Papal vestments for today’s Feast of the Chair of Peter, after the Mass installing 19 new cardinals.

Pope Emeritus Benedict was there as well.  Seeing these two living popes share a fraternal embrace always gives us chills, as it reminds us of the amazing times we are living through in the Church today.

Below is a short video from Rome Reports with the highlights of today’s Mass.

The Holy Family

Video

On this feast of the Holy Family, take a minute to journey to St. Peter’s and enjoy the unveiling of the Vatican Nativity. This celebration took place on Christmas Eve, but it seems fitting to revisit it on today’s feast. The theme for this year’s creche is Francis 1223-Francis 2013, paying honor to the 790th anniversary of the very first Nativity Scene (complete with live actors and animals) created by St. Francis of Assisi.

Acriter et Fideliter

Today marks the anniversary of the Stand of the Swiss Guard, when, during the sack of Rome in 1527,  most members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard were killed protecting Pope Clement VII.

On May 6, 1527, the imperial army of Charles V broke through the walls of Rome and began to unleash 12 days of horror: bloodshed, burning and looting.  Lest anyone doubt that they meant business, these Spanish and German mercenaries had marched hundreds of miles carrying an effigy of the Pope, hanging from a gallows.

When the army neared St. Peter’s the Swiss Guard “fiercely and faithfully” (Acriter et Fideliter, their motto) fended off the Habsburg armies long enough for Pope Clement VII to escape, taking refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo (at bottom right of picture).

Each year on the anniversary of their sacrifice the Swiss Guard lay a wreath on the monument in the Vatican.

There is also a beautiful monument to the fallen guard in Lucerne.

This anniversary is also the day new members of the Swiss Guard are sworn in at a ceremony in the San Damaso courtyard.  The chaplain of the guard reads the oath: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honourably serve the Supreme Pontiff [actual Pope] and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the see is vacant. Furthermore I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors, respect, fidelity and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!”

To which each guard individually, grasping the banner of the Swiss Guard in his left hand and with his right hand raised in a special gesture that symbolizes the Trinity, responds:  “I, [name], swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his Saints.”

 

Today we thank God for the protection, both spiritual and physical, he grants to His Vicar on earth. And let us also thank God for the courage and selflessness of the Swiss Guard.  May St. Michael protect and defend them always!