You Are Peter
Last month I had the honor of witnessing my mother and stepdad’s marriage in the Catholic Church. They were both raised Catholic but were never confirmed, and have been married civilly for fourteen years. They began their journey back to the Church shortly after I began my own conversion process, and it was an absolute joy to be there as they entered into the Sacrament of Marriage. God’s grace was evident that day in a very special way.
My stepdad’s brother is a Monseigneur at St. Peter’s Cathedral in picturesque Marquette, Michigan, where the sanctification ceremony took place. He is the priest who married my husband and I, long before I ever thought I would become Catholic and has been a warm, peaceful and comforting presence for many significant moments in the life of our family over the years.
St. Peter’s is a beautiful cathedral, as all cathedrals are. Whenever I visit one, I catch myself often with my eyes drawn upward, as such churches are meant to bring us to do. The arches and the columns, the altar and the intricate stained glass windows all lift my thoughts and raise my heart towards heaven. Behind the altar of St. Peter’s Cathedral, written in Latin, are the words Jesus spoke to Peter:
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
It was just one more of the frequent reminders I’ve experienced in recent weeks about the beauty of the authority of the Catholic Church.
Interpreting Scripture for Myself
As a Protestant, I had a pastor, or multiple pastors and other teachers who I learned from via sermons and Bible studies. But ultimately, though there may have been a (typically brief) statement of faith associated with our church at the time, it was every man for himself in discerning their own theology on many things.
There was a constant burden to study and evaluate what I would ultimately determine to be Truth, to evaluate my sources and whose interpretation I agreed with more. One of the more significant factors in my conversion was the realization that I had no means to determine whose version of the truth was more accurate than another. When I held up that realization to my understanding that ultimate Truth exists, and to the logical conclusion that God couldn’t possibly have given us a book all Christians believe to be infallible, and only fallible and broken means by which to interpret it, I was well on my way to Rome.
Placing My Trust in the Church
What a relief it was to finally understand that the burden didn’t rest on my shoulders to interpret Scripture accurately. That it was never meant to be individual interpretation. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would preserve the Church in all Truth, not each individual Christian. It is an indisputable fact that individual people err in their interpretations, since so many contradictory views exist, often even within members of the same denomination. It makes such sense, but until I began the journey towards conversion I had never really even thought about the problem of individual interpretation of Scripture.
Now, as a Catholic, I rest in the truth that the work of interpretation is done (and continues to be done, as well, since the Word is living and active) by people who have the authority of God to do it. I don’t have to pour over different interpretive and contradicting texts. I don’t need to worry about reading accurate translations, or understanding Hebrew, or the entirety of Church history or all the differing theological viewpoints that have developed since the Reformation. I can and do study these things and engage my mind in my faith, but now I study them through those writing from within the Church, and I trust the authority the Church has to inform me on such things. It’s a burden I’m happy to no longer bear, and I often think about how thankful I am to be able to rest and know my faith formation is in the best of hands. Hands that stretch back all the way to Peter, and to Jesus, as he handed the first Pope the Keys to the Kingdom.
What a firm foundation, indeed.