First Point—"And Jesus, going up into one of the ships, which was Peter's." If Jesus entered the bark of Peter, it was not by chance He did so. He has wished to teach us that if we would find this bark we must seek it in the Church which Peter and his successors conduct and govern. The ship of which Peter is the head is the only one which carries Christ; the others are not with Him nor is He with them. They do not carry His doctrine to the different parts of the world; they carry only the sad inventions of men. Thus the Lutherans, the Calvinists, the Greeks, and the Anglicans are not the Church of Jesus, because they are not in the bark of Peter. The true Church is one in its doctrine, in its worship, in its hierarchy, while the others change their morale, their creed, and their worship according to caprice, to climate, and to the passions of men. In their eternal variations and in their multiplied creeds they openly contradict Jesus, who, in praying for His Church, said to His Father: "Keep them, that they may be one, as you and I are one." The Holy Roman Catholic Church, which is your mother, since it is from her bosom you have drawn your Christian life, possesses unity of doctrine, and, although she has countless children scattered over all the countries of the world, she everywhere teaches to all the same doctrine; among the savages as well as in civilized countries, to the children of the king as well as to the children of the poor, and she owes this unity of belief to her hierarchy divinely instituted. The Sovereign Pontiff has received, in the person of the Prince of the apostles, the mission to "confirm his brethren in the faith," and as a vigilant sentinel he watches over the integrity of the faith and repudiates every change in it. Think, for an instant, on this phenomenon of the unity of faith, in the multiplicity of the faithful! Two men cannot be in accord for a quarter of an hour, and yet millions of men during nineteen centuries believe the same truths and without discussion submit their intelligence to the same faith. How can this wonder be explained?
Represent to yourself a man seated on a rock in the midst of the ocean, and insisting that the waves should observe a uniform motion. You would exclaim: "This is truly a wonder." Well, there is a man who, from his seat on the rock on which Jesus has built His Church, commands disturbed minds and insists on a uniform method of thinking, and that man is the Pope. At his feet he beholds the rise and flow of human opinions which disturb and overthrow everything in the world, while he does not change, and by his authority he maintains unity in the Church. Is it possible not to see the finger of God in all this?
Jesus in the bark of Peter confirms the truth of His words in the wonder of the miraculous fishing. Thus He has granted to His Church, and to her only, the grace of working miracles in all ages and in all countries. This is the divine mark by which we recognize the bark of Peter. The flight of demons, the resurrection of the dead, the gift of prophecy, and the healing of those who were hopelessly sick—this is what you shall find on every page of the Church's history. While the apostolic men proclaimed God's truths, He confirmed their preaching by miracles. A miracle is a palpable, invincible proof; it is the seal of God placed on the divine word sent from heaven to earth. By the gift of miracles God tells us: It is I who have sent these men, and the proof of it is that I have clothed them with My power, and if they had not been sent by Me would nature obey them? "God," says Bossuet, "has the right to make Himself believed, and also the means to make Himself heard. As soon as an affirmation is signed by these two words, "I the Lord" and as soon as that signature is legalized by His inimitable seal—the miracle—it is He who speaks, it is He who commands, and we have only to believe and obey! Jesus commanded Peter to launch his bark out into the deep. What does this mean ? It indicates the exalted life, wholly supernatural and heavenly, to which the Church, by her doctrine, by her morale, and by the omnipotent power of her sacraments, leads us. In her fold, and there only, we behold the divine virtues brightly shining and men rising to the highest degree of sanctity and perfection. Is this character of sanctity found among the dissenting sects? No, in this regard God has struck them with an eternal sterility, and you shall never find among them a single man who, by his heroic virtues, has won the admiration of the world, as a St. Francis de Sales, a Vincent de Paul, a St. Charles Borromeo, and others.
The deep waters to which Peter was commanded to go represent those regions of the world which are most distant. The Saviour seemed to say to Peter: "I shall place under your shepherd's staff all the nations of the earth. You shall preach the Gospel to every creature, you shall guide the sinners back to the fold, you shall convert the pagans, and of all the people you shall make but one sheepfold, one flock, of which you shall be the only shepherd." And so Catholic Rome extends her activity over the whole world—in the islands of America and Oceania, among the most uncivilized people of Africa as well as among the polished cities of Europe, everywhere Peter baptizes, preaches, and converts souls, and, whatever may be the obstacles, he shall always continue until he shall have landed in the haven of safety the last soul that shall ever live on earth.
It is recorded in the Gospel that the bark of Peter was almost submerged. The Church also has been exposed from time to time by tempests so formidable that her enemies have said: "It is all over for the Church," and her friends trembled while expecting to see her engulfed by the flood of human passions. But they who hoped and they who feared for the ruin of the Church did not know the extent
of the promises which Jesus had made to His Church when He said: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against her." Relying on this promise, true Catholics entertain no fear for the Church; they know that Jesus is with her, that He conducts her, He prays for her, and that sooner or later she shall come forth triumphant from all her trials. The past gives assurance for the future. A brutal and barbarous persecution passed over the Church during three hundred years, and the Church triumphed in the conversion of her executioners. Heresies then followed; they were reduced to helplessness, while she remains full of life and prosperous, and the branches which have separated from her' languish and ultimately die. The war of passions, pride, pleasure, and impiety arises in every age; the attacks are so violent that the bark of Peter is rudely shaken, but she is never submerged. The enemies of the Church die penitent or impenitent, and silence promptly falls about their tombs, and the Church stands erect on the ruins of her oppressors. This perpetuity of the Church, in the midst of the instability of human things, is one of the most striking proofs of the divinity of her origin.
O Church of God, my mother, I am devoted to you from the depths of my heart, I wish to love you and obey you, and to remain faithful to you until death. Guide me, enlighten me, and conduct me to the haven of salvation.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897