The Bark (Barque) of Peter

Sea of Galilee - by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn -
Jesus sleeps in the stern of the Boat depicted in Matthew's Gospel Story (8:23-26)


Then He got into the Boat and His Disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the Lake, so that the waves swept over the Boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The Disciples went and woke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little Faith, why are you so afraid?' Then He got up and rebuked the Winds and the Waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:23-26)


The Bark (Barque) of Peter -
The Church

from various sources

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This depiction of the Great White City of Minas Tirith, symbolic of the Eternal City of Rome, shows the Bow of a Great Ship (Barque of Peter) protruding from its center toward the East.

The Boat itself is a Symbol for the Church, the Bark of Peter. The Boat holds the Apostles, and Symbolically all of Christ's Disciples. "The World is a Sea in which the Church, like a Ship, is beaten by the waves, but not submerged". We are doing God's Work, fishing for People, in Peter's Boat, the Church. However, we are Strangers in a Foreign Land, i.e. the Boat is on the Sea, on the Chaos that is not God. It is a Dangerous and Storm-Swept Place, where even Seasoned-Fishermen Fear. Yet the place that is not-of-God contains the People who Need God, the People who Need Salvation.

Saint Anselm said that the Bark of the Church may be Swept by the Waves, but it can never Sink, because Christ is there. When the Church is in Greatest Need, Christ comes to its help by Miracles, or by raising-up Saintly Men to Strengthen and Purify it. It is the Bark of Peter; when the Storm threatens to Sink it, the Lord awakens from His Sleep, and Commands the Winds and Waters into Calm: “Peace; be still!

Saint Francis de Sales: In the Royal Galley of Divine Love, there is no Galley Slave; all Rowers are Volunteers.

The Church is also the 'Barque' of Peter. The Powers of Darkness will never Submerge that Barque. Come what may - Storms, Disasters, Floods - the Ship to which we belong will never Sink. With its Precious Cargo of Souls, it will reach its Safe-Harbor, the Port of Eternal Bliss.

This picture of a vision of Saint John Bosco depicts the Successors of the Saint Peter, the first Pope, steering the Barque of Peter to the Safe Harbor of Jesus and Mary, amid Storms and Attacks. (Click to enlarge)

Christ guards the Church He founded, as it makes its way across the Ocean of Centuries. He designated Peter, and after Peter his Successors, to Steer the Ship through what have often been Very Troubled Waters. Time-after-Time, Century-after-Century, the Barque of Peter has been thrown from side-to-side on the Waves of Misfortune, Heresy, Apostasy and Schism, a Long List of Disasters. Yet it never goes under. The Waves never totally engulf the Church. At certain times, during Twenty (20) Catholic Centuries, it certainly might have seemed as if the Light of the Spirit had been all but extinguished. But never quite. The Church goes on, Saving Souls and Journeying to its Final Harbor. In that Blessed Realm, beyond the Seas of this Life, all the things which Threaten God's Church in this World will be gone for ever. The Church will achieve its Final Destiny in the Bliss of the Communion of Saints. There in the company of Mary, Mother of the Elect, together with Peter, Paul and all the Saints, the Church Triumphant will sing for ever the Praises of Him Who calls us out of Darkness, into His Marvelous Light.


Nave ... the Sturdy Ship that carries us to Salvation

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The word Nave is derived from the Latin word Navis - a Boat - and reflects not only the structure, but also the Traditional idea of a Church as the Ark of Noah in which God saved those who trusted in Him.

The Nave is the Main Body of a Church, excluding the Transepts (Side Arms) and the Chancel (the Altar and Choir area). It is where the People gather to Worship. The term "Nave" comes from "Navis", the Latin word for Ship; a Church Building is a Symbolic Ship for Worshippers, and the Ribbing high above the Floor resembles the inside of an "upside-down" Ship's Hull.

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Architecturally it is the central, open space of a Church, West of the Choir or Chancel, and separated there from by a low wall or screen. It is divided from the side aisles by columns, shafts, or piers, is roofed with timber or vaulted in masonry, and usually rises above the level of the aisle roofs to provide high windows for lighting. Colloquially, the term is used to indicate that portion of a Church reserved for Worshippers, and including the central and side aisles, crossing Transepts. The name is derived from the Latin Navis, a Ship, with reference to the Bark of Saint Peter or the Ark of Noah. In this case, the Ship (the Church) transports the Faithful from Earth to Heaven.

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Noah and his sons build the Ark of Salvation.
Remember well - No one outside the Ark was saved.

The Church is where those People desiring Salvation gather together to make a Journey together, like in a Great Ship. And whenever People all over the World gather there, they are all in the same Huge Ship (the Church) making that same Journey towards Heaven.

This is a Boat of Fishermen. Some of the Apostles were Fishermen too. Jesus uses this to make a Prophecy.

Matthew 4:17-20 - "From that time Jesus began to proclaim, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.' As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a Net into the sea - for they were Fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you Fishers of Men.' Immediately they left their Nets and followed Him".

The reference to the Kingdom fits too, because Jesus compares the Kingdom to a Net.

Matthew 13:47-50. "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a Net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the End of the Age. The Angels will come out and separate the Evil from the Righteous and throw them into the Furnace of Fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth".


The Calling of Simon Peter [Luke 5:1-11]

In the following Gospel Story of Luke, note that of the Two (2) available Boats, Jesus selected Simon's Boat. Here the Spotlight is on Simon Peter, who would later lead the early Church, but his Companions are always in the Shadows, ready to help. Simon's Boat is seen as a Symbol of the Pilgrim Church on Earth. Jesus gets into Simon Peter's Boat in order to Teach the Crowds; and from the Bark of Peter, the Church, He continues to Teach the Whole World. The Vastness of the Catch is a Symbol of the Many Nations to whom the Gospel will be Preached.

Luke 5:1-11. As the crowd pressed in on Jesus to hear the Word of God, He saw Two Boats moored by the side of the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. He got into one of the Boats, the One belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a short distance from the shore; then, remaining seated, He continued to Teach the crowds from the Boat. When He had finished speaking He said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing; but if You say so, I will lower the nets." Upon doing this they caught such a great number of fish that their nets were at the breaking point. They signaled to their mates in the other boat to come and help them. These came, and together they filled the two Boats until they nearly sank.

At the sight of this, Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus saying, "Leave me, Lord. I am a sinful man." For indeed, amazement at the catch they had made seized him and all his shipmates, as well as James and John, Zebedee's sons, who were partners with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men." With that they brought their boats to land, left everything, and became His followers.

Luke's Gospel Story is a lesson about the future. The Lord sends His Apostles out on to the Lake in a Boat, and in that Boat there are Many Roles to fill. There is the Captain, there are Men to Row, Men to Mind the Sail - there are Men to Cast the Nets, to Haul in the Fish - and when the Boat returns to shore, there are Men and Women to Clean the Fish, to Salt some of the Catch for Preserving, and to take the rest for Cooking, so that everyone may Feast, and their Hunger be Assuaged.

This is not the only time in the Gospels, when the Boat, the Fishing Boat, the Bark of Peter figures in Our Lord's Teaching to His Apostles. One time, while He sleeps, a storm rages, putting the Fear of Death into the Apostles. But Our Lord wakes up and calms the storm. Another time, His desire to be with His men moves Him to walk upon the Waters, and He challenges Peter to do the same. Both times, Our Lord chides His Men about their Lack of Faith - for if we have Faith in Him, in His Care for us, then no Storm will overturn the Boat in which we sail, and no Water will open to swallow us up in Darkness.

holy_spirit11.jpg (3597 bytes) The Boat, dear friends, is the Church, and Peter is its Captain - but always above, more powerful than the Storm or the Deep, and always ready to provide the Food we need, is the Holy Spirit, the Protecting Arm of the Lord, the Invincible Strength, against which, as He promised, the Gates of Hell will not prevail. And in the Boat and upon the shore waiting are the Men and Women of the Church - Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious, lay Men and Women, each with their Function, each with their Work to make the Boat Work, to haul-in the Catch, and to provide for the Needs of all whose life depends upon the Boat, and the Boat's Payload.

We all are in the Boat together. What does this mean for each of us?

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From the great Catholic epic Lord of the Rings - "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you".

It means First, that we are to Trust the Lord to show us the way, to bring us to our goals safely, and to feed our Souls on the Journey. You will no doubt encounter Problems - there will be days when you cast out your nets all day long, and at the end of the day, you will think there is nothing to show for it. At those times, you must listen to the Lord, as Saint Peter did, and cast again - for it is your Faith that is being Tested - not as to whether you profess it or not - but as to whether you are ready to do something about it or not. These years are given you to learn to Trust the Lord, and you should take full advantage of the time you have - to learn from Scripture everything the Lord says to do - to study as well, the Holy Rites of our Church with which you are to be trusted, for they are the Link between Heaven and Earth, and deserve all our attention, all our Devotion, and the best we are able to bring to their practice - and to increase in every way, your Willingness to serve others, to see and to solve the Needs of those you are to serve, and to find in every situation, no matter how Hard, a way to Love, to show the Charity of God for those who are your Brothers and Sisters. By doing these things, you will be learning your own futures, as Peter learned about the future of the Church he was to lead, and doing it, as he did, "at the Word" of the Lord.

And last, we all ride in the Bark of Peter, the Church - we all face the Storms and the Fear of sinking together - but together, we also shelter under the Powerful and Over-Arching Wings of the Holy Spirit. We do not win by ourselves - we win by pulling-together, by manning the Boat according to our Individual Talents, and working as a Team to stay afloat. We Pray for one another - we take Care of one another in times of Illness, of Trouble, of Doubt. That is how the Lord expects us to work in this Boat together.

jesus_saves.jpg (136940 bytes) Finally, let us remember that Saint Peter did not hesitate, when he realized the Weakness of his Faith, to fall-down at the Feet of the Lord, and call himself what he was, and what we all are, saying: "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man".

We cannot be Proud - Pride was the undoing of our First Parents - we must be Humble, for only then can we remain United to one another in Christian Love, only then can we be together in that Bark which sails across the Sea of Life, only then can we be the same in the Eyes of the Lord. And only then, can we be Saved together by His Strong Arm - from Hunger, from the Storm, from the Abyss.

For the Lord does not Abandon those who come seeking His Mercy, His Forgiveness. He walks upon the waters, He Calms the Storm, He guides the Boat into Safe Harbor, and brings with Him the Great Catch, the Great Feast, to which we are all summoned - the Feast of His Body and Blood, our Food for Eternal Life.


Apostolic Constitutions

As explained previously, the term Nave derives from the Latin Navis meaning a 'Ship'. The comparison of a Church Building to a Ship was made at an early date (circa 367 AD) in the Apostolic Constitution which says:

When thou callest an Assembly of the Church as one that is the Commander of a Great Ship, appoint the Assemblies to be made with all possible skill, charging the Deacons as mariners to prepare places for the Brethren as for passengers, with all due care and decency. And first, let the building be long, with its Head to the East, with its Vestries on both sides at the East end, and so it will be like a Ship.


Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias [John 21:1-14]

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John 21:1-14 "Jesus showed Himself to the disciples [once again] at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how the appearance took place. Assembled were Simon Peter, Thomas ("the Twin"), Nathanael (from Cana in Galilee), Zebedee's sons, and two other disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going out to fish." "We will join you," they replied, and went off to get into their boat. All through the night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore, though none of the disciples knew it was Jesus. He said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" "Not a thing," they answered. "Cast your net off to the starboard side," he suggested, "and you will find something." So they made a cast, and took so many fish that they could not haul the net in. Then the disciple Jesus loved cried out to Peter, "It is the Lord!" On hearing it was the Lord, Simon Peter threw on some clothes -- he was stripped -- and jumped into the water.

Meanwhile the other disciples came in the boat, towing the net full of fish. Actually they were not far from land -- no more than a hundred yards.

When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire there with a fish laid on it and some bread. "Bring some of the fish you just caught," Jesus told them. Simon Peter went aboard and hauled ashore the net loaded with sizable fish -- one hundred fifty-three of them! In spite of the great number, the net was not torn.

"Come and eat your meal," Jesus told them. Not one of the disciples presumed to inquire "Who are you?" for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This marked the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after being raised from the dead.

The Boat in John's Gospel Story once again Symbolizes the Church. The Net thrown by the Disciples Symbolizes the "Evangelization (fishing) of all Peoples" by the Church. The Quantity of fish netted, One Hundred and Fifty-Three (153), is the total number of Species of Fish known by the Greek Civilization at that particular time in History. Therefore, this Number represents All of Mankind to which the Saving Power of God's Word will be made known by Christ's Church on Earth, before the End of Time.

Another Significance of the Catch of 153 Fishes

Jesus Christ is the Word of God
Torah = Word of God
Parashah = "Portion" = The 153 Parts/Portions into which the Torah was divided in the Triennial Cycle which prevailed in Palestine during the Life of Jesus, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia. This number was very significant to First Century Jews.
\Jesus came to bring the 153 Portions of the Torah into fulfillment.
Do not think that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.   (Matthew 5:17, Douay Rheims Bible)


Thurible and Incense-Boat

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Incense, with its sweet-smelling perfume and high-ascending smoke, is typical of the Good Christian's Prayer, which, enkindled in the Heart by the Fire of God's Love and exhaling the odor of Christ, rises up a pleasing offering in His Sight (cf. Amalarius, "De eccles. officiis" in P.L., CV). Incensing is the act of imparting the odor of incense. The Thurible is held in the right hand at the height of the breast, and grasped by the chain near the cover; the left hand, holding the top of the chain, is placed on the breast. The Thurible is then raised upwards to the height of the eyes, given an outward motion and slightly ascending towards the object to be incensed, and at once brought back to the starting point. This constitutes a single swing. For a double swing the outward motion should be repeated, the second movement being more pronounced than the first. The dignity of the person or thing will determine whether the swing is to be single or double, and also whether one swing or more are to be given. The Incense-Boat is the Vessel containing the incense for immediate use. It is so called from its shape resembling the Boat of Saint Peter. It is generally carried by the Thurifer in the disengaged hand.


The Bark of Peter and
The Vision of the Two Columns

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Three Swiss Guard lie wounded near the dead Pontiff, as the new Pontiff
maintains a Steady Course toward the Safety of Jesus and Mary.

On May 30, 1862 , Saint Don Bosco recounted that in a dream he had seen an immense sea on which a great many ships were arranged for battle against a larger and taller ship. He also saw others which were defending the Tall Ship. Here are his words:

"In the midst of this endless sea, Two (2) Solid Columns, a short distance apart, soar high into the sky. One is surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin, at whose feet a large inscription reads: 'Auxilium Christianorum' ('Help of Christians') . The other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size, and bears beneath it the inscription: 'Salus credentium' ('Salvation of Believers').

"The Flagship Commander - the Roman Pontiff- standing at the Helm, strains every muscle to steer his ship between the Two (2) columns, from whose summits hang many Anchors and Strong Hooks linked to chains. The entire Enemy Fleet closes in to intercept and sink the Flagship at all costs. They bombard it with everything they have: Books and Pamphlets, Incendiary Bombs, Firearms, Cannons. The battle rages ever more furious. Beaked Prows ram the Flagship again and again, but to no avail, as, unscathed and undaunted, it keeps on it course. At times, a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole in its hull, but immediately, a breeze from the Two (2) columns instantly Seals the Gash.

bosco_vision.jpg (13397 bytes) "Meanwhile, Enemy Cannons blow up; Firearms and Beaks fall to pieces; ships crack up and sink to the bottom. In blind fury, the Enemy takes to hand-to-hand combat, Cursing and Blaspheming. Suddenly the Pope falls, Seriously Wounded. He is instantly helped up, but, struck a second time, Dies. A shout of victory rises from the Enemy, and wild rejoicing seeps their ships. But no sooner is the Pope Dead than another takes his place. The Captains of the Auxiliary Ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope's Death coincides with that of his successor's election. The Enemy's self-assurance wanes.

"Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the Two columns; First, to the one surmounted by the Host, and then the other, topped by the Statue of the Virgin. At this point, something unexpected happens. The Enemy Ships Panic and Disperse, colliding with and scuttling each other.

"Some Auxiliary Ships, which had gallantly fought alongside their Flagship, are the first to tie up at the Two (2) Columns. Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked Enemy Ships vanish under the waves. Then they too head for the Two (2) columns, tie up at the Swinging Hooks and ride Safe and Tranquil beside their Flagship. A Great Calm now covers the sea."

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Our Lady of the Eucharist

Saint John Bosco explained that the Church will endure Grave Trials and Persecutions. The Church's Enemies will try their utmost to Destroy Her. But Two Things will preserve the Church in that hour:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Devotion to Mary and

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Frequent Communion.

Saint Anselm said that the Bark of the Church may be Swept by the Waves, but it can never Sink, because Christ is there. When the Church is in Greatest Need, Christ comes to its help by Miracles, or by raising up Saintly Men to Strengthen and Purify it. It is the Bark of Peter; when the Storm threatens to Sink it, the Lord awakens from His Sleep, and Commands the Winds and Waters into Calm: “Peace; be still!


A series of 28 minute presentations on the Barque of Peter by Father Robert Levis, Ph.D

Our Lady of Victory and the Sea Battle of Lepanto

Spiritual Aridity and the Sargasso Sea