Boats have been a favorite theme for pulpits of older churches. This one in the Coronation of Mary Church, Traunkirchen, Austria, specifically depicts the miraculous haul of fish in Chapter 5 of Luke’s Gospel.
In that story, a crowd gathered and were pressing close to him. Seeing two boats moored, Jesus asked the owner of the boat to push the boat a bit away from the land. Peter, the owner, obliged and Jesus sat down inside the boat and began to teach the crowd.
After he taught, he asked Peter to go out and catch fish. Peter reluctantly agreed because they had an unsuccessful night, but he did so anyway. After hauling in a large catch, Jesus told him that they would be “fishers of men.”
Many years later, Jesus made Peter his prime minister when he symbolically gave him the keys to the Kingdom. In the Davidic Kingdom, the prime minister’s decisions were second only to the king’s. So the Church Christ established, in his absence, is administered by the prime minister. At that time it was Peter, and today it is administered by Peter’s successor, the pope.
One of the symbols of the church is a boat because it reflects how Noah’s ark stayed afloat above the huge flood. It foreshadows the Church as a vessel that navigates the waters of this life to bring us safely to the Promised Land in heaven.
When a minister gives a homily from a pulpit that looks like a boat, it symbolizes how Christ is still teaching from the Church – the boat of Peter. The interesting thing about this particular pulpit in Traunkirchen is it also reminds us how Peter and the apostles did become fishers of men as they “caught” men and women and lifted them up into the boat that is the Church.
Joby finished Theology courses from the University of Notre Dame. He is a contributing writer at www.catholic365.com, and teaches in the De La Salle College of St. Benilde where he engages students in conversations about religion, pop-culture, and food.