Category Archives: Liturgical Calendar

Corpus Christi processions and wondering about Catholic witness

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Detail of a miniature of a bishop carrying a monstrance in a Corpus Christi procession under a canopy carried by four clerics. England (probably Glastonbury)

Below are two vintage newsreels of Corpus Christi processions from many years ago. The first is in Cork, a town in southern Ireland, during WWII. The second is in the bombed out city of Cologne, Germany only two years after the war (notice the significant destruction, yet the magnificent cathedral still stands). Also, in the second video at the very end you will hear reference to Cardinal Archbishop Frings, who was a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism, and later would play a significant role at Vatican II, with a young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger writing his speeches for him.

Many places in the world still have Corpus Christi processions (there are quite a few videos), but not where I live, and I would guess not nearly as often mostly everywhere as once upon a time. Catholicism has waned not least because, in terms of social/cultural/public life, so many Catholics have just given up. What was once considered worth putting in the effort for, is now thought too much work. What was once thought an appropriate public display of the body of Christ in unity, is now considered vulgar or just too frightening. But why complain for lack of a vibrant Catholic culture is one is unwilling to create it?

I say create it. But I don’t know how. Perhaps it begins with taking seriously the Mass and the Real Presence. And that’s a big, life-long project for all of us. Perhaps it begins with more Latin Masses. I don’t know, but I think that is probably true at some level. Love and good works are more important than processions, I know, but then again a solemn Corpus Christi procession just might be an act of love and good works for a local community longing for more than what the secular world can offer. Perhaps we must fight our tendency to feel embarrassed by such public displays. Anyway, I want to help.

What amazing displays of Catholic tradition, faith, and witness.

So I sent an email to my local parish church office asking if there was going to be a Corpus Christi procession this year. I got a one word reply: “No” — without greeting, explanation, a thanks for asking, it has not come up sorry, or even punctuation — literally just the word “No.” Of course the answer sufficed, was clear, and I realize folks are busy and need to get on to other things, so it’s not a big deal.

But somehow, in that short and cryptic answer, I sense a lot of the “bigger picture” of current Catholic witness in our community.

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My first Eucharistic adoration

Yesterday, in response to Pope Francis’ request that all Catholics do one hour of Eucharistic adoration on the feast day of Corpus Christi, I went to our local parish church and sat before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in silence.

This was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. I had to research what one is supposed to do for Eucharistic adoration. I knew nothing of the etiquette or expectations. I am also not yet a Catholic, but I figured this would be a good thing for me to do and experience. It was.

I found a chair in the dim church interior, and quietly looked around. I had with me my small New Testament Bible and a small notebook in which I keep track of prayers. I read from the first letter of St. John, prayed, and just sat there looking at the Host. We ended with a song and quietly left.  I cannot say I had a big spiritual experience; no revelation of mind or soul, but I am learning more and more about the Real Presence and about meditative prayer and contemplation. There was something good and right and centering about the experience. And it is good to adore our Lord. I hope to do more adoration as time goes by, and I hope to continue to grow in my understanding.

Interestingly, there were not many of us at the church. On the west coast the time was 8 a.m., so it was easy for us to fit into our schedules, and I expected more to show. Perhaps if it had been at some more difficult time, say 1 a.m., more would have shown, if only because difficulty draws us in sometimes. I also thought more might respond because not only did the Pope call for it, but also because it was a chance to come together around the world at the same time, to be in a special kind of communion with our fellow believers. Oh well, I continue to learn more and more about the Catholic Church.

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on the third day he rose again from the dead

Resurrection by Raffaelino del Garbo, 1510

From Pope Francis’s homily at today’s Easter Mass:

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones.

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

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Holy Saturday Lamentation

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Look toward me, and have pity on me,
for I am alone and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress.
Put an end to my affliction and my suffering,
and take away all my sins.
Behold, my enemies are many,
and they hate me violently.
Preserve my life, and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
(Psalm 25:16-20)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 635):

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. the earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

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Good Friday and Courage

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Lamentation of the Dead Christ (detail), by Giovanni Santi or Sanzio

“…for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds;
but this man has done nothing wrong.”
(Luke 23:41)

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out his soul to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:12)

The day after the cardinals elected him pope, the new bishop of Rome gave this message to those same cardinals in the Sistine Chapel homily for his first mass as pope:

The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the Cross.”

When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross and when we confess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that everyone . . . should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the Cross; and to confess the only glory—Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.


A Prayer for Good Friday

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.
Amen.

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The Last Supper

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Study of Christ for the Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1500)

Before Christ instituted the Eucharist, he taught his followers the meaning of his body and blood, the meaning of which he will later specifically attach to bread and wine. He created a point of tension that forced his hearers to make a choice — either to want to understand or to walk away. In John’s Gospel, chapter six, we read:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

[…]

After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

It is interesting this is the only place in the Gospels, that I’m aware of, where it says many stopped following Jesus. It is interesting that it comes because of his teaching on the Eucharist. But his closest disciples stayed with him, their hearts being gradually prepared to hear more. Later Jesus will institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

How many who call themselves Christians today have also drawn back from His teaching and see the Eucharist as only a symbolic act? Perhaps this shift from sacrament to symbol has become a first step for many in crafting a more palatable gospel. I know it was for me, but then it gradually became a point of tension in my heart.

Lord Jesus Christ, at your Last Supper
you prayed to the Father that all should be one.
Send your Holy Spirit upon all
who bear your name and seek to serve you.
Strengthen our faith in you, and lead us
to love one another in humility.
May we who have been reborn in one baptism
be united in one faith under one Shepherd.
Amen.

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