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From the Pastor 06/03/18

A Blessed Solemnity of Corpus Christi. This is the Third Anniversary of the opening of our Mother of Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel. I hope you have found a special hour for you to spend with our Eucharistic Lord. All of our lives are so blessed by giving Jesus this personal time with Him. We took a big leap of faith in starting up Perpetual Adoration in our parish. The Archbishop allowed this in our parish because he is aware that our devout parish can indeed guarantee that someone will be in front of Jesus 24/7. I certainly hope that more of our parishioners will step forward and help us maintain 24/7 Perpetual Adoration in our parish. As our Eucharistic Guardians come and go, according to their schedules, we are always looking for more adorers. The more Eucharistic Guardians we have, the easier it is for everyone. On page four of this bulletin you can find times that Adorers are desperately needed. Please drop off your Eucharistic Adorer card in the regular collection basket or at the boxes located at the table just outside the Holy Family Candle Room.

Since the Apostolic Church, Christians have been celebrating the Eucharist, the sacrificial meal in which Christians receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus instituted this holy meal on Holy Thursday. Even though Christians have highly esteemed every sacrament, the Eucharist has traditionally held a special place among the sacraments. To illustrate this, St. Ignatius of Antioch (105 AD) referred to the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” St. Ephrem the Syrian (373 AD) taught that even crumbs from the Eucharistic host could sanctify thousands and thousands.

St. Thomas Aquinas considered the Eucharist to be the greatest of all sacraments. Thus, the Church has consistently viewed the Eucharist as unique, even among the sacraments. Thus it is fitting that a feast exists to specifically commemorate the Eucharist. The Catholic Catechism summarizes this teaching of the importance of the Eucharist:

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the Blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

The Eucharist is also called Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Mass (from the Latin word meaning “to dismiss”). Holy Thursday would seem to be the best day to celebrate the Eucharist, because that is the day Jesus actually instituted the Sacrament. In fact, the Institution of the Eucharist is celebrated on Holy Thursday. However, the emphasis on the passion themes present in the Holy Thursday celebration created the need for another day to focus entirely on the Eucharist itself. The Thursday after Trinity Sunday was chosen for the date of the Corpus Christi Feast because it is a Thursday (the same day Christ instituted the Eucharist) and it is the first free Thursday after the Easter season (since the Thursday after Pentecost was a part of the ancient octave of Pentecost). Thus Corpus Christi falls within Ordinary Time.

Typically Corpus Christi services consist of singing traditional hymns, Lauda Sion and Pange Lingua, both attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. Outdoor processions of the Blessed Sacrament are common in some churches as a way to celebrate Corpus Christi. Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction are also common Corpus Christi devotional practices in many churches.

Corpus Christi is primarily thought of as a Western holiday, although the Syrians, Armenians, Copts, and other Eastern Churches have similar festivals. Some dioceses and conferences (including the dioceses in the Catholic Church in America) celebrate Corpus Christi on the Sunday after the traditional feast date, i.e. on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

In some ways every Sunday is a feast of the Eucharist, because by participating in the Mass, and in receiving Communion, we are honoring and celebrating the Eucharist. Nonetheless, a desire to specifically celebrate the Eucharist developed. The feast of Corpus Christi owes a rather large debt to St. Juliana, a nun of Liege, Belgium, who was led to start a celebration of the Mass around AD 1230. At an early age, she developed a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and she longed for a feast in honor of the Eucharist. In AD 1264 a bull of Pope Urban IV commanded the universal observance of the feast.

Nonetheless, Urban’s death impeded the spread of the feast. However, by the 14th century, the feast became universally celebrated in the West. St. Thomas Aquinas is given credit for many of the customs and hymns associated with Corpus Christi. Scholars have questioned this. However, the hymns and prayers certainly are in the tradition of Aquinas, and many defend the traditional ascription based on internal evidence. The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated throughout the Catholic Church.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor