The feast day of Corpus Christi was celebrated this year Thursday June 7 or Sunday June 10. Corpus Christi means the “Body of Christ”. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is present in this Sacrament under the appearances of bread and wine.
Corpus Christi was declared a universal feast of the Catholic Church in 1264, following a vision received by a Belgian nun Sister Juliana. Sister Juliana pleaded with her local priest Monsignor Pantaleon to designate a special feast day for the Body of Christ. The priest later became Pope, and as Pope Urban IV he fulfilled her wishes.
The presence of the body of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine takes place during the celebration of Mass. The Mass is the response of the Church to Our Lord who changed bread and wine into his body and blood at the Last Supper, and then added: “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22, 19). Since that command more than 2000 years ago, Mass or the “breaking of bread” (Acts of the Apostles 1, 46), has been celebrated in Catholic communities at least every Sunday, and often more frequently.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta had an interesting observation. She said that the Mass is connected with the sufferings and death of Jesus, and that without the tradition of celebrating Mass we would have forgotten the crucifixion. It would have faded into the past, and we would soon have forgotten that God loves us.
Each Mass is meant to send you out with a new awareness that you are loved by God. Unfortunately the simple “breaking of bread” has developed over time into a very wordy and elaborate ritual that has made the Mass a complicated and sometimes boring experience for many people.
The essence of the Mass is that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ so that you can be sacramentally nourished by the God who loves you. In response to that love you pledge yourself to be more caring towards your brothers and sisters at home and abroad. That is the meaning of Holy Communion, communion with your fellow human beings through your communion with God.
It is important that the words and rituals in the Mass give emphasis to this central meaning, and not obscure it or distract from it. The Mass has a long tradition, and the many changes added over the centuries can actually obscure the meaning of the original simple ceremony. Mother Teresa’s comment is profound, and it also has the virtue of simplicity.
Pope John XXIII once remarked: “Some people make simple things complicated. I like to make complicated things simple”. I like to think that God wants it that way too. Thank you, Pope John XXIII. Thank you, Mother Teresa.
Recently I chanced upon a tv program about St. Catherine Labouré, and the Miraculous Medal.
It brought me back 58 years ago when I visited the chapel on the Rue de Bac in Paris, where Catherine had a vision (1830) of the Blessed Mother with rays coming from her open hands as a symbol of the graces God gives to the world through Mary.
Catherine was told to have a medal made in this image, and that all who wore it would receive great graces. The medal became known as the Miraculous Medal.
While I was praying in the Rue de Bac chapel in 1953, a French lady approached me and asked me to bless some Miraculous Medals she had. I was newly ordained, and knew that a priest needed some special faculty to bless this kind of medal. I explained this to the lady, and apologized that I could not give the blessing. She smiled at me and said, “I think if you just give the blessing, God will do the rest”. I smiled back, and blessed the medals for her. I never forgot her valuable teaching.
Online I came across an article by Father John Hardon S.J. about how an extraordinary experience with the Miraculous Medal changed his life. He helped me to become aware of how I had neglected the Miraculous Medal, which once was a valuable asset when I was Director of the Legion of Mary in the Philippines.
I also came to realize that one time I was enrolled in the Miraculous Medal, but have not worn it for many years. So I searched today until I found a medal, and then found the prayers of blessing and enrollment online. I enrolled myself once more in the Miraculous Medal, and am now wearing my medal once again.