The feast of Corpus Domini (officially in English Speaking countries the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body And Blood Of The Lord”) is a traditional Catholic solemnity instituted to celebrate the Real Presence consecrated in the Eucharist and celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, that is: tomorrow. Corpus Domini is simply the Latin for “Lord’s Body”.
The origin of the feast lies in the vision of an Augustinian Nun, Juliana of Liege. This nun had always had a special veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, desiring to be in His presence for as long as possible. According to Wikipedia:
This desire is said to have been increased by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. In 1208 she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop. Juliana also petitioned the learned Dominican Hugh of St-Cher, Jacques Pantaléon (Archdeacon of Liège who later became Pope Urban IV) and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter.
It is interesting to note that when the Church made of this a universal feast, St. Thomas Aquinas composed an ad hoc hymn, the Pange Lingua, which became one of the most famous hymns of the Church. The last two verses of the hymn gave origin to another famous hymn, the Tantum Ergo.
There is no doubt that this feast reached a high degree of popular participation in the centuries before the Heresies of Luther & Co., as proved by the lengthy controversy in Florence about whether the Corpus Domini procession should start from the newly erected Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or rather from its traditional location of the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella. We also know that when the heresy of Calvin started to spread, particular caution had to be exercised to ensure adequate protection for the Precious Body, traditionally led in procession in a monstrance and now at risk of desecration through the heretical mob.
I also read several years ago in Germany – and have no ground to doubt – that this feast received additional impulse during the Counter-reformation, as the fact that the feast so obviously stresses the Real Presence and the miracle of Consecration made it very apt to be used as a vehicle of sound Catholic doctrine amidst the heretical impulses of those times.
The feast is not a holy day of obligation in the United Kingdom and has been moved to the following Sunday. Still, it would be good to try to go to Mass tomorrow if you can, or at least to find some time to stay in the presence of the Corpus Domini on the day of this beautiful, so intrinsically Catholic feast.
This – as always – excellent Michael Voris video* points out to a very important aspect of the current crisis: the fact that vast parts of the Church (among both the clergy and the laity) simply refuse to see it.
This is largely due, I think, to the increasing influence the media have on the easily impressionable. A Pope gathering extremely large crowds can give the impression that Catholicism is prospering, but this is only a very superficial impression. Catholicism is certainly on the increase, but in vast part of the West its shallowness – and in the worst cases a quiet abandonment of catholic orthodoxy – has been if not actively promoted, certainly tolerated through silence.
When 75% of Catholics don’t go to Mass and almost as big a percentage doesn’ t even believe in the Real Presence, the crisis is there irrespective of how many airports you may fill.
I disagree with Voris’ only in one point: that in this crisis the heresy is not a deliberate choice, but largely a matter of astonishing ignorance of the faithful, ignorance carefully built in 45 years of relentless dumbing down of everything Catholic.
My personal experience is that most non-churchgoing Catholics haven’t any meaningful idea of what offence it is to be a Catholic and not to go to Mass; and as they perfectly well know that many priests wouldn’t insist on it, they are not really going to change their mind when the occasional Mundabor explains the facts to them: when the rules conflict with the reality they see at work every day, a reality amply tolerated by the clergy, how can this be differently?
The same goes for abortion, contraception and the like. In a world where it is rather difficult to find priests who have the gut to say to the parishioners in their face that it is not about what they consider right, but what the Church says it’s right, how do you want to avoid even churchgoers going around picking and choosing? If their priest never tells them so much as a half uncomfortable word, and reduces everything to “celebrating” and “accepting” and being “tolerant”, how can we expect that this rubbish is not going to influence them in their daily lives?
And I am talking of the churchgoers here, let alone the lapsed Catholics.
In the last months I have taken the habit of asking those who say “I am a Christian, but….” (followed by a heresy of their choice) whether they can recite the ten commandments to me.
Of the supposed Catholics, no one can.
The “heresy” of our days is fed by people who don’t even know the ten commandments but have persuaded themselves that they can call themselves “Christians”; a concept that not more than two generations ago would have seemed absurd I do not say to every theologian, but to every child of ten years of age.
The consequence of this is, in my eyes, that one or two generations of committed instruction of Catholics through both the clergy and an aggressive work of propaganda through the media would let the heresy naturally recede; because in the crisis we are living the heresy is not due to a willed, deliberately chosen frontal conflict with the Church, but to the sheer ignorance of what being a Catholic implies.
The way to this goes, in my eyes, through the recovery:
1) of the Liturgy (how do you want people to believe in the Real presence, if you feed them the dumbed down, protestantised New Mass?);
2) of proper Catholic instruction; and
3) of an assertive mentality and media behaviour replacing “social justice” rhetoric with true evangelisation.
The crisis is vast, but it is not such a deep ideological hiatus as, say, the Heresies of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were.
Bring proper instruction to the sheep, and they will naturally come back to the fold.
Classic FM is the biggest radio station for classical music on the planet. It is listened daily by more than 5 million people. As it is fitting for such a broadcasting heavyweight, they have their own news team.
Unfortunately, this news team sounds like the lovechild of the “Guardian” and the “Independent”; so much so, that I generally switch away before the news as there’s nothing worse than beginning the day by being infuriated by those people.
This morning, I imprudently omitted to do so and therefore I heard that the Pope would held today 1) an ecumenical ceremony 2) in a “show of unity with the Anglican church” (the very words! I kid you not!).
I almost had my caffellatte going down the wrong pipe. Besides the obvious absurdity of the “show of unity” with an ecclesial community of which the Church doesn’t even recognise the validity of the order (and which, by the way, goes to show the extent of wrong information and utter tosh spread even by national media outlets), I was not at all pleased at hearing that still another “ecumenical encounter of the wrong kind” would take place. The words led me to assume that it would be a mass, which would be unsurprising by people thinking that this would be a “show of unity”; but honestly I do not remember the exact words now as the “show of unity” bomb and the caffellatte took all my attention.
Can you imagine Pius IX having an ecumenical Mass with the so-called archbishop of Canterbury? Pius X perhaps? Pius XI? What about Pius XII?
There is a reason for this. Whatever the theological gimmicks used to justify such exercises, every ecumenical Mass engenders the idea that there be no big difference whether one is Catholic or Anglican, whether his communion is the Real Presence or a fraud, whether the celebrant is a priest or a layman, a Catholic or a Heretic.
This cannot be right and in fact it isn’t. Every old doctrinal text or booklet will tell you that a Catholic is supposed not to pray together with members of other faiths, let alone participating to ecumenical masses.
Therefore, after succeeding in sending my caffellatte down the right pipe and as I felt the usual adrenaline surge of such occasions, I thought that this was a very bad mistake.
Thankfully, though, the website of the papal visit seems to give a different view. The program merely mentions a “fraternal visit”, with the Evensong. The papal visit website doesn’t even say whether it will concelebrated. It might be that the Pontiff merely listens, I do not know yet.
Bad as this is, this not an ecumenical mass, which softens the blow considerably. Still, I do think that this is a mistake and that the Papal visit should have sent a stronger message in defence of Catholicism and should have paid more attention in order to avoid any confusion between the Only Church and the rest. You can be diplomatic without being ambiguous after all.
How inappropriate this Evensong is, is showed by the likes of Classic FM, for which this largely diplomatically motivated encounter becomes “a show of unity”. One could say that the Pontiff is not responsible for the superficiality of utterly ignorant liberals and one would be right; but once again we are in front of the importance of sending a clear message.
A lot of people inform themselves only superficially; the Church should, if you ask me, help even superficially informed people not to have any doubt about what is what.