. As with many of the great feasts of the Church there is a fascinating history associated with the establishment of this holy day, which involves a saint and a miracle.
God’s instrument on this occasion was a woman known to history as Saint Juliana of Liege, or Julian of Mount Comillon where she was educated as a girl by the Augustinian nuns at the convent there, after the death of her parents when she was only five. She was accepted into the order, made her religious profession, and became the mother superior of the convent.
Juliana had an ardent love of Our Lady, and also cultivated an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. As she grew in her vocation, she increasingly longed for a special feast in honor of the Sacrament. She had a vision of the Church as a full moon with one dark spot, symbolizing the lack of such a feast. Juliana expressed her to desire to the Bishop of Liege and the Archdeacon of Liege, who received her request favorably. In 1246 the Bishop at a synod of bishops from lands now in the country of Belgium, successfully proposed that a feast in honor of the Blessed Eucharist be instituted in the dioceses respresented at the Synod. The Archdeacon of Liege, Jacques Pantaleon, in time became the Bishop of Verdun, then Patriarch of Jerusalem, and, on August 29, 1261, was elected Pope under the name of Urban IV.
Shortly after this, in an example of that synchronicity that often reveals the Hand of God in history, one of the great Eucharistic miracles of the Church occurred. In 1263 Peter of Prague, a German priest, stopped at a town called Bolsena while on pilgrimage to Rome. He was a pious priest but had difficulty in believing that Christ was truly present in the consecrated host. While celebrating Mass in the Church of Saint Cristina, he finished saying the words of consecration, when blood started to seep from the consecrated host and trickled over his hands and onto the altar cloth and corporal
Totally bewildered, he at first attempted to hide the blood, but then interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Ovieto where Pope Urban IV was residing. The Pope listened to the priest’s account and absolved him of the sin of doubt. He then ordered that the Host and the linen cloths bearing the blood stains be taken to the Cathedral of Ovieto. The assembled Bishops, Cardinals and other dignitaries formed a procession and with pomp and dignity the Host and altar cloth were installed in the Cathedral, where the linen corporal is on display to this day.
Pope Urban IV was prompted by this miracle to commission Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose a Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ. One year after the miracle, in August 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced the saint’s composition, and instituted, by papal bull, the feast of Corpus Cristi.
After visiting the cathedral of Ovieto, many pilgrims and tourists journey to Saint Christina’s Church in Bolsena to see for themselves the place where the miracle occurred. From the north aisle of the church pilgrims enter the Chapel of the Miracle, where the stains on the paved floor are said to have been made by the blood from the bleeding Host. The altar of the miracle, surmounted by a 9th century canopy, is now situated in the grotto of Saint Christina. A reclining statue of the saint is nearby. In Aust of 1964, on the 700th anniversary of the institution of the feast of Corpus Cristi, Pope Paul VI celebrated Holy Mass at the altar where the holy corporal is kept in its golden shrine in the Cathedral of Ovieto.
Twelve years later, the same pontiff visited Bolsena and spoke from there via television to the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, then concluding in Philadelphia. During his address the Pope spoke of the Eucharist as being “a mystery great and inexhaustible’.
ROME, May 31, 2013 – The visit of Pope Francis, on Trinity Sunday, to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah to the far north of the city, the first of a series of his visits to Roman parishes, immediately distinguished itself by several original characteristics.
The pope arrived early in the morning, before the time announced, and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet one-on-one the children baptized in the past year, about fifty of them, together with their parents.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is highly sensitive about the baptism of children. On the previous day, in the morning homily at Saint Martha's, he had cited the example of a teenage mother who had asked to have her child baptized and was refused. “The child is in no way at fault for the marital status of his parents” - this has been his principle since he was a bishop in Argentina - and in fact baptism “often becomes for the parents a new beginning.” Woe to those who set up a “pastoral customs agency" in front of this gate of entry into the Christian life: “So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”
The second novelty of the visit took place shortly afterward. The pope entered the sacristy, closed the door, and before celebrating Mass he heard the confession, one after another, of eight parishioners chosen at random. There were supposed to have been five, but three were added unexpectedly. The reporter from “L'Osservatore Romano” wrote: “When that door opened there came out a radiant face, most of the time furrowed with tears.”
Before him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had heard confessions at St. Peter's during Holy Week. Pope Joseph Ratzinger had also heard confessions at World Youth Day in Madrid, in 2011.
Francis, however, wanted to hear confessions in the parish, right before Mass. He gave a good example to priests and faithful. He wanted to make visible the connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is “in the grace of God.”
A third innovation, less unexpected this time, took place during the homily. The pope set aside the pages with the text provided and improvised completely, cobbling together with the children present in the first rows a dialogue of question and answer, in the style of the classic catechism, on the theme of that day's feast, the Trinity.
The text of his homily, transcribed word for word, is on the website of the Vatican and is presented in its entirety further below. But a simple reading of it is not enough to make it comprehensible. One must above all see and hear how Francis conducted the dialogue with his little listeners and the faithful crowded into the space in front of the church. And this is possible thanks to the video recording that the Vatican television center has made available on the internet.
Fourth. Communion. Pope Bergoglio usually does not give it to anyone. He does not wish - and he has said so - that persons should present themselves before him to receive it who are seeking publicity, or worse, from an unclear position with respect to the doctrine and morality of the Church. He does not wish, that is, that there should happen with the pope what for example happened a few hours before, on Saturday, May 25 in Genoa, during the funeral for Fr. Andrea Gallo, when to receive communion from the hands of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco came the famous transvestite Vladimir Luxuria, and the photo ended up in the newspapers.
But this time Francis did give out communion. To the sixteen boys and girls who received it from him for the first time, and to the dozens of other children who had made their first communion in the parish during the previous months. He gave it only to them, who were the emblem of the pure heart with which one must approach the sacrament. They received it standing, not kneeling as with Benedict XVI. In any case Francis clearly wanted to highlight the sanctity of this culminating moment of Christian initiation.
Fifth. At the end of the Mass, the sixteen children who shortly before had received their first communion gathered around the pope (see the photo) and sang for him the blessing of St. Francis of Assisi. And he, Pope Francis, listened to the singing of the children with his head bowed and hands clasped, accepting the blessing with profound devotion, as he had done on the very evening of his election, on the loggia of the basilica of Saint Peter, when he asked for and received the blessing beseeched by the people. In both cases closing with: "I thank you for this.”
At the end of this morning spent “on the periphery,” Francis returned to the Vatican, where he was awaited for the midday Angelus, with a crowded St. Peter's Square .
But it is likely that his upcoming visits to other Roman parishes will last longer and will bring more innovations.
The following, then, is the complete transcription of the homily of May 26, 2013, the video of which is also available on the internet:
> Visita parrocchia romana dei santi Elisabetta e Zaccaria
When at a certain point, dialoguing with the children, the pope says that the one who is able to answer the question “wins the derby," he is alluding to the soccer game scheduled for the afternoon of that same day between the two teams of the capital, Roma and Lazio, with the winner receiving the Coppa Italia.
"RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU KNOW WHO GOD IS..."
Dear brothers and sisters, the pastor, in his words, reminded me of a wonderful thing about the Blessed Mother. The Blessed Mother, as soon as she had received the annunciation that she would be the mother of Jesus, and also the annunciation that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant - the Gospel says - went off in haste; she did not wait. She did not say: “But now I am pregnant, I must take care of my health. My cousin must have friends who may help her.” She heard something and “she went off in haste.”
It is wonderful to think this about the Virgin Mary, about our Mother, who goes off in haste because she has this inside: to help. She goes to help. she does not go to brag and to tell her cousin: "But listen, I'm in charge now, because I am the Mamma of God!" No, she did not do this. She went to help! And the Blessed Mother is always like this. She is our Mother, who always comes in haste when we are in need.
It would be nice to add to the litanies of the Blessed Mother one that would say this: "Our Lady who goes in haste, pray for us!" This is nice, right? Because she always goes in haste, she does not forget her children. And when her children are in difficulty, are in need and call upon her, she goes in haste. And this gives us reassurance, it gives us the reassurance of having Mamma near, always at our side. We go, we walk better in life when we have mamma near. Let us think of this grace of the Blessed Mother, this grace that she gives us: of being close to us, but without making us wait. Always! She is - let us trust in this - there to help us. The Blessed Mother who always goes in haste, for us.
The Blessed Mother also helps us to understand well God, Jesus, to understand well the life of Jesus, the life of God, to understand well what the Lord is, how the Lord is, who God is.
I ask you children: "Who knows who God is?" Raise your hand. Yes, you? That's it! Creator of the earth.
And how many Gods are there? One? But they told me that there are three of them: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! What is the explanation for this? Is there one or are there three? One? One? And how is it explained that one may be the Father, the other the Son, and the other the Holy Spirit? Speak up, speak up! That's right. They are three in one, three persons in one.
And what does the Father do? The Father is the beginning, the Father, who created everything, created us.
What does the Son do? What does Jesus do? Who knows what Jesus does? He loves us? What else? He brings the Word of God! Jesus comes to teach us the Word of God. That's great! What else? What did Jesus do on earth? He saved us! And Jesus came to give his life for us.
The Father creates the world; Jesus saves us. And what does the Holy Spirit do? He loves us! He gives you love! All the children together: the Father creates everything, he creates the world; Jesus saves us, and the Holy Spirit? He loves us! This is the Christian life: to speak with the Father, to speak with the Son, and to speak with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has saved us, but he also walks with us in life. Right? And how does he walk? What does he do when he walks with us in life? This is difficult. The one who gets it wins the derby. What does Jesus do when he walks with us? Speak up! First: he helps us. He guides us! Great! He walks with us, he guides us and he teaches us to go forward. And Jesus also gives us the strength to walk. Right? He sustains us! Good! In difficulties, right? And also in our homework! He sustains us, he helps us, he guides us, he sustains us. That's it!
Jesus always goes with us. Very well. But listen, Jesus gives us strength. How does Jesus give us strength? You know this, how he gives us strength! Speak up, I can't hear you! In Communion he gives us strength, he really helps us with strength. He comes to us. But when you say, "he gives us Communion," does a piece of bread give you so much strength? That's not bread? It's bread? This is bread, but that on the altar, is it bread or not? It looks like bread! It's not really bread. What is it? It is the Body of Jesus. Jesus comes into our hearts.
Here, let's think about this, everyone: the Father has given us life; Jesus has given us salvation, he accompanies us, he guides us, he sustains us, he teaches us; and the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit give us? He loves us! He gives us love.
Let us think of God this way and let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary our Mother, always in haste to help us, to teach us to understand well how God is: how the Father is, how the Son is, and how the Holy Spirit is. So be it.
The following is the partial transcription, as broadcast by Vatican Radio, of the homily of Pope Francis in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, on the morning of Saturday, May 25.
An exemplary homily for understanding his vision of the Church's pastoral practice:
"JESUS INSTITUTED SEVEN SACRAMENTS AND WE THE EIGHTH: THAT OF THE PASTORAL CUSTOMS AGENCY..."
When people approach the Church they should find open doors and not supervisors of the faith. This is what the pope affirmed during the Mass at Saint Martha's:
"The Gospel of the day speaks to us of Jesus who reproaches the disciples who want to send away the children whom the people bring to the Lord that he may bless them. Jesus would embrace them, kiss them, touch them, all of them. But Jesus would get so tired.” And the disciples wanted to stop this. And Jesus became indignant: “Jesus got angry sometimes.” And he says: “Let them come to me, do not hinder them. To those who are like them, in fact, belongs the Kingdom of God."
“The faith of the people of God,” the pope observes, “is a simple faith, it is a faith perhaps without much theology, but with a theology within that does not err, because the Spirit is behind it.” The pope cites Vatican Council I and Vatican II, where it is said that “the holy people of God cannot err in belief." And to explain this theological formulation he adds: “If you want to know who Mary is, go to a theologian and he will explain well to you who Mary is. But if you want to know how Mary is loved, go to the people of God and they will teach you better.” The people of God - the pope continues - "always approaches to ask something of Jesus: sometimes it is a bit insistent in this. But it is the insistence of one who believes.”
“I remember one time, going out into the city of Salta on the patronal feast day, there was a humble lady who asked a priest for a blessing. The priest told her: 'Very well, ma'am, but you have already been to Mass!' And he explained to her the whole theology of the blessing at Mass. He did this well. 'Ah, thank you, Father; yes, Father,' the lady said. When the priest went away, the lady turned to another priest: 'Give me the blessing!' And all of these words did not reach her, because she had another need: the need of being touched by the Lord. That is the faith which we always find and this faith is sustained by the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it to grow.”
The pope then cites the episode of the blind man of Jericho, reproved by the disciples because he was crying out to the Lord: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”:
"The Gospel says that they wanted him not to cry out, they wanted him not to cry out and he cried out even more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they were saying to him: 'No, this is not done! One does not cry out to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it. He is the second person of the Trinity! Watch what you're doing,' as if they were saying this, no?”
And he thinks of the attitude of many Christians:
"We think of good Christians, with good intentions; we think of a parish secretary. 'Good evening, good day, we are engaged, we want to get married.' And instead of saying: 'But how wonderful!' they say: 'Ah, very well, make yourselves comfortable. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot.” These, instead of receiving a good welcome - 'It is a good thing to get married!' - receive this: 'You have the baptismal certificate, everything is in order.' And they find a closed door. When this Christian has the possibility of opening the door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage. . . So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”
It is a temptation that has always been there - the pope explains - which is that “of taking ownership, of appropriating the Lord a bit.” And he recounts another episode:
"Think about a teenage mother who goes to church, to the secretary of the parish: 'I want to have my child baptized.' And this Christian tells her: 'No, you cannot because you are not married!' But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy forward and not return her child to sender, what does she find? A closed door! This is not a good kind of zeal! It drives people away from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this path, in this attitude, we are not helping persons, the folk, the people of God. But Jesus instituted seven sacraments and we with this attitude institute the eighth: the sacrament of the pastoral customs agency!"
“Jesus is outraged when he sees these things” - the pope emphasizes - because the one who suffers is “his faithful people, the people he loves so much”:
“Let us think today of Jesus, who always wants everyone to draw near to Him; let us think of the holy people of God, a simple people that wants to draw near to Jesus; and let us think of so many well-meaning Christians who go wrong and instead of opening the door close it. And let us ask the Lord that all those who draw near to the Church may find the doors open, may find the doors open, open to encounter this love of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace.”
Sacred Music Colloquium, CMAA from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.
This video above from Brazil is dedicated to Brother Bernard
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