St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Browsing Msgr. Pat's Homilies

6-23-2019 The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Jun 24, 2019



The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ / C / 2019

Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord, the last of the solemnities that follow upon Easter and precede our return to the Sundays of Ordinary Time. The solemnity is more commonly called the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ), and it is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday in some countries (including the Vatican). In the United States, the feast is celebrated on Sunday.

Legend has it that the feast was inspired by a Eucharistic miracle that took place in the town of Bolsena, Italy, in the 13th century. As the story is told, a pious priest was on pilgrimage to Rome. The priest was a holy man, but he had doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The priest hoped that a pilgrimage to the eternal city would bolster his faith and strengthen his belief in the real presence.

On the way to Rome, the priest stopped at the hilltop town of Bolsena. There, he celebrated Mass over the tomb of Saint Christina. At the words of Consecration, droplets of blood fell from the consecrated host onto the corporal (the square white cloth on the altar).

Naturally, the priest was shocked by this remarkable sign of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. He asked to be taken to the neighboring town of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was residing. The pope ordered that the corporal be brought to Orvieto for display, and it has remained in Orvieto (at the cathedral) ever since. On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the stained corporal is removed from its reliquary and carried in procession through the town.

In keeping with this tradition—and the common practice in many churches around the world—we will have a Eucharistic procession following this Mass. The monstrance (from the Latin monstrare, "to show") containing the Eucharist will be carried around the

block. At the conclusion of the procession, the monstrance will be placed on the altar for Benediction.

The Feast of Corpus Christi developed at a time of widespread doubt concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

And recent polls have shown that many Catholics today have a limited understanding of what we call "the real presence."

The Catechism says this: "Jesus Christ is present in many ways to his Church: in his word; in the Church’s prayer; in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned; in the sacraments of which he is the author; in the sacrifice of the Mass; and in the person of the minister. But he is present most especially in the Eucharistic species" (CCC, 1373).

The Catechism goes on to say that the "mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique; . . . the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. This presence is called ‘real.’"

Jesus: fully present to us in the Eucharist—God’s great gift to us.

"We become what we receive," St. Augustine said about the Eucharist. We become what we receive—the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, here at the altar, present in the Church.



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