Thursday, June 23, 2011

Corpus Christi Reconsidered

They called it “a Eucharistic flash mob.” Uh-huh.

Three weeks ago today, on Ascension Thursday, a group of Capuchin monks appeared on the streets of Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. A small team of Catholic evangelists mingled with the crowd, handing out cards and explaining what was going on. Here are some of the reactions....

"What is this about? What is happening? What is this about?"

One young girl said: "I've not seen anything like this since Church."

"Are they doing this all day? ... Will they be doing it again? ... Are they doing this any where else?"

"Is it religious? What is inside that thing?"

A man said: "What is that guy doing?" An old woman with him replied: "That's Jesus. Show respect."

Oh? Putting the Sacred Host in a monstrance and carrying it around in a duffel bag isn't my idea of respect either. Usually for such public displays, the Blessed Sacrament is accompanied by a procession. At the very least, the priest is preceded by a member of the faithful bearing a lighted candle, ideally added by another one ringing a bell, to alert others to the Real Presence. But that wouldn't have had quite the effect now, would it?

"This is so moving! It is the first time I have seen it done outside. I can't wait to tell my parish priest!"

If you do, I hope he has more sense. I believe their good intentions and apostolic zeal got in the way of their good judgment. Still, it is very touching in its own way.

Usually the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. But many countries, including the United States, have had the permission of the Holy See for over a century, to celebrate it as an "external solemnity" on the following Sunday. This is to facilitate the possibility of Eucharistic processions, in parts of the world where Catholicism does not predominate. We'll have one at Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, this Sunday as well. Y'all come.

Until then, you can feast your eyes on last year's commemoration of this solemnity.

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