Archive for June, 2009

Homily – Corpus Christi MMIX June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Homily – Corpus Christi MMIX June 14, 2009

Today’s Feast of Corpus Christi, in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ, is one of the most solemn Feasts of the year in many countries of the world.

Countless villages, towns and cities throughout Europe and South America have large processions where the Blessed Sacrament is carried under a four-poled canopy by the priest in a large gold Monstrance through the main streets of the town or village.  Little girls in their First Communion dresses preceed Our Lord dropping rose petals before Him.  Following Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament in the procession are great crowds of the faithful, singing hymns to the Eucharistic Lord accompanied by Marching Bands.

The outdoor procession traditionally stops at three different altars, usually specially set up for the Feast. At each altar, one of the three Gospel accounts of the institution of the Eucharist is read, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is given.

Msgr. Frappier tells the story about the Corpus Christi procession he remembers as a seminarian studying for the priesthood in France. Every year the seminarians would get the whole day before Corpus Christi off in order to get ready for the Feast.  Every seminarian (and everyone else in the town) had to take a bag and go out into the countryside to pick flowers.  All the petals from all the flowers collected were then laid down on the road so as to make a carpet of flowers lining the road for the Priest carrying Jesus to walk on when He passed by in the procession.

But while the Feast of Corpus Christi is today one of the most beautiful and solemn of our Catholic Feast days, we probably wouldn’t have it today if it hadn’t been for the great faith of a little girl who grew up as an orphan.

Her name was Juliana. She was born in Belgium near the city of Liege in the year 1192. Juliana’s parents died when she was 5, and she was placed under the care of Nuns.

At age 16 Juliana began to have a vision where she saw a beautiful full moon in the night sky, but the moon had a big black spot on it.  After having the vision several times, the Lord appeared to her and said the moon represented the Church, bright with all it’s great Feasts. The black spot was on the moon because there wasn’t any Feast in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus told little Juliana that her mission in life was to get such a Feast established throughout the Church.  She became a nun in the convent she was raised in, and for the next 35 years she tried hard to get the Feast of Corpus Christi established in just her own diocese.

The devil must have obviously not wanted such a feast to be established, because first she was falsely accused of financial mismanagement and thrown out of her monastery.  Then she was exonerated of those charges by her Bishop. And the Bishop, who believed in her mission, decreed that every parish in the diocese should celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  But a year later, the Bishop died, and only one Church in the Diocese had followed the decree.

Without her old Bishop to protect her, Juliana was again driven from her convent by her enemies, and took refuge in a Cistercian convent in another part of the country.  No sooner did she get settled in when that convent was burned to the ground and she had to move a third time.

Juliana died ten years later, in 1258, almost a total failure, with only that one parish in her old diocese celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the rest of the diocese indifferent to the new feast or opposed to it.

But before she was banished from her convent, Juliana became friendly with an archdeacon of the diocese named James.  Three years after her death, this deacon was elected the Pope, and became Pope Urban IV.

Pope Urban asked the great Dominican Friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, to write Mass and Office prayers and Hymns for this New Feast.  St. Thomas ended up writing the Tantum Ergo, Panis Angelicus, O Salutaris Hostia, and Adoro Te, some of the greatest hymns ever written, and in 1264 Pope Urban decreed that the feast of Corpus Christi be celebrated in every Church throughout Christendom, which it was.

One last interesting note.  Every year in England in the middle ages, plays were performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi called “mystery plays”. These plays were very popular and taught the faith in an entertaining way.

The mystery plays were banned soon after England broke from the Roman Church.  But before that, it is speculated by some that a little boy named William would attend these plays every year with his parents, and be fascinated by them.  When William grew up, he began to write plays of his own.  While it probably will never be know for sure, there is strong evidence that this William Shakespeare I’m speaking about was a clandestined Catholic throughout his life.

May Jesus give us the deep faith in and love for the Holy Eucharist that he gave Blessed Juliana, a faith that will help us persevere when all looks hopeless and when our mission as followers of Christ seem to be ending in total failure.  May we not despair, but be assured that to Christ belongs the victory, that He is with us always in this Sacrament until the end of the world, and that He will raise up gloriously on the last day all who eat His Sacred Flesh and drink His Precious Blood.

Homily – Trinity Sunday MMIX June 7, 2009

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Homily – Trinity Sunday MMIX                June 7, 2009

Andrea Previtali, Trinità (copyright Marco Mazzoleni)

Andrea Previtali, Trinità (copyright Marco Mazzoleni)

If you remember a few months back, we covered all the statues and religious images in the sanctuary with Purple Clothes for the last two weeks of Lent.

Some people were wondering how we got the purple cloth over the Holy Spirit way up there over the altar.  I put it up there myself – very carefully!

Anyway, as I was coming down the ladder from putting the cloth up, something a few feet away from me caught my eye.

It was one of the two metal chains Cross in the center of our sanctuary hangs from, the one closest to me.  About a third of the way down the chain from the top, one of the metal links in the chain had broke wide open and was barely holding on to the link below it.

I said to myself “I wonder how long this has been like that!”

One of the liturgy committee went out and purchased some strong cable wire, and we reinforced the link.  (We also made sure the rest of them were in good shape – they are, don’t worry.)

But the incident got us thinking about what would have happened if that broken link let go.  Best case scenario, we’d come to Mass in the morning and the crucifix would be dangling diagonally by the other chain.  Worst case scenario, we’re in the middle of Mass and the weak link lets go, the other chain brakes because of the excess weight, and the whole cross comes falling down while I’m walking under it!

We can thank the Guardian Angel of St. Joseph’s Church, and the ancient Lenten Tradition of Covering images with Purple cloths during Passiontide, that none of that happened.

I was reminded of all this earlier this week, as I was looking on the Internet for an image of the Holy Trinity to put in this weeks bulletin for Trinity Sunday which we celebrate today.

It’s the image I ended up putting in the bulletin, and if you have one in your pew you might want to look at it now as I talk about it.
It’s kind of a strange image when you first see it.  There’s Jesus the Son on the Cross, and sitting (or in some versions standing) right behind Him is God the Father, looking like the familiar Wise Old Man with a long white beard.

God the Father is behind the Cross, grabbing on to both ends of the crossbar, as if He’s both holding it up or showing it to us (in some versions, the Father’s hands are not on the side, but underneath the crossbeam, further emphasizing that He’s keeping the Cross from falling down).

Then right above God the Father and God the Son, there is God the Holy Spirit, in the familiar form of a Dove like He was at Jesus’ Baptism.  In many versions of this image, there are rays shining down from the Holy Spirit, just like our Holy Spirit has rays up above the Cross here.

As a matter of fact, if you look at the picture in the bulletin, and then look at our Crucifix with the Holy Spirit above it, you can just imagine God the Father standing behind this Cross here in the sanctuary, holding on to both ends of the Crossbeams like in the picture.

Now, every time I see this popular image of the Holy Trinity, my initial reaction is that it’s weird.  Because there’s God the Father holding up His Crucified Son, looking as if He doesn’t care that His Son is dying this miserable death.

That’s my initial reaction every time I see that image.   But after a few minutes of meditating on the image, I begin to see the deeper meaning of it.  I also begin to understand just a little bit better this great mystery of the Holy Trinity.

For what does Jesus say in the Gospel?  No one comes to the Father except through me.  No one comes to God the Father except through Jesus His Son, and no one comes to God the Son except through the Cross:  unless you take up the Cross and follow after me, you cannot be my disciple.

This is why in the picture, God the Father stands behind the Crucifix, because to get to God the Father, we must go through His Crucified Son Jesus.

And then finally, how do we know all this?  How do we know that Jesus is God and that the Cross is our Salvation?   We know it because God the Holy Spirit is up there shining His rays like a spotlight on this Mystery, so that we see it clearly by the light of faith.

We sing in the Pentecost Sequence “Holy Spirit, Lord of light! From Your clear celestial height, Your pure’ beaming radiance give!”  The Holy Spirit gives us the light to see that Jesus is the Son of God.   As St. Paul says No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.    We would still be in darkness about how the Cross of Jesus saves us and brings us to God the Father if the Holy Spirit hadn’t enlightened us.

And so today we celebrate this wonderful and central mystery of our Faith: that the One True God is a community of Persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

The Bond of Love that Unites these Three Persons into One is like a Triple Linked Chain that nothing could ever break.

This Strong Love of the Most Blessed Trinity has been poured into our hearts at Baptism.    And so long as we remain united with the Trinity through loving God and loving our neighbor, even now in this life we get a foretaste of that Love we will abide in forever in Heaven.

But while chains of Love uniting the Persons of the Holy Trinity with each other are unbreakable, the chains of Love which unite us to God are not.

As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.  And when we commit sin, we may break only one link in the chain that binds us to God, but that one link can make our whole relationship to God come crashing down like that one link in this chain almost made our Cross come crashing down.

On this Trinity Sunday, may we examine each link in the chain which unites us to Jesus crucified and through Him to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  May the Blessed Trinity help us to strengthen any weak links and repair any broken ones,  that we may receive fully into our hearts the Love and Power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.