12 July 2016

'You forgot to genuflect!'

I came across the video above last week while looking for a version of the hymn O, Sacrament Most Holy to include in an article I was editing for MISYONonline.com, the Columban magazine here in the Philippines of which I am editor.

In the article, Saving the Blessed Sacrament, a young Filipino, John Lambert Minimo, tells how he was able to take the Blessed Sacrament to a safe place after a fire at University of the East (UE) Manila, from which he had just graduated, had badly damaged the chapel.

I presume the video above was made somewhere in North America, though most of the scouts are clearly of East Asian ancestry.

There's  a scene at 0:13 that reminds me of something that happened to me shortly after my First Holy Communion in 1950. It was probably a First Friday, when we would be brought to the semi-public chapel pf the Irish Sisters of Charity, Stanhope Street, Dublin, for confession. Fr Henry Cunningham, one of four curates (assistant priests) in our parish, Holy Family, Aughrim Street, was usually the priest who heard our confessions.

Most of the boys had already gone back to our classroom and only five or six of us were left. When we were leaving the chapel, for some reason I genuflected towards the door, not towards the tabernacle. As we were walking back to the classroom the other boys told me that they would report me to Sister Stanislaus, the principal of the Boys' Kindergarten School. She had prepared us for our First Confession and First Holy Communion. Not wishing to be reported, I went back to the chapel and genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. 

I had learned an important lesson.

In the video a young scout coming from the direction of the altar sits down on the pew without genuflecting. His companion says something to him and the youngster then genuflects before they exchange places. I take it that the older one said to him, You forgot to genuflect!

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, UE chapel before fire

I have noticed over the years that fewer and fewer people bother to genuflect even some who go to daily Mass. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal describes genuflection this way: A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil (No 274).

But it is the centuries-old practice in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, to which most of us belong, to genuflect when we come into a church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is present, and to genuflect when we leave. This is an act of adoration, a profound expression of faith in the presence of Jesus the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. (In Japan, in some other countries and in the Cistercian Order a profound bow is made instead of a genuflection.)

St Norbert in Adoration, Marten Pepijn, 1637. 
Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp [Web Gallery of Art]

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