16 June 2022

'O wondrous gift indeed! The poor and lowly may upon their Lord and Master feed.' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi Sunday, Year C


Pope Benedict elevating the Body of Christ
[Wikipedia; photo]

Corpus Christi, Year C

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C 

In most countries this solemnity, formerly celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, this year replacing the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 9:11b-17 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

When the crowds learned it, they followed Jesus, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who needed healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Elevation of the Host
Jean Béraud [Wikipedia; source]

Jean Béraud’s painting reminds me of Sunday Mass when I was growing up in Holy Family parish in Dublin in the 1940s and 1950s. During the Consecration and the Elevation of the Host and then of the Chalice, there would be a ‘living silence’ expressing a sense of awe at what was happening, the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit acting through the priest. The silence would then be broken by everyone coughing, releasing the life-giving tension of the community’s shared act of adoration.

Each time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, the bread and wine brought to the altar at the offertory become the Body and Blood of Christ. They're not 'symbols' of this. They are the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord Jesus. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 33, puts it, At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. 

Paul Comtois (1895 - 1966)
Lieutenant Governor of Quebec (1961-1966) [photo]

Just after midnight 21/22 February 1966, a fire destroyed the official residence of Paul Comtois, the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Canada,  the official representative of Queen Elizabeth of Canada who lives in England, where she is also Queen. Lieutenant Governor Comtois had been given permission, reluctantly, by the Archbishop to have the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel in his residence. He prayed there every night.

Paul Comtois immediately thought of the Blessed Sacrament when the fire broke out. Having made sure that others in the house were safe he went to the chapel, already in flames. He was able to rescue the Blessed Sacrament but didn't make it to safety. The pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament was found, untouched by the flames, under his charred body.

Canadian priest Fr Raymond de Souza wrote on 7 March 2016 in National Post, one of Canada's dailies, Paul Comtois, the former lieutenant governor of Quebec, was a different kind of martyr. He was not killed by the hatred of others; rather, he was motivated by his own love of Christ. He might be considered a martyr for the Eucharist. 

I might have missed it, but it didn’t seem as though anything was done last month, by either church or state, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death on Feb. 22, 1966. And his story is one that needs to be told.

Fr de Souza quotes from an article by Andrew Cusack in which a family friend, Mac Stearns, relates: His tremendous religious faith impressed me greatly and was no doubt instrumental in my embracing the Catholic faith some time after his death. Knowing his great fervor for the Blessed Sacrament, I have no doubt whatsoever that Paul would do all in his power to rescue the Holy Eucharist from the fire.

The reason for the death of Lieutenant General Comtois was ignored at the time not only by the secular press but by the Catholic press. Cusack quotes Sr Maureen Peckham RSCJ writing in 1988: Yet, Paul Comtois was a man of the world, a well-known socialite, one who had reached the heights of worldly glory; he was one whom the world could recognize as its own. Furthermore, his chivalrous and brave death should, even on the human and wordly level, have merited the title of hero. That he, who had been honored by the world during his lifetime, should have been ignored by the world at the moment of his death, can only be explained by the fact that he died for One Whom the world does not recognize and has ever refused to acknowledge.

I had never heard of Paul Comtois until 2016 when I came across his story on the internet. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1374, teaches: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as 'the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.' In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.' 'This presence is called "real"- by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be "real" too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present. [Emphasis added.]

It is that Presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that the Church celebrates today.

Words by St Thomas Aquinas, music by César Franck
Sung by Patricia Janečková with The Janáček Chamber Orchestra

Patricia Janečková was born on 18 June 1998 and was 19 when the video above was made. Last February she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Please pray for her full recovery.

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond (Benedict XVI).

Latin of St Thomas Aquinas

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

English translation by John David Chambers

Thus Angels' Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

Traditional Latin Mass

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-19-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18. Gospel: Luke 14: 16-24.

St John the Evangelist


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Séan,
What a touching story about Paul Comtois as indeed he might be considered a martyr for the Eucharist.
Sad that his 50th anniversary is being ignored... a sad fact hat nowadays, God is being pushed aside!
But this miracle proves what is the Truth and Paul Comtois no doubt got rewarded for this miraculous rescue of the Eucharist.
Just to let you know that yesterday I traveled safely back to the USA. My forced BONUS time spent at best with dear loved ones, family and friends. That did feed my soul for the remainder of my life.
Grateful for all the fond memories that I've lived by the grace of God.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Happy to know that you are back safely in the USA and that you have brought life-nourishing memories with you from the Netherlands.

When Paul Courtois was Lieutenant General of Quebec, it along with Ireland, Belgium and much of the Netherlands, were all great mission-sending churches. The Church has imploded in all of those places since then and, to a very large degree, the Christian faith itself has been rejected. Rather like Saharan Africa not too long after the time of St Augustine.

However, the Church has grown in recent decades in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in both East Timor, now independent, and West Timor, part of Indonesia.

God bless you, Mariette.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

A very sad truth about the Church having imploded!
People have to re–discover the TRUE HAPPINESS and feeling of TRUE PEACE!
There are too many psychological issues because of rejecting the Christian face...