Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ 2020
The most beautiful Masses of my life …
This is an unusual Feast of Corpus Christi. Millions of Catholics are being deprived of attendance and participation in the most beautiful sacrament of the Eucharist. I feel almost guilty whenever I take part in our daily Mass in my Jesuit community.
I can participate by walking down the hallway. I don’t even have to be concerned about my attire or the state of my hair. I’ve always felt blessed by that, but even more so at this time of the great pandemic, a period that will be the focus of many chapters and articles in future history books.
Guilt yes! But I certainly feel privileged. If I am presiding, I always start the celebration with an acknowledgement of the many who are being forced into a Eucharistic fast in these increasingly strange days. I feel that it is part of my mission to share in the Eucharist for them. I try not to take this gift for granted.
I have mentioned before that I used to live in community with a holy Jesuit Brother. He taught me a great deal about not taking for granted the gift of my daily access to the Eucharist, especially in a world where so many devout Catholics, especially in remote areas, do not have access to a regular celebration of the Eucharist.
And now, it’s not even a question of geographical remoteness. It’s part of the new normal. Br. John Masterson used to regularly share at community meetings that he felt so privileged. All he had to do was walk out of his room and take about twenty paces in order to reach the house chapel, where there was a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament and Mass was celebrated at 7:30 a.m. each day.
I have also used this account before, but it is always relevant and powerful. Let me share an excerpt from the writings of Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan. He lived from 1928-2002 and spent thirteen years in prison in Communist Vietnam, nine of them in solitary confinement.
In his 2007 encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI referred to Thuan’s collection of writings from prison, saying: During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope – to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
His cause for beatification and canonization has started and he is called Venerable. Here are his words:
When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately with empty hands. The faithful sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, ‘medicine for stomach-aches.’ They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity. The police asked me, ‘You have stomach-aches?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Here’s some medicine for you.’
I will never be able to express my great joy! Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass. This was my altar, and this was my cathedral! It was true medicine for soul and body. Each time I celebrated the Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine. Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life!”
So many of us are in that prison cell in these unusual days. On this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us ponder how our lives are Eucharistic and that we carry that gift within us.