Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why Do I Remain a Catholic? Corpus Christi!

Today is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, whom I receive sacramentally in Holy Communion at Holy Mass. On Thursday, June 4, our Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite community at the parish of St. Anthony of Padua celebrated Holy Mass and then processed around a block with the Blessed Sacrament before concluding with Benediction in the church. We chanted the first four verses of Pange Lingua as we processed in the evening sunlight and concluded with the Tantum Ergo once back in the church--with a rousing "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" as the recessional. The Knights of Columbus honor guard was there too!

Pange, lingua, gloriósi
Córporis mystérium,
Sanguinísque pretiósi,
Quem in mundi prétium
Fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intácta Vírgine,
Et in mundo conversátus,
Sparso verbi sémine,
Sui moras incolátus
Miro clausit órdine.

In suprémæ nocte coenæ
Recúmbens cum frátribus
Observáta lege plene
Cibis in legálibus,
Cibum turbæ duodénæ
Se dat suis mánibus.

Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem éfficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus déficit,
Ad firmándum cor sincérum
Sola fides súfficit.

Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.Amen.

The Thursday after Trinity Sunday is traditionally the date of this feast (as Pope Francis observed it at the Vatican), but in the United States it is being celebrated today. There was a beautiful connection with the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary on Corpus Christi Thursday, since the fifth mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist.

In England before the Reformation there was tremendous devotion to the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament--although the laity did not often receive Holy Communion. English Catholics eagerly embraced the feast of Corpus Christi with processions and adoration--and the cycle of Mystery Plays depicting salvation history from the Old Testament to the New. More about that background from a previous year here.

Inspired by a post by Tod Worner on the the Patheos Catholic Channel, Elizabeth Scalia has asked other Catholic bloggers to post an answer to the question: Why Do I Remain a Catholic? I am not unique among those answering the question when I say that the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the main reasons I am a practicing Catholic. (#WhyRemainCatholic)

In keeping with my interest in Church History, however, I would say that another reason I remain a practicing Catholic is that the past has demonstrated, even to historians not sympathetic to her cause like Thomas Babington Macaulay for example, that we may face hard times in the Church today but the Church has faced harder times and greater dangers before from enemies within and without. Except that the Church has been led and protected by Jesus and inspired by the Holy Spirit, we would have failed completely a long time ago. I do not fear Church history and in fact it helps me face Church presence with Hope--not pollyanna, cover-it-up, ignore that man behind the curtain folly--but real Hope. Especially because of our troubles in the past, I am confident in the midst of the troubles in the present. If we survived Roman persecution, the Renaissance popes, the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, etc, etc, we will survive--Christ has promised; He fulfills His promises.

The history of Catholicism in England demonstrates this reason perfectly. Catholicism should have been eradicated completely from the country by the eighteenth century. Between fines, imprisonment, martyrdom, and other penal and recusant laws, every Catholic in England should have become an Anglican and given up the Faith. But Catholics did not abandon the Faith; missionary priests kept coming, the laity kept hiding them, and the Catholic community endured. Bringing this post back to the theme of Corpus Christi, here is a link to a recording of the great sequence for the feast, Lauda Sion, with a handout including the Latin original, a literal translation--and St. Robert Southwell's translation in English.

Why did Catholics remain during English persecution? Because of Corpus Christi!


  1. Well, it did not quite keep me from a year or two among the Orthodox - where the real presence exists through valid Masses too.

  2. We are so fortunate that we, in modern England, can participate in Mass, have the sacraments and practice the holy Catholic faith, without fear or persecution. Just a few hundred years ago, it was a completely different story. Our Catholic forbears went through great lengths to preserve the faith and suffered terrible martyrdom so we can practice the faith today.

    The tragedy of the English Reformation and its aftermath tends to be downplayed and de-emphasised in the history books and in our country's collective awareness. The reality is this... 1000 years of distinctively English Catholic history, spirituality, theology and culture was systematically destroyed and those who practiced the true holy Catholic faith from the apostles were mercilessly killed in their hundreds. The great monasteries which dotted the landscape, providing food and shelter to the poor and marginalised, were looted and razed to the ground. Churches, shrines, altars, statues, images, relics and (most tragically) tabernacles were smashed or burnt, in a fit of rampant iconoclasm. The veneration of saints, feast days, processions, pilgrimages and popular devotions, traditions which permeated into everyday life, were phased out or banned. The ultra-extremist Puritans considered the CofE too 'Popish' and went further, banning dancing, theatre, merriment and even Christmas! Ironically, though we are now one of the most secular nations in Europe / the world, few people are aware that Cromwellian England was as repressive as Afghanistan under the Taliban. One of the saddest parts of the English Reformation was the gradual extinguishing of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, as historically Catholic churches were 'de-consecrated' as Protestant churches. I feel that Catholics in England should know their own history, as well as Anglicans and those of other and no faith, though sadly there is general ignorance of this.

    On a happier note, I am glad that post-Catholic emancipation, Catholicism is alive and flourishing in England today. We have freedom to practice the sacraments and celebrate the Real Eucharistic Presence of Jesus in our midst today. These are truly treasures of immeasurable value!