Sunday, May 29, 2005

Notes on the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Today many Roman Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known by its Latin name of Corpus Christi. Though this feast commemorating the institution of the Eucharist traditionally falls on a Thursday, in many places it is now observed on the following Sunday. Today's readings are very rich and offer presiding clergy an excellent opportunity to preach on the meaning and importance of the Eucharist. In my experience, Corpus Christi can be a real make-or-break feast, telling parishioners as much about their priest as it does about the Catholic faith. At the morning Mass I attended today at Assumption Church in Windsor, Father Kris Niewinski did what I would consider a commendable job of conveying the meaning of the feast. Going to Mass and receiving communion on a weekly or even daily basis, we often take the Eucharist for granted. One antidote to this complacency is hearing stories like the one Father Niewinski recounted from Jesuit Walter Ciszek's He Leadeth Me about the sacrifices and risks that prisoners in the Siberian gulags would accept to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist in secret. I'll admit I'm somewhat biased as a Jesuit novice and Ciszek fan, but I think Niewinski's use of a memorable, touching and reasonably contemporary (i.e., mid-20th century) story as a reminder of the Eucharist's importance was an excellent way to present the meaning of Corpus Christi to his parishioners.

The above praise is not offered lightly, for I've also heard homilies which did not convey the meaning of Corpus Christi very effectively. One of these was, in fact, the Worst Homily I Have Ever Heard. The WHIHEH was delivered at a Mass I attended a couple years ago - in charity, I will not say where. The priest - a very young and wet-behind-the-ears one - said very little about the meaning of the Eucharist and quite a lot about the conditions under which one could or should receive communion. This he did by negative example, explaining under what circumstances one ought not receive the Body of Christ. His list of nots was so lengthy and exhaustive that I began to wonder whether anyone in attendance would be fit to receive communion - including the priest. If nothing else, this egregious example of horrid homilizing at least provided me with a memorable example of how not to preach about Corpus Christi. At the same time, I'm pleased that this morning's homily at Assumption offered me a positive example of how to get it right. AMDG.


At May 29, 2005 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father M's homily was kind of 'Ghostbusters', or at least the tone he set know, that scene in an old building, a church or museum, where the 'spirits' swoop in....creepy, confusing.


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