Corpus Christi procession through Thomas Aquinas College campus.
The Lauda Sion
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, established in the universal Roman calendar by Pope Urban IV in 1264. The Pope asked the greatest theologian of the time (and our School’s patron), St. Thomas Aquinas, to compose a Mass for the new feast. He composed five hymns, among them the beloved Adoro te devote, the Pange lingua, and the Lauda Sion. Of the five sequences in the Roman Missal, today’s is the longest and perhaps the most lyrical. In its dogmatic precision, it provides an admirable catechesis on the Holy Eucharist in 24 stanzas. It seems almost effusive, but St. Thomas leads us to wonder rather than definition. How can the Church sufficiently describe the Corpus Domini made real at every Mass, and quietly present in every tabernacle? We simply cannot say enough about the Holy Eucharist, the Inaestimabile Donum of our Provident Father. Some excerpts from our Sequence today:
Lauda Sion Salvatórem, Lauda ducem et pastórem, In hymnis et cánticis.
Praise O Zion your Savior, praise your leader and your shepherd, in hymns and canticles.
Dogma datur Christiánis, Quod in carnem transit panis, Et vinum in sánguinem.
To Christians is given this dogma, that bread becomes flesh, and wine blood.
A suménte non concísus, Non confráctus, non divísus: Integer accípitur.
Neither cut nor broken nor divided: the receiver receives Him whole.
Sumit unus, sumunt mille:Quantum isti, tantum ille: Nec sumptus consúmitur.
One receives him, a thousand receive him: as much as one receives, so much do a thousand receive: He is never exhausted.
Ecce panis Angelórum, Factus cibus viatórum: Vere panis filiórum.
Behold the bread of angels, made into bread of pilgrims: truly bread of sons and daughters.
Bone pastor, panis vere, Jesu, nostri miserére: Tu nos pasce, nos tuére, Tu nos bona fac vidére, in terra vivéntium.
Good pastor, true bread, Jesus our mercy: you keep us, you protect us, you will make us to see good things in the land of the living.
Feeding Five thousand
In today’s Gospel Jesus feeds five thousand, as he feeds five billion mouths every week throughout the world in the Holy Mass. It is growing late, and the Apostles see five thousand hungry and (potentially angry) men before them. “Dismiss this crowd!” they urge Jesus. Our Lord contests: “No. They are hungry. Feed them.” Jesus commands his first pastors to feed the world, but not with earthly bread. But the apostles reply, “feed them with what? We have only five loaves and two fish.” Jesus instructs them: “Then give them what you have. Give them all you have.” The disciples, thankfully, give everything they have to Jesus. He blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the disciples, who give it to the people. All ate and were satisfied.
The priest must give what he has to Jesus before he can give it to the people. He cannot offer the Church anything of value without first surrendering it to Christ. It is Christ who consecrates and multiplies what we give, so that it may be sufficient. What have we to offer that will satisfy anyone? Very little, and certainly not enough. Do you ever feel inadequate in trying to meet the needs of your spouse, your children, your friends, or your parishioners? The trick is to offer what we do have to Jesus. Mother Teresa would say, “To God there is nothing small. The moment we have given it to God, it becomes infinite...”
In the Incarnation, God took what little Our Lady had to offer—her finite human will, her small and imperfect body—and he made it infinite. In Sacred Eucharist, God repeats that miracle. He takes what little we have to offer—a bit of bread and a few drops of wine—an hour of our time, a few dollars thrown into the basket, the little bit of energy we spend in getting to Mass. He takes our little tithe and feeds the world with it. The eternal salvation of every man, woman, and child on earth depends on the Mass, and the Mass depends on us. If we don’t offer the Eucharist, it won’t happen—Jesus entrusted this duty to men, after all. We have to offer what we have, as Abraham offered his little tithe in the first reading. He offered just a tenth of his wealth to the priest-king Melchizidek, who brought out offerings of bread and wine. And the blessing our father Abraham received is sufficient even unto this day.
After Mass we will process behind the Blessed Sacrament. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, the Church “solemnly bears it in procession, publicly proclaiming the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world.” The parishes that carry Christ in procession, and enthrone Him in the Blessed Sacrament, are transformed. My last parish had more people at daily Mass, fed more poor people every week, received more money in the Sunday offertory, and sent more men into the seminary than any other parish in the diocese. Asked by our local newspaper why this was so, one of our elderly parishioners replied immediately: it is because we have a perpetual adoration chapel.
Our Procession and Holy Hour
In our Corpus Christi procession today, we will consecrate the entire student body and academic year by bringing the Blessed Sacrament into the residence halls and throughout the campus. Pope Francis himself processed with the Sacrament through the city of Rome on Thursday, and today has just completed a Eucharistic Holy Hour (5-6pm Rome time, or 8-9am Santa Paula time). We join him in our Mass this morning, as we join him in a holy hour after our procession, with benediction at 11:30, just before a nice lunch at the Commons.
In a small work on Corpus Christi Sunday, St. Thomas articulates our own wonder in the Holy Eucharist: “O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value?...In the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this Sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source….it was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of his miracles, and for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, a unique and abiding consolation.” The Eucharist, the Holy Mass, is our unique and abiding consolation, a divine foretaste of what awaits us in heaven.
Homily: The City of God and the City of Man
Extraordinary Form Homily, October 7th, 2012
19th Sunday after Pentecost
A tale of two cities
Dickens’ great novel about revolutionary Paris and London tells the tale of Two Cities. So our Lord in today’s Gospel tells the tale of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. You belong to one, or you belong to the other. The Kingdom of heaven is like a King who invited many guests to his Son’s wedding feast. He slaughtered his oxen and fatlings and dressed the great table for his guests, so earnestly does he desire each guest’s salvation. He prepares his table at every Mass, but many guests do not come. They treat the king’s invitation with contempt, and murder his messengers.
Do you know the largest religious group in this country? It is not Catholics, for Catholics attend Mass every Sunday and submit themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The largest religious group in our country is not Catholics, but non-practicing Catholics, for 75% of those who claim membership in the Catholic Church neither attend Mass faithfully nor believe in all the Church’s teachings. They do not come to the Wedding Feast, and they ridicule the Pope and his faithful bishops. What is this mysterious malice, that not only ignores the King’s invitation, but that drives the invited guests to a fury of intolerance?
So the King destroys those murderers and burns their city, the City of Man. The King affords apostates no quarter, and for us, neither is there any third way. Either we enter the City of God, and take our place at the wedding feast of the Lamb, or we obtusely remain in the City of Man to await our certain destruction. But one man did try a third way. He entered the City of God in shabby clothing. St. Gregory the Great writes of this passage: “The marriage is the wedding of Christ and his Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity.”
How terrible to come before God with dirty, stinking, rotten clothing! We observe a dress code in our college chapel. It is a sign that we do not come before the Lord without clothing ourselves, as best we can, with the virtues that God himself provides. God provides grace, but we must put it on, as St. Paul says in the Epistle: “Put on the new man … put away lying … let not the sun set on your anger … steal no more….”
Year of Faith
God intensely desires our happiness, now and forever. He prepares the nuptial feast of his Son, at which we receive the very self-offering of our bridegroom. With his own hand he feeds each of us with himself. Yet how many Catholics believe this? How many, rather, manifest the obstinate malice that ridicules their own Mother, the Church? They have lost the virtue of faith. Faith must be received from another, certainly, but we must develop and practice the faith we receive. Pope Benedict opens a Year of Faith this week, on Thursday, October 11, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The “Door of Faith is always open for us,” writes the Pontiff. “To enter that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.” But “in large swathes of society, a profound crisis of faith has affected many people.” How will you, college students and college tutors, practice this Year of Faith? The Pope recommends, above all, studying and teaching the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I will say more on the Year of Faith in the coming weeks.
The Holy Rosary
Today is also October 7th, the Feast of the Holy Rosary. On this day in 1571, 70,000 Christian men came up against the seemingly invincible Ottoman Navy. Each Christian held a rosary in his hand, and so the ensuing victory brought about a new devotion to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. We too must bear the rosary into our battles. The City of Man wars incessantly against the City of God, and the battle lines cross directly through each human heart. What will save us from the furious secularism of our time, intent with mysterious malice to humble and subjugate the Church of Christ? You and I must pray the rosary, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth.” Nothing bad can touch the family that regularly prays the rosary with devotion. It is one of the great anthems of the City of God, of which, we beseech God and His Holy Mother, we many always be faithful and true citizens.
Homily: The Holy Eucharist
St. John, Chapter 6
Today begins the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, the great Eucharistic teaching of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to read this chapter carefully and not be Catholic. Today Jesus feeds 5000 men with five loaves and two fish. Next Sunday he declares himself to be the bread of life. August 12 he will reveal that “the bread that he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. On August 19 Jesus will say five times that “unless a man eat my flesh and drink my blood, he has no life in him, but if he eats my flesh, he will never die;” and finally, on August 26 Jesus will allow most of his disciples to leave him over his insistence on the doctrine of the Eucharist. How many disciples have left his company over this very teaching throughout the centuries? How many find this teaching “too hard to accept,” and so reject the Catholic Church, and reject Christ’s sacraments? And yet the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is our very life, our only hope for eternal life.
In a few days I will be leaving this community after 12 years with you. If I have done nothing else, I hope I have been able to provide you with the Holy Eucharist, the one thing necessary for our salvation. The Eucharist, however, will not save us, if we don’t receive it in faith. Jesus will not save us, if we don’t surrender to him in faith. I hope that over the last 12 years, I have been able to walk with you a little farther on the lifelong journey of true faith. I hope that together we have been able to study the Scriptures, and so been able to receive the Sacred Eucharist in purity and faith. That is the only real desire of every priest: the sanctification of his people through Word and Sacrament.
Stewardship: Five Loaves and Two Fish
In today’s Gospel, 5000 hungry men, not counting women and children, crowd near to Jesus. Where to get food for all these people? A boy has brought along five loaves and two fish—just enough for his family. Little boy, will you entrust your supper to Jesus, so that he can do a miracle? The boy knows that the food he has is from God anyway, so he gives it back to God: “Stewardship.” He trusts Jesus to provide. And this boy goes down in history as the “efficient cause,” God’s chosen instrument, for the great miracle of the multiplication of loaves. I would like to know your name, little boy. Thank you for offering what you had to God.
The same happens at every Mass. A little boy, or girl, brings up a little bread to the priest. Someone else brings up a flask of wine. We also give a little bit of our financial blessings at the offertory. And hopefully we give this little bit with trust and joy. Let me entrust this to God, that he may multiply it. And from the little bit that we give, God gives us the body, blood, soul, and divinity of His Son. He gives us the means of eternal life, at every Mass.
For what am I grateful as I leave this parish? Most of all, I am grateful for the Mass, our supreme act of thanksgiving. It is only a small thing that we do—giving an hour or two of our time each week, standing with the Lord as he dies for us at Calvary. But in this parish, we do it with great love. I can see it on the faces of the altar servers, in the tenderness with which folks receive Holy Communion, in peoples’ rapt attention during the Scriptures and the Consecration. I can see it in the folks who prepare for the Mass, and sing the Mass, who read the Scriptures at Mass, those who come day and night to our adoration chapel, and to confession, and in those who feed the poor, who teach our children the Gospel, and who give themselves in 95 different apostolates at this parish. Let us “live in a manner worthy of the call we have received,” as St. Paul says in our second reading: with all humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, striving to preserve unity. Not big things; just small things done with great love.
I leave you in the hands of our Lady, where I began 12 years ago. The first act I did as your new pastor was to consecrate this parish to Our Blessed Mother. She will teach us the way of humility and gentleness. Let us turn to her in every difficult moment, and she will show us her Son, Jesus Christ.