Potpourri of Popery, Corpus Christi Edition


Happy feast of Corpus Christi, transferred! If you scroll around at the photo link, you'll find nice pictures of Thursday's procession through Rome. (I cannot resist commenting that AP calls attention to a "corrected caption" on many of them, and then says the Pope is carrying the "corpus christi relic." That's the correction?) Three big homilies and two papal voyages to cover since last time. So: onward!

Corpus Christi homily. As ever, I'm tempted to just paste in the whole thing, but here are the two decisive passages.  
...bodily food is assimilated by the body and contributes to sustain it, the Eucharist is a different bread: We do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his body, one with him. ... Indeed, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened up, freed from its self-centeredness and placed in the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion. Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: We are no longer divided, but one thing in him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and to the one with whom perhaps I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world. Thus the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned...
What are the practical ramifications of this doctrine? For one thing, the embrace of gentleness and freedom as opposed to ideology.
There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan. Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation.
I've been pondering as related phenomena the upheaval in U.S. Catholicism over Fr. Corapi's situation and the search for savior politicians on the part of social issues voters. Isn't the problem (speaking of disillusionment) that we look for magic and shortcuts? Why are we so continuously surprised by human weakness?

June 19th the Pope traveled to the tiny Republic of San Marino (pictures here). His homily in Olympic Stadium happened to coincide with the feast of the Holy Trinity. He admits the obvious: we don't really understand the Trinity as such.
When one thinks of the Trinity, one usually thinks of the aspect of the mystery: they are Three and they are One, one God in three Persons. Actually God in his greatness cannot be anything but a mystery for us, yet he revealed himself. We can know him in his Son and thus also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We do know, however, what the Trinity means:
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one because God is love and love is an absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a unity greater than a purely physical unity. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mutual love of the Father and the Son. The texts of today’s Mass speak of God and thus speak of love; they do not dwell so much on the three Persons, but rather on love which is the substance and, at the same time, the unity and trinity.
The remainder of the homily reflects on aspects of God's love as drawn from the liturgical readings. This from Exodus, for example, when God forgives Israel for making graven images:
Moses then asked God to reveal himself, to allow him to see his face. However, God did not show his face, but rather revealed his being, full of goodness, with these words: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” This is the Face of God. This self-definition of God expresses his merciful love: a love that triumphs over sin, covers it, eliminates it. We can always be sure of this goodness which does not abandon us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who refuses to destroy sinners and wants to show his love in an even more profound and surprising way to sinners themselves, in order to always offer them the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.
At a certain point he changes gears and talks about the urgency for those who believe in this love, who have experienced it, to stand firm in it and share it. He speaks, for example, of the darkening of the mind and the difficulty of educating people when families are so unstable.

This is a theme he'd addressed at more length in his meeting with government and diplomatic officials

You have to read his remarks to young people for yourselves! He invites them to take up the perennial human questions about the meaning of life:
Learn how to reflect, how not to interpret your human experience superficially but rather in depth: you will discover, with wonder and joy, that your heart is a window open on the infinite! This is man’s greatness but also his difficulty. 
At the beginning of June, the Pope was in Croatia (here's the in-flight Q&A, in which he sets out the major goal of his visit: to strengthen Croatia in its Christianity as it enters the EU, so that it will give that to a less healthy Europe). His main address there was a stunning homily on family life on the occasion of Croatian National Catholic Family Day. It's a very encouraging homily, but I call attention to this portion because lately I've been pondering the connection between marriage and "solidarity" as understood by the social magisterium:
In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life.
An authentic family, founded on marriage, he says, is in itself good news, because it's a sign that love is possible:
Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them. Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them!
His message to bishops is similar: be who you are called to be, but it's a little tougher. He holds out for them the example of Bl. Cardinal Stepinac and a generation of Croatian martyrs to Nazism and Communism and says they are called to be as firm and bold in upholding the faith as they.
Regarding your priests, do not neglect to offer them clear spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral directions. While the Christian community admits legitimate diversity within itself, it cannot render faithful witness to the Lord except in the communion of its members. This requires of you the service of vigilance, offered in dialogue and with great love, but also with clarity and firmness. Dear Brothers, adhering to Christ means “keeping his word.” 
To this end, Blessed Cardinal Stepinac expressed himself in this way: “One of the greatest evils of our time is mediocrity in the questions of faith. Let us not deceive ourselves… Either we are Catholic or we are not. If we are, this must be seen in every area of our life.” The Church’s moral teaching, often misunderstood today, cannot be detached from the Gospel. It falls particularly to the Bishops to propose it authoritatively to the faithful, in order to assist them in evaluating their personal responsibilities and in harmonizing their moral choices with the demands of the faith. In this way, your society will make progress towards that “cultural shift” necessary for promoting a culture of life and a society worthy of man.
His first address in Croatia, though, was to political and civic leaders, on the topic of conscience. Straight at 'em, once again. Let's not mince words when the future really is at stake.
Truly, the great achievements of the modern age – the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society – should be confirmed and developed while keeping reason and freedom open to their transcendent foundation, so as to ensure that these achievements are not undone, as unfortunately happens in not a few cases. The quality of social and civil life and the quality of democracy depend in large measure on this “critical” point – conscience, on the way it is understood and the way it is informed. If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself. If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings – in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny – then there is hope for the future.
Here's an observation Henry Adams would approve. Speaking of the Christian roots of so many institutions he says:
We need to be reminded of these origins, not least for the sake of historical truth, and it is important that we understand these roots properly, so that they can feed the present day too. It is crucial to grasp the inner dynamic of an event such as the birth of a university, of an artistic movement, or of a hospital. It is necessary to understand the why and the how of what took place, in order to recognize the value of this dynamic in the present day, as a spiritual reality that takes on a cultural and therefore a social dimension. At the heart of all these institutions are men and women, persons, consciences, moved by the power of truth and good.
What is the engine of Western culture? Adams' "Virgin or dynamo"? Or, as the New York Senate would have it, the quest for erotic fulfillment? Is that liable to engender universities and hospitals in the future? This is my favorite of his various wonderful addresses, and it again addresses the connection between family life and solidarity:
It is by forming consciences that the Church makes her most specific and valuable contribution to society. It is a contribution that begins in the family and is strongly reinforced in the parish, where infants, children and young people learn to deepen their knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, the “great codex” of European culture; at the same time they learn what it means for a community to be built upon gift, not upon economic interests or ideology, but upon love, “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity” (Caritas in Veritate, 1). This logic of gratuitousness, learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, in games, in sport, in interpersonal relations, in art, in voluntary service to the poor and the suffering, and once it has been assimilated it can be applied to the most complex areas of political and economic life so as to build up a polis that is welcoming and hospitable, but at the same time not empty, not falsely neutral, but rich in humanity, with a strongly ethical dimension.
In between travels, he was continually teaching about prayer in his Wednesday Audiences. Prayer with the Psalms.The prayer of Elijah. The Prayer of Moses. And his beautiful Pentecost homily. He's also received a flurry of ambassadors and such (check out his remarks to the new Syrian Envoy.) And yesterday he gave a rousing speech on the rights of Christians in the Middle East.

And finally, appropriate for Corpus Christi, Franciscans takin' it to the peeps: Eucharistic flash mob, sort of. I find it incredibly moving, moreso as it goes on.