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Feast of Corpus Christi

Header - Feast of Corpus Christi, Toledo Spain by Felipe Barandiaran

 

As an ancient Spanish proverb has it, there are three Thursdays that shine more than the sun:
Holy Thursday, Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi.

 

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The morning is bright.  I climb on foot –panting - the steep slopes of the city.   My car has been left by the river, for if driving around Toledo is usually a complex task, on Corpus Christi it is impossibility, since the city’s narrow streets are closed.  I am short of breath, because the city is located on top of a steep hill, defended by the Tagus River and medieval walls.

As I walk, I join many other Toledo residents and visitors who hasten, like me, to attend the grand procession.

Although the winds of vulgarity that sweep today's world have banished the good habit of dressing better on Sundays and holy days, in Toledo today, all wear their best.  Every lady is arrayed with some new garment, and I enjoy watching them, enchanted as they show one another their outfits for this special occasion.

As I approach Zocodover Square, the nerve center of the small town, high up, I hear a volley of mortars indicating that the Pontifical Mass is over and the procession is beginning to exit the Cathedral through the Llana door.

People are stationed throughout the entire route. Only those participating in the actual procession – half of Toledo – and some guests have been able to attend the Mass inside the cathedral.

 Impatient but quiet, the “other half” of Toledo masses right up against the walls in order to clear the way for the procession.

The road is dotted with wet sand and aromatic plants (lavender, rosemary and thyme), and the balconies adorned with rich, embroidered veils and flags, colorful shawls, garlands, lanterns and cheerful flower baskets.

As a sign of respect and to protect the Blessed Sacrament, traditional white canvas awnings made by weavers guilds cover the streets, and extend from one house to another.

Now I can see Civil Guards on horseback leading the procession. Behind them march the City Hall drummers and the Civil Guard band.  Then, the "beadle" follows dressed in black, carrying a staff with the same height as the monstrance in order to make sure there is proper clearance.  He insures no mishap will hinder the splendor of the procession.  This grave gentleman is followed by a fifteenth century processional cross, a gift from King Alfonso V of Portugal, known as “the African.”

Displaying my ‘Press’ card, I walk quietly in the opposite direction of the procession. The whole itinerary is protected by cadets of the Infantry Academy, a legendary institution that defended the Alcazar fortress in the 1936 war against communism.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 1

The procession forms two parallel lines, having in the center the priors, chaplains and dignitaries of each guild preceded by their corresponding standard and carrying a staff, medal or element that distinguishes them from the other members .

I pass by the Gardeners’ Guild. They are followed by boys and girls who have made their First Communion, groups of the Lay Apostolate and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, and more than twenty brotherhoods with their respective banners, the Hospitality of Lourdes, and third order members of religious congregations.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 2

With the rhythm of its instruments, the City Council music band draws tears of emotion.  I press forward, as I want to get to the door of the Cathedral. There is little room.  The wonderful symbiosis between the public and the procession, teeming with life brings a sublime order of calm and poise to the city.

I can now see the women religious of apostolic life, the Knights of the Order of Malta, the Chapter of the Mozarabic Knights, of the Holy Sepulcher, the Noblemen of Illescas, the Knights of Corpus Christi, and others who proudly display their distinctive crosses on their capes.

The seminarians, the regular and secular clergy, the Brotherhood of the Holy Charity, the famous Cross of Mendoza, pass by with the acolytes and the Chapter leader.

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 3

Luckily, I am already facing the Cathedral, next to the military company which forms the line of honor.  From the outer walls hang forty-eight huge seventeenth century Flemish tapestries with Eucharistic allegories, woven especially for this celebration.

The famous Toledo monstrance, commissioned by Cardinal Cisneros to Enrique de Arfe, a great sixteenth century silversmith, is about to cross the threshold of the Llana door. I feel people around me holding their breath. The thrilling silence that precedes the monstrance’s appearance gives way to an apotheosis of applause, drowned only by the roar of the twenty-one firing guns (due to the King) and the solemn ringing of bells. The military formation salutes the Blessed Sacrament as the band furiously plays the Royal March. Through the cloud of incense that envelops us, the Blessed Sacrament advances slowly.  God is with us!

Feast of Corpus Christi - Image 4

The rich Gothic monstrance, made with over 400 pounds of silver and almost 40 pounds of gold, is mounted on a carriage with flowers and escorted by the cadets of the Infantry Academy.  Behind it follows the second part of the procession, which includes the highest dignitaries: the Archbishop Primate and his entourage, the regional and provincial authorities, the City Mayor with his staff and the university faculty.  Closing the procession parades the Honor Guard of the Infantry Academy, with its flag and music band.

The monstrance stops at a small podium set up at the crowded Zocodover Square and a blessed speaker delivers the great sermon of Eucharistic praise. When he finishes, the crowd accompanies the procession back to the cathedral, devoutly chanting the popular hymn of adoration:

 

Let us all sing to praise the Love of loves,
O come sing to the Lord,
God is here indeed! Come o ye adorers,
To worship Christ the Redeemer!
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Bless the Lord, heaven and earth.
Honor and glory to Thee, o King of Glory,
Forever love of Thee, o God of love!

 

*         *         *

 

Indeed, the sun shines in Toledo.  But He Who makes the sun shine is elevated in the monstrance, and that’s why the Blessed Sacrament dazzles far more as He passes through the streets of Toledo!

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 18, 2021

Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does no...

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May 18

 

Our Lord loves you
and loves you tenderly; and
if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love,
it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Eric IX of Sweden

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St. Eric IX of Sweden

Eric the Holy or Erik the Saint was acknowledged king in most provinces of Sweden in 1150, and his family line subsisted for a hundred years. He did much to establish Christianity in Upper Sweden and built or completed at Old Uppsala the first large church to be erected in the country. It is said that all the ancient laws and constitutions of the kingdom were, by his orders, collected into one volume, which came to be known as King Eric’s Law or The Code of Uppland.

The king soon had to take up arms against the heathen Finns. He vanquished them in battle, and at his desire, St. Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, who had accompanied him on the expedition, remained in Finland to evangelize the people.

The king’s zeal for the Catholic Faith was far from pleasing to his nobles, and we are told that they entered into a conspiracy against him with Magnus, the son of the king of Denmark. King Eric was hearing Mass on the day after the feast of the Ascension when news was brought that a Danish army, swollen with Swedish rebels, was marching against him and was close at hand. With unwavering calm he answered, “Let us at least finish the sacrifice; the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere”. After Mass was over, he recommended his soul to God, and marched forth in advance of his guards. The conspirators rushed upon him, beat him down from his horse, and beheaded him. His death occurred on May 18 in 1161.

The relics of St. Eric IX of Sweden are preserved in the Cathedral of Uppsala, and the saintly king's effigy appears on the coat of arms of the city of Stockholm.

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Pope St. John I

St. John I was a native of Siena in Tuscany and was one of the seven deacons of Rome when he was elected to the papacy at the death of Pope Hormisdas in the year 523.

At the time, Theodoric the Great ruled over the Ostrogoths in Italy and Justin I was the Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople. King Theodoric supported the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Justin I, the first Catholic on the throne of Constantinople in fifty years, published a severe edict against the Arians, requiring them to return to orthodox Catholics the churches they had taken from them. The said edict caused a commotion among eastern Arians, and spurred Theodoric to threaten war.

Ultimately, he opted for a diplomatic solution and named Pope John, much against his wishes, to head a delegation of five bishops and four senators to Justin.

Pope John, refused to comply with Theodoric’s wishes to influence Justin to reverse his policies. The only thing he did obtain from Justin was for him to mitigate his treatment of Arians, thus avoiding reprisals against Catholics in Italy.

After the delegation returned, Theodoric, disappointed with the result of the mission, and growing daily more suspicious at reports of the friendly relations between the Pope and Justin I, had the pontiff arrested at Ravenna.

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As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Cathe...

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The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life.

Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty. So much so, that she was known to those in Rome where she made her home as “Catherine the Beautiful.” Sadly, Catherine’s beauty went only skin deep, and she led a very sinful life.

One afternoon, strolling the streets of Rome, Catherine heard the voice of St. Dominic. This was the early 13th century and it was not unusual to cross paths with this great man of God.

On this particular day, he was preaching on the devotion to the Mother of God and the importance of praying her most holy Rosary. Caught up in the moment, Catherine had her name inscribed in the book of the confraternity and began to recite the Rosary. Though praying the Rosary gave her a sense of calmness she had not known before, Catherine did not abandon her sinful ways.

One evening, a youth, apparently a nobleman, came to her house. Catherine invited the handsome young man to stay to dine with her. When they were at supper, she saw drops of blood falling from his hands while he was breaking a piece of bread. Moments later, she observed, much to her discomfort, that all the food he took was tinged with blood.

Gathering up some courage to appease her curiosity, she asked him what that blood meant. With a firm but gentle look in his eyes, the youth replied that a Christian should take no food that was not tinged with the blood of Jesus Christ and sweetly seasoned with the memory of His passion.

Amazed at this reply, Catherine asked him who he was. "Soon," he answered, "I will show you." The rest of their meal passed uneventfully, yet always the drops of red catching Catherine’s eye, causing her to wonder about this man she supped with.

After dinner, when they had withdrawn into another room, the appearance of the youth changed. To Catherine’s stunned gaze, he showed himself crowned with thorns, his flesh torn and bleeding.

With the same firm but gentle gaze he said to her: “Do you wish to know who I am? Do you not know me? I am your Redeemer. Catherine, when will you cease to offend me? See how much I have suffered for you. You have grieved me enough, change your life."

Catherine began to weep bitterly, and Jesus, encouraging her, said: "Now begin to love me as much as you have offended me; and know that you have received this grace from me, on account of the Rosary you have been accustomed to recite in honor of my mother." And then he disappeared.

Catherine went in the morning to make her confession to St. Dominic, whose preaching on the Rosary had brought so marvelous a grace into her life. Giving to the poor all she possessed, from that day forward Catherine led so holy and joyful a life that she attained to great perfection.

It could now be said of her among the inhabitants of Rome that Catherine was indeed beautiful, but her beauty was no longer skin deep; her loveliness radiated from the depths of her soul.

The Most Holy Virgin often appeared to her; and Jesus himself revealed to St. Dominic, that this penitent had become very dear to him.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty.

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