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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 July 24, 2021

It is easy to infuse a most fervent devotion into others, ev...

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July 24

 

It is easy to infuse
a most fervent devotion into others, even in a short time;
but the great matter is
– to persevere.

St. Philip Neri


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Charbel Makhlouf

Multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was fi...

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St. Charbel Makhlouf

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in the village of Bekka Kafra in Lebanon on May 8, 1828 and was one of five children born to Antoun Zarrour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. His father was a mule driver who died when Youssef was only three years old, leaving his widow to bring up their children alone.

Although Brigitta was left nearly destitute, she reserved a profoundly religious atmosphere in their home and instilled in her children a deep spirit of piety. Because of this fidelity, Youssef became unusually devoted and inclined to prayer and solitude at a very young age. He was greatly attracted to the life and spirituality of hermits; and as a young boy tending his family’s small flock, he would often go to a nearby grotto where he had erected a little shrine to the Holy Mother of God and would spend his whole day there in prayer.

When he was twenty-three years old, Youssef, feeling the call to the religious life, left his home and family to join the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Marfouq. Here he began his formation as a monk before later being transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There he received the religious habit of the Maronite monk and took the name Charbel. He made his final profession as a religious brother on November 1, 1853 – he was twenty-five years old.

Brother Charbel immediately began his studies for the priesthood under the instruction of Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was also later declared a saint by the Church. Charbel was ordained on July 23, 1859, following which he returned to the Monastery of St. Maron where he lived a life of great austerity. In 1875, he was granted permission by his superiors to live a solitary life in the Hermitage of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was under the jurisdiction of the monastery; and there he resided for the remaining twenty-three years of his life until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.

St. Charbel is renowned for his many miracles both during his life and after his death. His most famous miracle – which was also his first – occurred when, multiple times, he successfully lit an oil lamp which was filled with water. He is also credited with many healing miracles.

After his death, he was interned at the Monastery of St. Maron, now a famous pilgrimage site. His tomb was often witnessed surrounded by a dazzling light, and to this day his remains are incorrupt and an unexplainable blood-like fluid flows from his body. He was canonized on December 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI, who held him up as an example to help us understand “in a world, largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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