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Catholic Heroes… Saints For Corpus Christi

June 21, 2022 saints No Comments


Corpus Christi, the solemnity instituted by Pope Urban IV, is over seven hundred years old. In 1263, the year prior to its declaration, a miracle occurred in the Italian city of Bolsena, which acted as a catalyst for the event.
By coincidence, I have been to Bolsena, approximately an hour from Rome by taxi, and I knew of the Eucharistic miracle there. I did not know till more recently of the role this miracle played in granting Corpus Christi a role in the feast days of the Church.
A visiting priest, some say from Germany, some say from Prague or Bohemia, was visiting Italy and stopped in the town to say Mass. He was having doubts about the Real Presence. Just at the time of the consecration, the Host he held began to bleed. Unable to continue, he went immediately to nearby Orvieto, confessed to the bishop and, afterward, an investigation began.
Though they would not have known at that time, in the mid-1900s apparently an investigation showed the blood was group type AB, the same group as on the Shroud of Turin. Only 5 percent of the world’s population has AB positive.
In the twelfth century a teenage mystic and saint, St. Juliana of Liege, Belgium, had her first vision about a future feast honoring the Body and Blood of Christ. She shared the information with her confessor, who shared it with his superior and then it went up the chain so eventually it was shared with theologians, including the future Pope. Her own bishop was the first to celebrate it, before it was made a solemnity. Our own Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010, said other bishops followed and called her town’s origins “a true Eucharistic Upper Room.”
Before Juliana’s birth in the twelfth century, eminent theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and, again in Liege, there were groups of women generously dedicated to Eucharistic worship and to fervent Communion. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together, devoting themselves to prayer to charitable works.
Eucharistic Adoration is something we all aspire to, in that we are called to the two great commandments of the Church: to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves. At Mass, before the tabernacle, as we adore and give thanksgiving, the genesis should be out of great love!
When Pope Urban IV declared the Solemnity, he intelligently asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write the office for the new Mass and, with it, St. Thomas also wrote famed hymns we still use, such as the Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia and the Pange Lingua.
“Make us, O Lord, we beseech thee, to be filled with perpetual delight of thy divinity, which is prefigured by the temporal receiving of thy precious Body and Blood. Who liveth and reigneth with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit God through all ages of ages” — Postcommunion.
Many Eucharistic miracles besides that of Bolsena have been approved by the Church for private devotion, and a Vatican International Exhibit online lists over 150 of them. Bolsena is but one. Yet we should adore God mindfully, knowing from Him that in Transubstantiation He comes to us in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, but under the auspices of bread and wine, seeing no miracle with our eyes at all. We receive and adore not because we feel, but because we know.
Surely we must learn from the example of those wiser and holier than ourselves. Mother Teresa spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament, praying and adoring our Lord. Fr. Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal once remarked to Mother they were having a problem with vocations. Mother suggested he spend an extra hour before the tabernacle. He told her, “Mother, I am already doing x, y and z and my doctor says I need to do less!” She answered, “Oh, so you don’t want to spend another hour in Adoration?” He said he felt like she dropped a bomb on his head and yes, added more time to Adoration. The vocations came.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen dedicated countless hours to Eucharistic Adoration, having promised to spend an hour every day of his priesthood in this sacred devotion. The genesis for him he shared numerous times, and also in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay.
Communist Dictator Mao Zedong came to power and his Cultural Revolution released an evil purge upon his people. A little Catholic girl was being raised in China. We don’t know her real name, exact age, the date, or even her town. But revolutionaries broke into the church where she and other villagers were attending Mass. The people scattered in panic, the consecrated Hosts flung on the floor and the priest imprisoned in his house next door. Even the sacred vessels were taken. What fear, and what a travesty! The priest decided that he would try to make Adoration from afar, such as one could, from nearby. It was late one night and suddenly he saw her.
The little girl managed to push open a church window and through it the priest saw her clamber into the church, as only children can. Pre-Vatican II, she knew a layman should never touch the Host. So, she knelt on the floor, and pressed her tongue to the Host to receive Holy Communion. The priest recalled there had been about 30 Hosts. And she returned every night until there was only one Host left. Just as she went to ingest the final Host, a shot rang out. Fulton Sheen wrote in his autobiography, “It proved to be her Viaticum.” One among so many martyrs, dear to God for adoring Him in the Eucharist.
Pope Benedict XVI said in 2010 about St. Juliana, whom we mentioned earlier, that when it came time for her to pass in 1258, “In the cell where she lay the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and, according to her biographer’s account, she died contemplating…the Eucharist whom she had always loved, honored, and adored.”
Six years after Juliana’s death, Pope Urban IV established Corpus Christi in the papal bull, Transiturus de hoc mundo, dying the same year. The Pope felt that the Corpus Christi would be useful for many reasons, not least among them “to confuse and refute the hostility of heretics.”
We are told that only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence or Transubstantiation. Perhaps that’s why this year the USCCB is launching the “National Eucharistic Revival.” The choice of title bears unfortunate echoes of a Protestant tent meeting. Many dioceses are participating, however, and it begins this year with Corpus Christi. Many churches are even doing a Eucharistic procession — these date at least to the Middle Ages — but first one must teach what was unpopular even in Christ’s time, that “This is my Body and Blood” was not symbolic. It is real, blood type and all.
The saints never failed to find strength, consolation, and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. Let us repeat before the Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament the words of the Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote: [Devoutly I adore Thee]: Make me believe ever more in you, “Draw me deeply into faith, / Into Your hope, into Your love” — Pope Benedict XVI (2010).

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