23 May 2008


So a big Thank You to Pope John XXII for this great feast. 'Really?' you cry, 'surely everybody knows it was ordered to be observed by Urban IV in 1264, through the bull Transiturus'. Well, yes, up to a point. But the strange thing is that this bull had very little effect. It even appears (a strange lot, the medievals) that the observance was not kept in the papal court itself. It was not until John XXII sent to the entire Western hierarchy, in 1317, a collection of decretals called the Clementines that it began to be universally observed. And Transiturus had not mentioned such things as Exposition and Processions of the Sacrament. Although there are a very few refences to these activities between 1264 and 1317, it was after that date that a great wave of enthusiasm for the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament swept the Church. Corpus Christi as you know it and love it results from John XXII seizing the moment when the devotional mood of the faithful was exactly ready for it.

Through most of the first 1200 years of the Church's history, there was no 'devotion to the Blessed Sacrament' as we know it. The Sacrament was indeed known to be truly the Body if the Lord and was reserved so that it could be administered to the sick. But there was no sense that it also afforded a focus for adoration and for a direct relationship with our Lord verily present. That was a precious gift of which the faithful became aware in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. And it was the example of what John XXII did when he had the Host carried in glorious rite through the streets of the papal city, Avignon, that was emulated throughout the Catholic world and which provided the pattern for what you are doing this Corpus-Christi-tide. Three cheers for the Avignon papacy and for the greatest of the Avignon popes, John XXII.

1 comment:

ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

An excellent post, Father

Corpus Christi of yesteryear in the North of England at least was usually one of the occasions where children made their first communion (the other was at All Saints). In June there would be a tremendous devotion to the Blessed Sacrament with a procession around the outside of the Church, with children and adults in procession. Girls would be strewing rose petals in front of the Blessed Sacrament which would be carried in the Monstrance. The priest holding the Monstrance would be under a canopy
held by members of the men's confraternity. At the rear we often had the SVP band playing hymns such as 'Jesus My Lord!,My God!,My All!'.

If the weather was fine we would proceed to the school and have open air Benediction.

I echo your three cheers for John XXII, and will open a bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape - or maybe a Cahors wine in honour of his birthplace.