Today is the Anniversary of the Election (1316) in Summum Pontificem of Jacques d'Euse of Cahors. The Roman See had been vacant for well over two years; indeed, in less than a century after 1316, the Universal Church was to find herself with no fewer than three claimants to the papal throne. Our own is not the first historical period in which the Roman See has provided as many ecclesiological problems as she solved!
John XXII has been seen as dodgy because of a particular view he held concerning the beatific vision. But it would be more positive to regard him as the Father of Counter-Reformation piety and devotion. He was a combination of reformer and innovator. His initiatives were rarely wholly new, but he consolidated and gave a new face to medieval dvotion. It was he who ordered the observance of Trinity Sunday; and the ringing of what came to be regarded as the evening Angelus. He prescribed the bowing of the head at the Names of both Jesus and Mary; the use of the prayer Anima Christi (of which he has been suspected of being the author). He promoted literati and encouraged the study of Greek and Hebrew.
He is also the immediate Begetter of the cult of the Blessed Sacrament which has been such a wonderful divine gift to the Latin Church. Forget stuff you may have read about the Bull Transiturus of Pope Urban IV (1264); this seems to have been ignored even in the papal capella itself! It may have been repromulgated at the Fifteenth Ecumenical Council, summoned to Vienne in 1311 by Clement V, after whose death in 1314 it was incorporated in the collection of decretals called the Clementines. John XXII was the next pope; in 1317 he promulgated the festival of Corpus Christi to the Universal Church, after which it spread rapidly.
Observances which Transiturus had not envisaged inluded processions of the Most Holy in a monstrance; but in the years after 1317 sumptuous monstrances appeared in great numbers throughout the West. They did not at first resemble the 'Rays of the Sun' baroque monstrances with which we are familiar; they tended to be immensely heavy iocalia which needed be carried, resting upon a feretrum, by several people.
Hitherto, the devotion of Latin Christendom had tended to regard the Blessed Sacrament as a Relic of the dead Body of the Lord; thanks to the revolution over which John XXII presided, we came better to understand It as the Living Body of the Living Christ; hence, as the locus for a direct, lived, relationship between believer and Lord. In such a context, the need was felt for vessels in which the Host could be placed and could be seen, worshipped, and prayed to, exposed within a cylinder of glass or crystal or behind a small window.
Thank God for John XXII! And for the Avignon Papacy!