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Posts Tagged ‘Blessed Sacrament’

We had a mini-procession of the Blessed Sacrament here at the seminary yesterday, at the end of the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi: from the chapel on the first floor, along the corridor, down the main staircase, and into the garden. There was a beautiful temporary altar set up in the centre of the garden, with the rose bushes behind.

There is a four storey block of flats overlooking one side of the garden. I’ve no idea what the neighbours thought, seeing the whole seminary and assorted guests kneeling before the monstrance at 7.15 in the evening.

We prayed a beautiful litany that I had never come across before: The Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament, composed by St Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. Here it is, copied from the Catholic Culture website:

Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, R. have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, R. have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, R. have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, R. have mercy on us.

Jesus, Eternal High Priest of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Divine Victim on the Altar for our salvation, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, hidden under the appearance of bread, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, dwelling in the tabernacles of the world, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, really, truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, abiding in Your fulness, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, Bread of Angels, R. have mercy on us.
Jesus, with us always until the end of the world, R. have mercy on us.

Sacred Host, summit and source of all worship and Christian life, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, sign and cause of the unity of the Church, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, adored by countless angels, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, spiritual food, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, Sacrament of love, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, bond of charity, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, greatest aid to holiness, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, gift and glory of the priesthood, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which we partake of Christ, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which the soul is filled with grace, R. have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, in which we are given a pledge of future glory, R. have mercy on us.

Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

For those who do not believe in Your Eucharistic presence, R. have mercy, O Lord.
For those who are indifferent to the Sacrament of Your love, R. have mercy on us.
For those who have offended You in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, R. have mercy on us.

That we may show fitting reverence when entering Your holy temple, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may make suitable preparation before approaching the Altar, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may receive You frequently in Holy Communion with real devotion and true humility, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may never neglect to thank You for so wonderful a blessing, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may cherish time spent in silent prayer before You, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may grow in knowledge of this Sacrament of sacraments, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That all priests may have a profound love of the Holy Eucharist, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That they may celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with its sublime dignity, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may be comforted and sanctified with Holy Viaticum at the hour of our death, R. we beseech You, hear us.
That we may see You one day face to face in Heaven, R. we beseech You, hear us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, R. have mercy on us, O Lord.

V. O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine,
R. all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

Let us pray,

Most merciful Father,
You continue to draw us to Yourself
through the Eucharistic Mystery.
Grant us fervent faith in this Sacrament of love,
in which Christ the Lord Himself is contained, offered and received.
We make this prayer through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

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When we were on retreat recently I was reading Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, by Augustine Thompson, OP. It sets out to be a historical reconstruction of his life, based on a huge number of historical studies over the last few decades. It’s not written with a destructive spirit, as if Thompson were trying to debunk the often beautiful mythology that has grown up around St Francis over the years. But it is trying to discover the authentic heart of the man, and the life that is presented here is both simpler and much more complex than the standard biographies that are based uncritically on much later and less reliable sources.

assisi

Many things struck me and stayed with me: How Francis’s conversion was inseparable from his first-hand experience of war, violence and imprisonment when he went to battle as a young man; the relationship between psychological trauma and spiritual awakening and healing.

Those beautiful stories about Francis walking into a church and hearing the gospel call to poverty and radical discipleship are true. But they were not the scripture readings of the liturgy of the day. There was a tradition of Christians coming to the priest for guidance, and asking him to him to open the scriptures three times at random, and in this way picking three passages from the bible that would somehow cohere and provide direction for the one who asked. This is how the Lord spoke so powerfully to Francis about the call to evangelical simplicity and obedience.

How difficult his gradual conversion must have been for his family. His father comes across not as a worldly tyrant but as a concerned father who doesn’t know how to react to his son’s apparent psychological disintegration and the consequent implosion of his family business.

How unsure Francis was about his new way of life. It’s very clear from this reconstruction that when he first went to see the pope to have his ‘rule’ approved he had no intention to preach. The preaching mission came from the pope, and he followed it obediently.

It’s true that poverty was a central theme in Francis’s vision and lifestyle. But according to Thompson it was not the theological key. Francis, according to the historical sources, spent far more time preaching and teaching and sometimes writing about the Holy Eucharist and the Catholic priesthood than he did about poverty. He was captivated by the idea that Christ was present in our midst in the Mass and in the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacles of every Catholic church throughout the world. He showed the utmost respect to Catholic priests, fully aware of their weaknesses, because he believed that they represented Christ sacramentally for the Christian faithful.

He was horrified when he came across a church or chapel that was in a state of disrepair. It he found any altar linen that was dirty he would take it away to wash it. If he found any sacred books that contained the scriptures discarded on the floor he would put them in a more worthy place. When we hear that Francis was called to rebuild/repair God’s church we often think that this was a metaphor for a spiritual renewal of the church, which of course it was in many ways. But we forget that Francis’s first concern, which never left him, was to make the actual church buildings into sacred spaces that would be worthy for the liturgy and the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

And I learnt how much Francis suffered, especially in the last years of his life through sickness. I knew this already, but the extent of the suffering comes across in this biography: the discomfort, the heartache, the sheer agony that Francis often lived through. He was a broken man at the end, but a man fully alive. The joy and the simplicity are there, but in this book they shine out of a very earthy humanity.

I’m not saying these are the central themes of the book or of St Francis’s life. They are just some of the ideas that made an impression on me that hadn’t come across so strongly in other biographies I’ve read. It’s a fascinating book – do read it yourself.

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Here is one more passage from my recent article on evangelisation, this time about how  those involved in the New Evangelisation often have a strong interest in deepening their understanding of faith and sharing that understanding with others:

St Patrick's Church, Soho Square, home of St Patrick's Evangelisation School

St Patrick’s Evangelisation School in Soho takes in a dozen young people every year. They live an intense community life together, pray for an hour each day before the Blessed Sacrament, serve food to the homeless, run a prayer-line, and go into the streets every Friday night – in a not too salubrious area – to meet people, share their faith, and offer spiritual support to those who seek it.

And they study. Fifteen hours a week of philosophy, theology, spirituality and psychology, focussed on preparing for a Diploma in the Catechism from the Maryvale Institute. There is a profound conviction that the Catholic faith is a gift to be understood and shared.

The emphasis on orthodox Catholic teaching seems to be an essential aspect of the New Evangelisation. Those involved want to proclaim the basic message of Christianity, to explain the core teachings of the Scriptures and of the Church, and to apply these teachings to everyday life. They are not arrogant, or unaware of the nuances and disputed questions within Catholic thought; but they are more interested in helping people to understand the settled faith of the Church than in exploring the boundaries. Their experience is that people are actually longing to learn more.

There is a hunger for truth in contemporary society, and a desire in many Catholic circles to share it. The intention is not to proselytise, in the sense of targeting people from other religions, but it is certainly to share this Christian vision with anyone who is attracted to it.

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