Bread Can't Bleed
Today, we celebrate Corpus Christi, the feast of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, celebrated throughout the whole Church since 1264.
As Catholics, we are not to be ashamed of our faith, but instead, to show our faith and to live our faith in the world, even though it's becoming increasingly more uncomfortable to do so. Jesus does not leave us orphans. He is truly with us in the Eucharist, walking with us today in our Corpus Christi procession, and walking with us always.
The Story of Corpus Christi
How can mere bread and wine change after a few sacred words into the body and blood of the Jesus Christ? That's the question Father Peter of Prague was asking himself as he doubted Jesus' true Presence in the Eucharist.
In 1263, Fr. Peter decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome in the hopes of regaining his faith in the True Presence. He left disappointed. One the way back home to Prague, Father Peter stopped in Bolsena and said Mass at a little church there.
When Father Peter broke the host during Mass, the host in his hands began to bleed profusely. It bled all over his hands, bled onto the corporal, and it began to pour down the altar and onto the steps. The people who were there at the Mass witnessing this miracle begin to shriek. The parish priest came to see what the commotion was about, and witnessed the miracle.
At the time, Pope Urban IV was in Orvieto, about 10 miles from Bolsena. So they decided to take the this Eucharistic miracle to Orvieto to see what the Pope would instruct them to do. And when Father Peter arrived, he told his whole story, punctuating the truth of the Lord's real presence in the Eucharist by saying, "Holy Father, bread can't bleed."
The Pope took this as a sign that Christ wanted a feast of his Body and Blood celebrated throughout the whole Church. The first Feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated Church wide the following year, in 1264, and has been celebrated ever since.
Full Audio Transcript
00:02 So today we celebrate the solemnity, the great feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, honoring our Lord truly present in the blessed sacrament. And uh, it's a, it's a feast that the church has always celebrated, but it became part of the general celebration of the whole church in the 12 hundreds. And I think it just want to share with you about the origins of this feast day. It's actually two Eucharistic miracles that came together and one of them has to do with a Czech priest. And since I'm of Czech descent, I'm going to focus on that one.
00:41 So his name was Father Peter of Prague, and he had lost his faith in the reality of the Eucharist. It might surprise some people to think that a priest might lose his faith in the Eucharist, but sometimes it does occur. A priest can question whether what starts out as mere bread and wine in his hands can change after a few sacred words into the body and blood of the God man, Jesus, God, the son incarnate. Father Peter felt like a hypocrite celebrating Mass while having some doubts about whether the Lord Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist, but he hadn't yet lost his faith in God and hence decided to give the Lord the opportunity to give him that faith by doing something drastic.
01:32 In 1263 he decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. And if you the the a walk from Prague to Rome, if he does about 20 miles a day, it would take nearly two months to get there. So he wanted to go to Rome to pray at the tomb of his patron, Saint Peter for the gift of a renewed faith in the Eucharist. This was a drastic move and he went through the sacrifice and hardship of getting there. And Father Peter made it to Rome.
02:08 And why did he go on pilgrimage to Rome to St. Peter? There were tombs of other saints and pilgrimage sites much more closer to Prague, but Father Peter did not choose any of them. He went to the tomb of his patron because Saint Peter had always been an example to the whole church of faith in the real presence of faith in the Eucharist. And we uh, we can go to that famous passage in John Chapter six to see this, you know, John Chapter six, which is our Lord's very explicit and very direct teaching on the Eucharist at the synagogue and comparing them, he told his listeners that unless they eat on his flesh and drink his blood, they would have no life in them. That his flesh is real food, that his blood is real drink. And the one who eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have life eternal. And Saint John tells us after this teaching that many of his disciples left him. There was just a bridge too far. They thought Jesus was mentally ill teaching them the necessity of cannibalism and they walked away. They complain saying, this teaching is hard. Who can accept it?
03:33 Nevertheless, Jesus turns to his apostles and says, will you too also leave? And it was Saint Peter speaking for the rest who said, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the holy one of God. Saint Peter believed in the Eucharist because he believed in Christ, which meant believing in what he said and remember that as I've said this different points throughout this past year. Remember with Jesus, there's only three options. Either. He's crazy, he's a liar, or what he says is true, and Saint Peter believed everything that Jesus said, even if he didn't understand it completely. Believed that when Jesus says that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink, that is true, and Jesus shows that in the last supper where he takes the ancient rite of the Passover meal and changes it into his own Eucharistic sacrifice whereby the sacrifice of the cross on Calvary could get into the lives of the members of his body through the power of his body and blood, that the power of the cross and of that sacrifice that we too would share in it and a and he does it by changing bread and wine into his body and blood in a sacramental way.
05:11 This is what Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote about who wrote some very beautiful Eucharistic hymns about Corpus Christi and in his famous hymn adoro te devote, which in English is God in hidden majesty. He says this, I believe whatever the son of God has said, nothing is truer than the word of truth. Jesus. The word of truth, truth incarnate, said that his flesh was true food and his blood was true drink. And so Saint Peter believed. So this is the faith that that Father Peter of Prague was looking for. And he made the pilgrimage to Rome. He asked for Saint Peter's intercession. He prayed there in the city and at the tomb. And after that was all over, it seemed as if nothing happened. And he began his journey home, disappointed.
06:13 And so Father Peter started to question his entire faith in God. Hadn't Jesus said that whoever knocked would have the door opened, whoever asks me, receive, whoever sought would find? Hadn't He said that the Father knows how to give good things to his children? Yet, when Father Peter, a priest had asked for something so important for him to be a disciple and a priest of Jesus Christ - faith in the Lord is real presence in the Eucharist. It seemed he had come up empty.
06:48 So he walked north with now with very little faith at all and he was traveling with a group of pilgrims and when it came to Sunday, the pilgrim group asked Father Peter to say Mass for them, and more out of courtesy than faith, he agreed. And they stopped at a little church, Saint Christina's church in the city of Bolsena, which if you're driving north of Rome, it's about two hours north of Rome. And they, and he began to say Mass and right before the lamb of God, you know this with the priest fractures the host to put a particle of the host and the chalice. When Father Peter broke the host, the host in his hands began to bleed profusely. It bled over his hands over, bled onto the corporal, which is the fabric that you see that it's laid on the alter. During Mass, it began to pour down the altar and onto the steps and the people who are there at the Mass be the miracle in front of their eyes begin to shriek.
07:57 And it caught the attention of the of the priest, the pastor of that parish. He came into the church to see what was going on and saw the miracle and the local priest knew that pope urban the fourth was at that time in Orvieto, which is just about 10 miles uphill from where Bolsena was, and they decided to take the this Eucharistic miracle, take the host to Orvieto to see what the pope would instruct them to do. And when Father Peter arrived, he told his whole story concluding with the Eucharistic miracle and Father Peter punctuated the truth of the Lord's real presence in the Eucharist by saying, Holy Father, bread can't bleed.
08:46 Pope urban the fourth took the miracle as a sign that he had been waiting for, that Christ wanted to feast of his body and blood celebrated throughout the whole church. And the first one was celebrated churchwide and 1264 and has been celebrated ever since. The Lord worked that miracles, these miracles so that we might fittingly celebrate his body and blood, today, right here in this church.
09:13 And the Eucharistic miracles that exist, there's a not quite sure how many of them there are about 20 I've seen a few of them in in Italy that these miracles are to help us point to the reality that we have at every Mass. The Lord Jesus makes himself present, but to the eyes of faith. Every time we celebrate Mass, what dramatically occurred in Bolsena occurs here in a hidden way. Again, seeing with the eyes of faith, the reality is the same. We receive the same Christ who offered his flesh and blood on the cross and who gave us the Eucharist so that people in every age and place could receive him in holy communion until he comes again in glory. And He makes himself so close and so vulnerable, it becomes so easy to miss it, to be flippant, to take it for granted, to be nonchalant, as if he were not truly present. But he is. And this is the gift that we have been given.
10:31 And this is why we adore him, why we come to Mass, why we participate in the sacrifice and why we also process with the blessed sacrament. Ever since that Eucharistic miracle, there's been a procession in Bolsena and it's a marvelous sort of thing. Thousands of people are there, the town's people, everyone in front of their home makes the walkway in a mosaic of flower petals, almost like stained glass where the Lord is going to pass by. And for years, of course I helped with the Holy Father and his Eucharistic procession in Rome that goes from St John Lateran to Saint Mary Major, and that nearly a hundred thousand people are processing with, with the Lord. Jesus is powerful. It builds our faith and it's helped my faith as well. And so what, wherever I've gone as a priest, I want to save that. If there's no Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi, we're going to have one. And so we're going to have one after this Mass. Uh, yesterday we did a nice rehearsal with about 20, 25 of us so that hopefully we will be able to, to make it through and work all the kinks out.
11:40 But there's, but there's, there's a beauty about processing with Jesus in the blessed sacrament. The first is that we honor Him. You know, that's the way we receive the gift that have been given. We receive him with reverence, with a clean soul, with repentance for our sins. That's why the church has always taught the close connection between confession and worthy reception of the blessed sacrament. That's why we give him all of our doubts and our weaknesses, like Father Peter did. All that is wrong with the world. All of the hurt in our hearts, our commitment to serve him in the needy and the abandoned
12:26 And with by processing with him. What do, what does he teach us? Is that he walks with us. He is with us on our pilgrimage through life. That's what the procession is. It's like a mini pilgrimage of life. The Lord is walking with us in all of our sorrows and joys. And there's another reason why process with hHm is that that we can give witness to his real presence to the world, that God has not abandoned the world, but Jesus did not leave us orphans. That he is truly with us in the Eucharist, and that as Catholics, we are not ashamed of our faith and to show our faith and to live our faith in the world, even though it's becoming increasingly more uncomfortable to do so, that we will not allow our faith to be limited to the walls of this church. But we will live our faith in the world and Jesus goes with us.
13:33 That's why a worthy reception of holy communion, he makes us into a living tabernacle of his presence, typically to take him out there. And so part of that meaning of the procession is that we take Jesus to the streets and we take Jesus literally to the world. But the world can come, can see him and come to believe, you know, Pope Saint John Paul, the second he exhorts us, he wrote, he wrote this, do not be afraid to go out into the streets and into public places like the first apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is a time to be proud of the gospel. It is time to preach it from the rooftops. So let us rejoice in the gift of his real presence in the Eucharist. That is cherish and reverence him, present in the Eucharist. Let him transform our hearts and let's take him to the street.
14:47 And so that's how we'll, we will conclude our Mass today. What will happen is the final prayer instead of our will will forego our Saint Michael prayer. And the final him, I'll expose the blessed sacrament on the altar. And we will instance the blessed sacrament there. And then we will begin our procession. And so we have a, are people who will get our canopy, um, and our sound system. And we'll cut, we'll gather up. And as we're leaving the church, if you'd like to be part of the procession, the ushers will be there to hand out a program. The procession itself will take only about 45 minutes. We have three altars that we're going to go to around the property. And then we will conclude at the patio of Christ, the king, and the final alter, uh, and then there'll be refreshments in the parish center afterwards. So I encourage you all to take to take part in it. There'll be prayers, some singing, and, and of course, benediction at the various altars. And so we will, uh, we will take, literally, we'll be taking our Lord to the street.