For some, this week’s ‘thought for the weekend’ will come in the wake of, and others on the tail of, the great and wonderful solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord depending on where in the Catholic world you live. Notwithstanding the debate about transfer of holy days of obligation and its impact on family spirituality, frankly since we’re all supposed to be cum Petro, sub Petro, why can’t we just keep the holy days the same as the Pope? Anyway as we strive over these days to deepen our love and fervour for the Real Presence of Christ, Body Blood Soul and Divinity, in the consecration at Holy Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, I’d like to share a beautiful insight I came across two years ago. On Spy Wednesday of Holy Week, 2013 the Holy Father authorised the promulgation of the decree declaring a Romanian priest, the Servant of God Vladimir Ghika a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith in Bucharest in 1954.
This is significant because Vladimir Ghika has bequeathed to us a particularly beautiful text in French with the meaningful title: La liturgie du Prochain (The Liturgy of our Neighbour), to explain that benefiting the poor means “celebrating the encounter of Jesus with Jesus.”He wrote: “A twofold and mysterious liturgy: the poor person sees Christ come to him under the species of the one who helps him and the benefactor sees the suffering Christ appearing in the poor over whom he stoops. However, for this very reason it is a single liturgy. In fact, if the gesture is properly made, on both sides there is only Christ: Christ the Saviour moves towards the Suffering Christ, and they are integrated in the Risen and glorious Christ in the act of blessing”. Basically, he added, “it is a matter of extending Mass throughout the day and throughout the world, like a concentric wave that ripples outwards from Eucharistic Communion in the morning.” Time and again before he was elected pontiff, Jorge Borgoglio has emphasised the need for everyone in the Church, especially those in politics, to exercise ‘Eucharistic coherence’ – that what we pray. and how we pray, is not just about what we believe but how we act on it towards others. It is what St. John Paul II would frequently refer to ascommunio personarum, the communion of persons . Nowhere should that be more evident and transparent than in our families and home- the domestic church.
Nothing is more precious to us as Catholics than the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. And equally precious to us are our loved ones both alive and dead. But even more precious to us, if we are parents, are our children, especially our young infant ones. In their natural innocence – Pope Pius XI refers to them in the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge as ‘the sacred altars of God’ because of the innocence of their souls – they are icons of the Eucharistic love of Christ in our life. We don’t idolise or worship them but we do adore them just as we seek to adore the Lord on our altars. And like the Lord Jesus who gazes on us with love from the altar, so too do our children gaze at us at times with that divine love. As the saintly old man in the parish church of St John Vianney of Ars, who used to spend hours on end before the Blessed Sacrament, said in the patois when the holy cure asked him what he did all day; “Le bon Dieu m’aveuse, et J’aveuse le Bon Dieu” – The Good Lord looks at me and I look at the Good Lord. The more we increase our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament the easier it becomes to cherish our loved ones especially our precious little ones.
As I viewed the footage and listened to their script I was struck by the immortal line of Pope St John Paul II’s exhortation to us to be courageous and speak out for the ‘poorest of the poor’ – “we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name.”
(Paragraph 58 of Evangelium Vitae)
A blessed and joyful festive weekend to you all!
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster