Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Feast of Corpus Christi in 2*11

One of my favorite Spanish Jesuit theologians shares a vision... His reflections are very appropriate in light of the recent criticism leveled at the Spanish Catholic hierarchy by the Foro de Curas de Madrid, a group of some 120 progressive priests, many of whom work with the poor, over the high cost of World Youth Day 2011 and the cozy relationship between the Archdiocese of Madrid and the big corporations that are helping to underwrite the event.-RG

by José Ignacio González Faus (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 26, 2011

We started on Thursday to propose a vision for the feast of Corpus Christi, renewed for the twenty-first century. And on Sunday (the two days on which one can celebrate the feast) we return with a vision that, despite being obvious, the author only dares to place in one of the next few centuries of this millennium.

The year was 2*11 when, as the Christian celebration of Corpus Christi was approaching, the president of the Bishops' Conference and of the Confederation of Religious, went to all the authorities of the Spanish church, more or less with these words:

"The feast of the Eucharist (the physical and hidden presence of Christ among us) coincides with the figure of almost five million unemployed -- more than one million households where no member has any income. As the journalists say, behind abstract figures there are real human human faces, people, tragedy and despair that, for a Christian, become the sacramental presence of the Lord who said, "Whatever you do (or fail to do) for one of My suffering brothers or sisters, you do unto Me."

With this data, our faith would be a lie if we didn't direct our worship and our veneration towards these anonymous sacramental faces of Christ.

The Church doesn't have many assets -- our salaries are modest, our Caritas is completely overwhelmed, dioceses and religious orders have an inverted population pyramid and have to attend a striking number of elderly and infirm. But even under these conditions, the Church has some treasures usually dedicated to worship.

There is no doubt that the greatest worship we can give to God is loving our brothers. "I don't need your offerings," says the Lord, "the worship that I want is this: to share your bread with the hungry, to open your home to the tired" (Is 58) ... John Paul II ordered that "in cases of need, one should not give preference to superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary, it could be obligatory to sell these goods to provide bread, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things" (SRS 31). It would be pointless to beatify people who we are not willing to heed.

So we decided to make an assessment of all those ornaments and precious objects of worship that our Church owns (the monstrance of Toledo, the entrances of La Sagrada Familia, the gold and silver vessels and candelabras that fill our churches ...). And to consult a group of experts on the most effective way to dispose of these items for service to the poor (sales, auctions, guarantees for mortgages, financing for micro credit, investments in jobs ...).

It's not up to us to elucidate the best way for what the Church has to reach the poor, but we must remember the Master's injunction: "There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor." We don't want to walk away saddened by these words, lest we incur the harsh reproach the Lord gave to the young man who reacted that way.

In order to make the meaning of that decision more comprehensible, we also propose this year that wherever Corpus Christi processions are held, the Blessed Sacrament will not be carried in golden monstrances, but in modest containers such as those they must have used at the Lord's Supper. And under the canopy, along with the priest or pastor in each place, a person or family who are members of that group of the unemployed, crucified by an economic system built on greed, would bear the Sacrament. Thus the faithful will see the inseparability of God's presence in the sacrament and in the victims of our history.

In the tragic situation in which we live, we want to end by reminding those five million indigent people of a fundamental principle of Christian morality. It will irritate many, but the Church must not silence the law of God just because it's annoying. Catholic morality has always taught that "in cases of extreme necessity, all things are common" and therefore those who are truly in such extreme situations don't sin if they take something they need that, legally speaking, isn't theirs but morally, it is. Certainly they will run the risk of legal punishment (from those who are usually much harder on the little ones than on the big offenders). But the Church has the duty to tell them they incur no moral fault"...

Finally, I repeat: All this happened in the Feast of Corpus Christi of 2*11, not 2011.

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