My dear fellow Cursillistas, sons and daughters in Christ, This past Corpus Christi Sunday, we witnessed a mysterious rendez-vous .“In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine,…Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Gen.14: 18-20). This brief encounter between Abram, “our Father in Faith,” and the priest-king Melchizedek is so ancient that it strikes at the very core of what it means to be human. Walking as a child of God means trusting His Promise and Providence, always giving thanks and giving back to God. Tithing is about a lot more than balancing parish budgets or maintaining aging facilities. God gives us everything, and He asks that we give back just a tenth joined to the offering of bread and wine which are transformed into the Most Holy Body and Blood of His Son. Under such humble forms, the Word through whom the universe was made, choses to divest Himself of every appearance of divinity and majesty so that He can be with us. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus GIVES UP EVERYTHING for us. Yet, the simple tithe (tenth) in response to God’s Providence, often gets twisted, down-played or ignored in our modern materialistic world – even among Catholics. We say things like “God doesn’t care about superficial things like money,” because our spending habits reveal our true priorities. How many of us would be comfortable going over our credit card statement with Christ at our side? St. Erik IX of Sweden
(d. 1160AD), my Patron, was beheaded after he made the Tithe mandatory for the Swedish nobility. Barbaric, no? But think for a moment of the founding of our nation …High tea taxes?
A beautiful contrast is St. Juliana of Liege who helped establish the Feast of Corpus Christi. A brilliant and beautiful young woman of Flanders (modern Belgium, and my mother’s homeland) in the 1200s, she was orphaned at age 5 and gave up everything for Christ, her true love, taking the veil as a religious at age 13. Juliana had a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist from a young age and dreamed that someday there would be a Feast Day dedicated exclusively to Jesus’ Divine Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. At age 16, she had a vision of Our Lord which confirmed His desire for such a Solemnity (Corpus Christi). From her first years as a nun, she ran a hospital, and at age 33 she was made a “Prioress” (a demanding position in medieval Christendom). In her position of authority, she had to stand up to powerful and corrupt men of her day, while still possessing the focus to become one of the first women authors in medieval Europe — and one of first in human history!
My great-great-grandfather Theodore Verstraete of Antwerp, Belgium, was a fairly famous artist in his day. He still has paintings in several museums in Belgium and through-out Europe. According to family history, he was an atheist and never even baptized. Yet, even he was drawn by something in our Blessed Sacrament. I only recently discovered what is now my favorite painting of his, Le Viatique (Viaticum. Last Holy Communion before death). Although it’s said he publicly ridi-culed Corpus Christi processions, for some reason, Theodore felt moved to paint a priest processing with the Eucharist to the dying. As my mom put it, “For an atheist, he sure did enjoy painting hard-working priests.” Through the intercession of Saint Juliana, I hope old “Theod” came to know the love of our Eucharistic Lord. When my “feeble senses fail” in death, may-be he and I can hash out the rest au purgatoire…
Tantum ergo Sacramentum Down in adoration falling,
Veneremur cernui: Lo! The sacred Host we hail,
Et antiquum documentum Lo! Oe’r ancient forms departing
Novo cedat ritui: Newer rites of grace prevail;
Praestet fides supplementum Faith for all defects supplying,
Sensuum defectui. Where the feeble senses fail.
Fr Erik Lundgren