Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Anchoress on Eurcharistic Devotion

The Anchoress has a posting on Catholics and Eucharistic devotion. This is something that non-Catholics (other than the Orthodox I would think) find somewhat strange. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. In fairness though, this can be even a difficult doctrine for Catholics to understand. I studied the theology in college, can discussed half remembered discourses by St. Thomas Aquinas regarding essence and accidents, yet we still hear of "bleeding host" stories despite he Church's attempts to suppress them.

The Anchoress posted some photographs of people kneeling before a procession. It reminds me of one of the things I miss about Brooklyn. I lived for two years in Williamsburg, my parents’ old neighborhood. Today it has a reputation as an artists’ colony and is now in the process of massive upscale gentrification, but there still remain a lot of Italians. Nearby, in Greenpoint, you have a lot of Polish and other Catholic Slavic immigrants.

The churches there still have public processions. If a priest well known for piety was visiting the area, they would often ask him to bless the Host and then process with it from church to church, sometimes over several days. My wife (who is not Catholic) was astounded by how the people on the street would genuflect or kneel when the procession passed by. Usually, the priest would be accompanied by the children of the parish and by old ladies singing hymns from the old country.

Again, it is difficult to explain to a non-Catholic, but there was something about touching the sacred in Eucharistic devotion, and most incredibly when it was in the most mundane venue of Lorimer Street in Brooklyn, as cars sped by.

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