By Fr Roger Paponette
Parish priest, San Raphael
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic Christian life and this solemn feast began as a means of giving public witness to our faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
As Catholics, we are called to take seriously this opportunity to use this holiday for the purpose for which it is given. We are all encouraged to join the thousands either within our various parishes or at the grand celebrations at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Observances take place in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Scarborough, and other parishes across the country.
In doing this public demonstration of adoration and honour to Jesus who has promised us to be with us, we deepen our faith and give public witness to others.
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and health restrictions preventing large gathering, we are called to participate in the virtual Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
This special feast day is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, in commemoration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
According to aspiringmindstandt.com, Corpus Christi is a longstanding tradition in our islands, going back to our pre-British occupation by the Catholic Spaniards. Though mainly observed by Roman Catholics, it is a designated public holiday and is historically binding in Trinidad and Tobago, because it was originally bundled in a package of conditions by Spain before ceding rule of Trinidad and Tobago to Britain in 1797.
Since there is often a great deal of rainfall around the time of the Corpus Christi celebrations, gardeners in Trinidad and Tobago consider the day to be good for planting, as it is believed that anything planted on this day will thrive.
Some planters also carry their seeds to church services for blessing. Among the popular plants purchased during this time are tomatoes, hot peppers, melongene (eggplant or aubergine), ochro, patchoi (Chinese cabbage or bok choy), lettuce, and grains such as corn and pigeon peas.
Attempts at getting to the source of this tradition of planting on Corpus Christi is difficult. It is also possible that other Caribbean islands observe this tradition also.
We propose this ritual as it can be an opportunity to promote a healthy appreciation for the environment as well as an occasion for healthy family interaction around a planting project.
Firstly, each family prepares the places where they intend to plant about a week before the feast.
A sack or a suitable container or vessel can be obtained to place the seeds or seedlings to be planted. This container can be carried by each family to the Corpus Christi Mass for blessing by the priest.
Blessing ritual in the Church
Each parish needs to make arrangements for a table, or another means of suitably placing seeds or seedlings for blessing.
Either during the Mass or after, the priest can bless the seeds/seedlings with holy water using the blessing format provided in the Sacramentary or his own spontaneous prayer.
Blessing of seeds at home
Alternately, each family can celebrate their own blessing of seeds and seedlings at their home. This should be done only after Mass and the procession for Corpus Christi has been attended.
When the family are all gathered at a suitable place, where the seedlings and seeds are placed, the father/guardian, makes the sign of the cross and begins the ritual. A song can be sung, e.g. A time to be sowing, O Creator etc.
A spontaneous prayer can then be offered:
Father in Heaven, we thank you for this feast day in which we give honour and praise to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who in accordance with His promise, is with us in the Blessed Eucharist.
May this family and all who believe in Your presence, be nourished, strengthened, and filled with gratitude for your unending generosity.
May the Eucharist which we give public witness too, be our sure hope for salvation. Amen
The youngest family member present then reads Psalm 65.
Litany of thanksgiving
O God, Father of us all
(R) We give you thanks.
Lord of Heaven and earth
Creator of all there is
Redeemer Lord Jesus Christ
Holy Spirit, Sanctifier, Comforter, Lord of Life
For the land, rivers, seas, and rain which refreshes and sustains life
For the sun, moon and stars which reflect your wonderful light
For the trees, shrubs and plants which gives food to all living things
Father, Lord and God, we thank You for this most wonderful and divine gift of the Body and Blood of Your only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
May our Communion with Him, deepen our care and responsibility for tending the earth so that all may live in harmony and peace and be filled with thanksgiving for You, our provider.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The mother/eldest female present: May the Lord bless the work of our hands as we till the earth.
May He bless these seeds which we are about to plant.
Let our labour bring forth fruit in abundance so that we, under the gracious generosity of you Father, may learn in turn to be generous to all and have our hearts filled with thanksgiving.
All answer, Amen.
The mother then takes the holy water and blesses all present, the seeds and seedlings, and the soil as together the family plants their seed and seedlings.