Q: Archbishop J, how long must we wait?
Last Sunday, Prime Minister Keith Rowley advanced the date for reopening of churches from Friday, June 12 to Thursday 11. It is an incredible grace that the first time Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago can receive the Eucharist during COVID-19 will be the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
On Friday, March 13 we closed our schools and the day after we closed our churches. COVID-19 sent us back to our homes, our families, and our rooms to wait and watch and pray. For 13 weeks we have participated in virtual Masses unable to receive communion.
The shift in date, by one day, allows Catholics to begin again to receive communion on a very significant day for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
In the handing over of Trinidad to the British, the Spanish guaranteed the Catholic character of the island. It put into the Cedula the guarantee of the holiday of Corpus Christi. It is the only Catholic holiday in our national calendar.
This act of the Spanish is interesting. At that time, the British Government did not recognise the Catholic Church in England. It was still suppressed but, at Corpus Christi, the British Governor, who was Anglican, received a 21-gun salute in Trinidad. The feast and holiday have been very dear to the hearts of Catholics throughout the ages.
Fasting from the Eucharist
Many people have said to me the hardest part of this time was the fasting from the Eucharist, not being able to receive the Eucharist physically. And yet, the comments reflected a great appreciation for the daily virtual Mass, its formation and grounding in the Scripture.
Many Catholics said they have learnt things about their faith, in the last three months, they did not know in all their years of being Catholic. This is ironic. Through the fast there has been a better appreciation of the Eucharist. Through this appreciation many have come to a deeper faith. Through this deeper faith many are yearning for the Eucharist and wanting to know when they can receive.
Fasting is vital for the spiritual life. I believe this is an ancillary learning from our experience. If we have access to things whenever we want, we lose respect and love and desire.
To fast is to be deprived to tighten the hunger and the desire, and to engage with new perspective. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that we have lost sight of in our modern world.
Corpus Christi 2020
Through the unexpected gift of resuming Mass on Corpus Christi we will make this a very special event. At the same time, we will be very cautious to ensure we are doing safe things and keeping people safe.
We agonised about every church having Mass, and about a mass gathering but with each family staying in their cars. We agonised also about opening up the churches and allowing people in. Prudence prevailed. We are still on pandemic alert and we need vigilance on every side.
We will have one Mass on Trinity TV with all the priests connecting by Zoom. After communion, we will expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. You will be invited to go to your local church as a family, or as an individual to receive communion.
If you have a car, it will be preferable to go in the car as a family. If you do not have a car and can come to church, you are most welcome.
During the time of communion, adoration will continue at the Cathedral. Keep tuned in, as far as possible, and continue praying. After you receive communion, return home for the Benediction which will be at 11.30 a.m. We will have a morning of prayer, reception of communion and adoration. This will be a special moment.
After the prayer we are asking every family to do some planting. We are encouraging everyone to plant food as a family this Corpus Christi (See page 10).
The key is to understand that the whole event is a time of prayer. We pray in thanksgiving as a nation, having been spared the worst of this pandemic.
We pray in thanksgiving for the opportunity to stop and reflect on our lives and families. We pray for our leaders who guided us through this time. We pray we may always long for God, that we may always desire God more than all.
Becoming the Body
The Eucharist is the Body of Christ. We are the body of Christ in this world. This is the mystery that we celebrate. St Paul used the analogy of the body to speak about our connection to Christ (1 Cor 12:27). Jesus spoke about the vine and the branches (Jn 15:1-17). These images speak to a reality.
We are irreversibly interconnected, and we are vitally connected to Christ. This mystery is at the heart of the celebration. We who gather are the body of Christ.
Because of this vital interconnection, we cannot separate out or witness to less than what we are— the body of Christ. This is why we care for the vulnerable; why we feed the hungry and care for the sick; why we are in education and all sorts of work for the development of peoples.
It is why we have a special place in our hearts for the migrant and stranger and why we will work with the addict and homeless. If we are the body of Christ then we must see all, especially the most vulnerable as vitally connected with us. We also must see ourselves as Christ’s hands, feet, voice, and heart in this world.
Our journey through COVID is an invitation to renew our faith in the Eucharist and to become Eucharist to others.
Reflect on your COVID-19 journey and write it down. You could send it in through the portal on catholictt.org.
1 Cor 12:12–31