In today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his attention on St. Juliana of Cornillon who contributed to instituting the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Born in the Belgian city of Liege towards the end of the twelfth century, Juliana was orphaned at the age of five "and entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns of the convent-lazaretto of Mont-Cornillon". Later she also took the Augustinian habit and went on to became prioress of the convent.
The Pope explained how the Belgian saint "possessed great culture, ... and a profound sense of the presence of Christ, which she experienced particularly intensely in the Sacrament of the Eucharist".
At the age of sixteen she had a vision which convinced her of the need to establish a liturgical feast for Corpus Christi "in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to augment their faith, increase the practice of virtue and mend the wrongs done to the Blessed Sacrament", said the Holy Father.
Juliana "confided [her revelation] to two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist " and the three together "formed a kind of 'spiritual alliance' with the intention of glorifying the Blessed Sacrament".
"It was", Pope Benedict continued his catechesis, "Bishop Robert Thourotte of Liege who, following some initial hesitation, accepted the proposal made by Juliana and her two companions and instituted, for the first time, the Solemnity of Corpus Domini in his diocese. Other bishops later imitated him and established the same feast in the areas under their pastoral care".
Juliana, said the Pope, "had to suffer the harsh opposition of certain members of the clergy, including the superior upon whom her convent depended. She therefore chose to leave Mont-Cornillon with a number of companions and for ten years, between 1248 and 1258, was accommodated in various houses of Cistercian nuns". At the same time "she zealously continued to spread Eucharistic devotion. She died at Fosses-La-Ville in Belgium in 1258".
The Holy Father recalled how "in 1264 Urban IV chose to institute the Solemnity of Corpus Domini as a feast for the Universal Church on the Thursday following Pentecost" and, by way of personal example, "himself celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Domini in Orvieto, the city in which he was then residing". And the cathedral of Orvieto still houses "the famous corporal with traces of the Eucharistic miracle which had befallen at Bolsena the preceding year, 1263".
"Urban IV asked one of the greats theologians in history, St. Thomas Aquinas who was with the Pope at that time in Orvieto, to write the texts for the liturgical office of this great feast, ... as an expression of praise and gratitude to the Blessed Sacrament".
"Although following the death of Urban IV the celebration of Corpus Domini was restricted to certain regions of France, Germany, Hungary and northern Italy, in 1317 Pope John XXII reintroduced it for the whole Church".
"Joyfully I wish to affirm that there is a 'Eucharistic springtime' in the Church today", said the Holy Father. "How many people remain in silence before the Tabernacle sustaining a dialogue of love with Jesus! It is consoling to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I pray that this 'Eucharistic springtime' may become increasingly widespread in parishes, and especially in Belgium, homeland of St, Juliana".
"Recalling St. Juliana of Cornillon, let us too renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. ... Faithfully encountering the Eucharistic Christ at Sunday Mass is essential for our journey of faith, but let us also seek to visit the Lord frequently, before His presence in the Tabernacle. ... By gazing at Him in adoration the Lord draws us to Him, to His mystery, in order to transform us as He transforms the bread and wine".
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