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June 2, 2021
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June 2, 2021

Corpus Christi and national identity

By Carmelite tertiary, Neila Todd

The observance of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, a national holiday in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a significant part of our identity.

This major feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday immediately following Trinity Sunday. The name of our country is the ever-present reminder of the faith of the believer, Columbus and his ensuing success.

Iere, Land of the Hummingbird, and its First Peoples capitulated to Spain and Roman Catholicism. Holy Mother Church would subsequently apologise and seek forgiveness for the pain and suffering that ensued from this transformative action. Successive waves of European colonisation would follow with differentiating political decisions which has resulted in a population of eight groups, five of them ethnic and the various admixtures.

The Republican Constitution enshrines religious tolerance for the citizenry so that Trinidad and Tobago can now demonstrate, apart from its ten mainstream religions, hundreds of religious sects, fractions, communities, and divisions which have been incorporated into the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

In fact, our Inter-Religious Organization describes itself as “unique in the whole world, bringing together the various religions in harmony”. This harmony is best displayed in the observance of Corpus Christi, one which is not encumbered by commercialism and materialism. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi remains pristine in tone and mood for our people, despite growing secularism.

Historically, the feast owes its existence to a miracle in the 13th century. It was decreed that it be a Solemnity during the week.

Here in our islands, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is always a very subdued day. There are so many stories and folklore associated with the feast. One that comes to mind at this time is an ardent young girl, stowed away to a Convent in France, who took the opportunity of the procession at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to slip away to the nearby harbour and board a vessel moored there.

Usually, Catholics would attend Holy Mass followed by the procession. For persons of other faiths, the day traditionally marks the onset of the Rainy Season. For both the professionals and home gardeners, it is the opportunity to sow corn and pigeon peas, sorrel and plants which had needed more special attention during the Dry Season. Corpus Christi is this efficacious day which would guarantee a bountiful harvest to replenish the body.

It is indeed the Body of Christ and the very mystery of Transubstantiation that had impelled the foundress of the Corpus Christi Carmelites, Mother Mary Ellerker of the Blessed Sacrament to chart a new course with diverse activities for Religious women on both sides of the Atlantic.

Our gain is that she chose Trinidad to be the command centre of her foundations. The recognition from Rome and the bestowal of the status of a Pontifical Institute has lifted this country to ecclesiastical prominence in the region and the mystical consequences of Corpus Christi continue to infuse the ethos of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

The commemoration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is celebrated joyfully by the Corpus Christi Carmelite Congregation. It is usually extended from Thursday to the Saturday afternoon when the full liturgy is followed by dinner. We are sated with nourishment for our bodies and our souls.

On this occasion, notwithstanding, we continue to seek God’s tender mercies and graces as we pray for all who have been affected in any way by the pandemic. We seek as well the protection of our Lady of Mount Carmel, that she would enfold us in her protective mantle now and forever.

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