By Lara Pickford-Gordon
There was joy as Catholics walked through the streets of Port of Spain praying and singing on Corpus Christi, Thursday June 16, a public holiday, resuming the traditional en masse street procession. The public display was missed for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nadine Oliveire, from St Ann’s described being back out as “surreal”. “It feels refreshing to be out, to communion, to share this experience, we have been kind of lost for a little while”, she said.
Lester Maxwell, of Petit Valley, who accompanied his son, a Fatima College student involved in the procession, said he felt great. “This is fantastic. I know they were trying to manage the numbers; this is well done and well managed”.
During his homily at Mass held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju said while the “real presence”, Jesus Christ is in the Eucharistic bread, transubstantiation, “Jesus is present to us today because when He ministered to people, He was always present”. Citing the Gospel Luke 9:11-17, he said Jesus was present to the people in their hunger, tiredness, and to the apostles in their dilemma of feeding the crowd. Fr Sirju added that Jesus goes to His Father to take care of feeding the crowd resulting in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus is present today “because that is how He always was, He was always a real presence”.
Fr Sirju focused on the different areas of life where “real presence” was needed. He asked the congregation: “Are you present to yourself?” Directing comments towards the students of RC primary and secondary schools seated in the front pews, he asked with the influence of social media, if their presence on social media was because of the pressure they faced. Were they present for the “likes”? He said it was in the confessional that people come truthfully before God and say who they truly are. “Be true to yourself, be a real presence to yourself”, he advised.
Fr Sirju said Catholics have to be a real presence to others. Husbands and wives have to be present to each other because “sincere, genuine, real presence is very important for family life”. To parents he said, “It is so often we find ourselves with children, they are abused and battered, unhappy at home, why is that? Because what they are looking for is not present to them… They want to be present in the face of love, tenderness”. Parents who get caught up in work and busyness of the day do not see their children’s unspoken cries for help. Fr Sirju continued, “We are not present for their tender bodies crying out for guidance in this confusing world of gender flexibility”. Presence is also needed in the education sector. The child who is unloved, neglected and cannot read or write well, have low self-esteem and show violence to self or others. “We have to be truly present for others so we hear the voice, especially the voices of the young that say ‘somebody help me’, and because we are truly present like Christ, we can imitate His example”.
Fr Martin mentioned presence for the body politic—the nation. He called for prayers for the nation’s political leaders “so the presence that our leaders give on both sides of the fence and their associates…will keep the body politic intact”. Touching on care for the planet, he said it is the mystical Body of Christ and from the earth came wheat for the Eucharistic bread and grapes for the wine.
Fr Sirju said after the procession, Catholics looking at the real bread should try to be more real themselves and for the sake of others. He urged they “bring the reality of Christ”, a man who did not have social media but whose influence extended because He was “filled with goodness and love and graciousness…a man who made Himself present to people.”
Fr Sirju told the young people they had many things today which the older generation did not have, and it was for them to “take the gospel into the world and make it alive, make the real presence of Jesus alive as you become a real presence”. He said Jesus gave people a feeling because of the reality and authenticity of His presence and they too can do the same.
The procession left the Cathedral after 10 a.m. and passed along Independence Square to Henry Street where Benediction took place near the Holy Rosary Marian Shrine. The procession then moved along Park Street. A downpour began on Charlotte Street however it stopped after 20 minutes. Fr Sirju offered up prayers for the farmers on Charlotte Street “that feeds so many”. The crowed proceeded back to the church for Benediction and closing thanks.
The Corpus Christi Mass and procession was last held at the Cathedral in 2011. When the Cathedral was closed for restoration, from 2012, the observance took place at the Queen’s Park Savannah.