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Radical faith! Radical witness!

By Sr Renée K Hall OP

Sincere gratitude to His Grace Archbishop Jason Gordon, Vicar General and Cathedral Administrator Fr Martin Sirju, the Organising Committee at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and all those who in any way contributed to the Mass and procession for our Corpus Christi celebrations this year.

Sr Renée K Hall OP

As far as I could remember, this Solemnity has been one that has always filled me with a deep sense of reverence for Jesus Christ present in Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.

As a teenager and young adult, I always attended Mass and the procession as a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in San Fernando. I grew deeper and deeper in my faith coming to know and understand that I am a part of a Eucharistic Church Community, which fortified me through many moments of trial and triumph.

As a Religious, it is no different. For the last 17 years discounting the Covid-19 period, I accompanied my Holy Name Convent (HNC) girls and by extension the young men of our brother school, Fatima College.

We gathered yearly at first at the Cathedral and then we shifted to Queen’s Park Savannah during the restoration. I have always viewed this as an opportunity to teach our young people that we belong to a Church that is bigger than ourselves. We can see ourselves as individuals but more importantly as part of the Eucharistic mystery – One Body of Christ united regardless of age, race, class. United by the One Faith that we profess, a faith that is real, intimate, radical and lifts up God incarnate.

This year’s procession left a deep impression on me as we processed towards Piccadilly Greens (‘behind d bridge’) and then down Nelson Street. Initially, I thought, “Why are they taking us down this street? Don’t they know it is a hotspot?”

The Holy Spirit then prompted me to begin to take another look, to move beyond the fear that I felt and to really look at the young men, some of them barebacked and tattooed; the elderly, young women with children most of them singing and praying with us.

I saw these young men singing as their lips moved in unison with ours, perhaps remembering the times that they were taught these praise and worship songs in school or in church.

There was an old lady up in one of the housing units caught up in the very ecstasy that we were experiencing down below as we praised God.

It occurred to me that the Lord was inviting me into a moment of radical conversion to look beyond what met my eyes. Isn’t that the very essence of our faith, that we look beyond the bread and wine and to see them transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ?

This is echoed in the Tantum Ergo “sight is blind before God’s Glory- faith alone can see His face.” Faith alone can restore our country; our faith helps us to see that men and women of faith also live in these communities and they too belong to the Body of Christ.

How can we respond to their plight, the unjust work situations, the lack of access to quality education and the scourge of drug use, gun violence and death that have seized these communities? Our entire nation is affected as we listen, horrified, to the news of persons being murdered every day and crime spiralling out of control.

I would like to make an appeal for a return of our larger numbers as Church gathered – priests, deacons, parishes, Religious and ecclesial communities, schools, guides and scouts, families and men and women of faith, the young and the elderly to come together as we did pre- Covid-19.

In some parishes, the return to church has been slow and it seems as though many have not returned. As an educator in a Catholic school, it is critical that our children be encouraged to come out to Corpus Christi celebrations – it is the singular public holiday that is unique to the Catholic faith.

This reflection was birthed at the crypt of Archbishop Anthony Pantin where I sat after Mass, thanking him for his wisdom and for the struggle that he undertook to ensure that this Solemnity remained a public holiday.

As the day’s liturgy ended, I stood on Independence Square with the HNC girls and the young men of Fatima College. There was a gentleman there with his friends enjoying some local beverages who shouted at the top of his voice, “Jesus Christ, I accept You as my Lord and Saviour.” He then turned to the young people and said, “go to school and learn allyuh work well, listen to your teachers, remember you are we future.”

May we as Church hear this message – the future of our Church is at risk. This post Covid-19 reality requires courage and boldness that only the Holy Spirit can give as we seek to evangelise the faithful, especially the youth.

May they see themselves as receiving a gift in the Holy Eucharist and therefore give themselves as gift to the Church, to family life, to service in the private and public sectors, as upstanding citizens committed to transforming our Nation and essentially building God’s Kingdom.