St. Juliana of Liege was a 13th-century Norbertine canoness and mystic from Belgium who had a great love for the Eucharist. At age 5, she and her sister, Agnes, were orphaned and placed on a small farm beside a canonry outside Liege. When she turned 13, Juliana entered the order. At age 16, she had a vision in which the Church was the full moon with a dark spot. In the vision, St. Juliana understood that the dark spot was a sign that the Church was missing a feast dedicated exclusively to the Body and Blood of Christ in the Real Presence. Despite having this same vision several times, St. Juliana was doubtful that she could do anything to facilitate the institution of the feast and so she kept it secret for many years.

After a time, she was elected prioress of the canonry and because of this felt compelled to tell her confessor, Canon John of Lausanne, about the visions. Having connections with many distinguished Catholic leaders – including then-Pope Urban IV – Canon John made St. Juliana’s visions known to them. Their response was unanimously favorable and appropriations were given to St. Juliana to compose an office for the feast and begin promoting it. The first Feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated in Liege in 1246 and adopted by the universal Catholic Church in 1264. Sadly, St. Juliana died in 1258 and did not witness the universal institution of the feast.

Since then, the Feast of Corpus Christi has been celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. However, in some dioceses of the United States, the feast is transferred to the following Sunday.

The Meaning of Corpus Christi

Literally, the Latin words “Corpus Christi” mean “Body of Christ.” The full title of the Corpus Christi feast is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and is honors our Lord as Truly and Substantially Present under the appearances of bread and wine in the Eucharist. This change is called transubstantiation which means “change of substance”. During the Consecration at Mass, the priest says the words that Jesus Christ himself spoke over bread and wine, “This is My Body”, “This is the chalice of My Blood”, and “Do this in remembrance of Me”. Catholics believe that, at this moment, the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ yet maintain their material appearance.

An Important Feast

I once was told that the greatest miracle ever occurs at every Catholic Mass when the bread and wine become our Lord Jesus himself and we are able to physically receive him into our bodies and souls. Not anywhere else in time or space does this occur. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, not a memorial, not a symbol. When we receive the Consecrated Host, we receive Jesus himself. Amazing! Our Lord humbles himself by coming to us in this simple form and he does it out of all-encompassing love for each one of us. In return, we should give him the utmost reverence, love, and adoration that he deserves.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”

This also is true for you and for me. We see Jesus in reality at every holy Mass.


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