CORPUS CHRISTI LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY
It was the summer of 1950. Our family had saved all during the years of World War II for a trip to Germany so that we could see the homes of our parents. The sea voyage on the converted troop ship, the SS Washington took about a week before it landed in la Havre, France. The train took us to Paris where we rested until the night train that took us to the German home of our mother, Fautenbach near Achern in Baden. We arrived very early in the morning and there was the long awaited greeting of a Grandmother, Aunts and Uncles and cousins.
We were also in time for the Mass and procession of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. From the village church we made our way with the Blessed Sacrament, the priest and altar boys down the road of the village and out into the fields behind my Grandmother’s house. There were prayers and hymns while the priest blessed the fields and the June crops with holy water, asking God to bring a simple prosperity after the long war years of suffering, hardship and terror.
Germany was a defeated and disgraced country humiliated in the eyes of the world. These simple people were dressed in the shabby old fashioned clothes that still served as “Sunday best” even though they barely survived, as did those who wore them, the years of privation.
In the cities there were very visible scars of the bombings. The Cathedral of Munich that we visited later was blackened and the gaping hole left by the entirely collapsed roof was covered by fresh planks. Here, however, the fields were fresh with new growth, with wild flowers and garden blooms. The sun was warm and birds sang. The faith had endured and now formed the strong and sure trunk onto which the future could grow. The Body of Christ, Jesus in the Eucharist was not defeated and not ashamed to be with these people. The body that suffered and died on the cross understood their suffering and did not abandon them. The Christian heritage of Europe and the world is the sure strength that will survive all the tyrants, moral ambiguity, cruelty and death that threaten us again in our own time.