Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eucharistic Flash Mob: Canonically Appropriate?

Not long ago, the video of a Eucharistic "flash mob" began making the rounds on the internet among the Catholic media.  It consists of a Friar, on the feast of Corpus Cristi (the Body of Christ),  lifting a monstrance with the Eucharist exposed for public veneration in a market square in Preston (England, I think) and a group of worshipers falling to their knees in adoration.  I've seen the video a couple of times and was a little bothered by it, and I was left wondering if it was liturgically appropriate.  I searched some of the Catholic forums and the views ran the gambit.  So I decided to look into the matter myself.  This is what I found.

Cannon Law states:

Can. 935 It is not lawful for anyone to keep the blessed Eucharist in personal custody or to carry it around, unless there is an urgent pastoral need and the prescriptions of the diocesan Bishop are observed. [The question is, was there an urgent pastoral need to transport the Eucharist to this location in order to do the Flash Mob? This of course depends on what is meant by "urgent", "need" and "pastoral." In section 18 of John Paul II's apostolic letter, MANE NOBISCUM DOMINE, for the year of the Eucharist, the Holy Father writes:  
Our faith in the God who took flesh in order to become our companion along the way needs to be everywhere proclaimed, especially in our streets and homes, as an expression of our grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of blessings. [Emphasis mine]
No doubt there certainly is an urgent pastoral need to expose the world to the healing offered by the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. No doubt that the 'flash mob' would not have happened without the transportation of the Eucharist to this location. The real question always comes down to whether or not the Bishop gave approval of such transportation for this reason.]

Can. 944 ß1 Wherever in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop it can be done, a procession through the streets is to be held, especially on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, as a public witness of veneration of the blessed Eucharist. [I'm going to assume the Friar had the Bishop's approval.]

ß2 It is for the diocesan Bishop to establish such regulations about processions as will provide for participation in them and for their being carried out in a dignified manner. [This is a kicker. The local Bishop establishes the regulations for a Eucharistic procession. Typically a Eucharistic procession has a specific form: songs, walking through the streets, public witness, incense, etc. However, according to this Canon, the local Ordinary may change the form of the procession if he sees fit. So this 'flash mob' could very well be an extraordinary form of a Eucharistic Procession in the form of a culturally popular "flash mob." But did they have approval from the Bishop? I think it is generous that we all assume so. Though, it is sometimes easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Could the Eucharistic mob have been done in a more dignified manner? I personally do not see a loss of dignity, but the Friar could have arranged the use of all the smells, bells, and canopy to give the 'mob' more of a Liturgical and Eucharistic feel. Also, If you watch the video, pay attention to what the Friar is saying. He is recounting Christ in every book of the Bible.]

Check out the Directory on Popular Piety and Liturgy and Eucharistiae Sacramentum for further reading on this subject.


Karen said...

According to the brother, they did not have the permission of the bishop, but they also didn't realize they needed it. They did have the permission of their superior though.

There was also a long thread on the Catholic Answers forums that was quite interesting. There are some particularly interesting posts by a Franciscan Brother (JReducation that help put it into the perspective of the Franciscan tradition (here and here to start).

Anonymous said...

Paul, I appreciate your contribution to the conversation about this peculiar event. Thanks for posting this.

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