Archbishop leads Corpus Christi celebrations – Showers of blessings

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Archbishop Jason Gordon gives holy communion to worshippers during Corpus Christi mass outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain on Thursday. PHOTO BY ANGELO MARCELLE – Angelo Marcelle

With the weather repeatedly switching, at a moment’s notice, neither sun nor rain could deter hundreds of celebrants at Thursday’s Corpus Christi procession in Port of Spain.

A music truck blasted songs of praise and worship as worshippers sang and prayed while the procession, led by RC Archbishop Jason Gordon, made its way through the capital city. One celebrant, Ingrid McLean, described the rains as “showers of blessings.”

The procession was preceded by a service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Independence Square.

Gordon decided to forgo the usual homily (sermon) and in a departure from the norm, instead he urged people to huddle in small groups and come up with questions about the celebration of the Eucharist.

Gordon then sent priests into the crowd to gather the questions before answering them all.

Asked by Newsday afterward sabout the break from tradition, Gordon said he had a homily prepared but God spoke to him and he decided to heed the Lord’s advice.

“When I was sitting before the blessed sacrament this morning, it came to me to ask people what their questions are about the Eucharist to make sure we get to where people are at. I’m good with Him changing my homily. You know, I’m good with that,” Gordon said.

He said a particular question made him reflect on his own life.

“The question was, how does the Eucharist affect me? I thought a lot about it since then and the many times I’ve experienced Jesus in the Eucharist, in prayer before the blessed sacrament, during mass, and the ways that it has shaped my life,” Gordon said.

He explained the importance of Corpus Christi to the Catholic faithful, saying it celebrates the body and blood of Christ.

Bethlehem Girls’ RC Primary school students carry out the Corpus Christi tradition of throwing flower petals while leading their section of the procession through the streets of Port of Spain on Thursday. PHOTO BY ANGELO MARCELLE

“This is really another part of the Holy Thursday celebration where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, giving his body and his blood as salvation for us. So this is the real presence of Jesus that we celebrate. This day we remember that every time we say mass anywhere in the world and anywhere in our nation. Jesus is truly, substantially present in the Eucharist.”

A large number of celebrants included families, something Gordon described as beautiful.

“It is through the family that we pass faith on…And when families have traditions, the faith gets passed on and it’s lived and it’s alive.”

Passing on traditions

A woman who identified herself as Avion told Newsday that attending the Corpus Christi celebrations has been a tradition passed down in her family from generation to generation.

Holding her nephew in her arms, she said it was important to carry on the tradition and mould the younger generations.

“It begins from small. You have to mould them like bonsai trees. How you mould them and how you bend them, that is how they will grow. So it’s important for them to come out and witness and experience it.

“We need to continue to instil morals and values in our children and our children’s children. There’s a lot of young people having children and they don’t have the morals and values that we adults have right now.”

One of Avion’s relatives, Leslie Simmons-Gooding, said going to Corpus Christi mass has been a 25-year-long tradition which was started by their grandmother.

“It helps us to see God for who He is, remind us of His goodness and all the blessings He provides for us.

“It’s something that we can cherish and pass on to our children and they can pass on to their children, because the way the country going these days, it’s like the presence of God is going away. We need to bring back this presence through prayers and living in a manner that God would be pleased with.”

Alan and Amanda Pedro, who have been married for 34 years, said although their three daughters were unable to attend mass this year, the celebration has been a two-decades long tradition in their family.

“We really believe this is a great gift Trinidad has and I think Corpus Christi is a holiday that keeps us focused…so (we know) in spite of all that’s wrong, Jesus is still alive,” Alan said.

A significant number of students from primary and secondary schools around Port of Spain were also in attendance and took part in the procession.

Holy Name convent students Janae-Maria Cooper and Tariq Joseph said it was important for them to be there, especially as they are also doing Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams (CAPE).

“It’s a way for me to lift up and be able to stay calm as much as possible,” said Joseph.

She said religion keeps her grounded and calm and she goes into every exam with a religious heirloom that has been passed down for generations in her family.

“In exams that are difficult, I feel as though when I have him on my side, I’m able to answer each question and be able to give my best in each exam.”

Deeds, not words

Cooper said people in her generation need to understand the importance of religion.

“It’s something to give people a sense of direction and a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It’s not just about the person. Whether it’s Catholicism or Hinduism, it’s about (having) a community so you have support.”

Scouting groups from Port of Spain schools were also there adding to the pomp and ceremony of the procession.

Aaron Chaitram, a member of Fatima College’s 11th Trinidad Sea Scouts, said he believed scouts were there as part of their duty to serve the public and improve the fabric of the nation.

St Mary’s College students Jean Louis Brown, from 1st Trinidad Sea Scouts, and Brannon Ng Wai, of 6th Trinidad Sea Scouts, echoed similar sentiments.

Brown, 15, said, “Religion is one of the things that keeps society together. It helps the role models you see in and outside of the church to be better people in their daily lives.”

Ng Wai added, “My troop has a motto, res non verba, which means ‘deeds, not words.’ I think a lot of people should strive to live by that and go out and walk the talk.”

Sacred Heart Girls’ RC student Zoe Gray, 12, who did one of the readings, urged young people to use religion to help make Trinidad and Tobago a safer place.

“Whatever is going on right now with crime, they need Jesus in their life. People should come out to like, spread the gospel to everybody so that we would be in a safe place.”

Gordon urged people to love and respect each other.

“I think as a nation, we have not been loving and respecting one another really well. And I’m not sure that we’ve been loving and respecting God really well either. And Corpus Christi is a reminder to us of the love and the worship due to God and the respect due to one another.”