Feast of Corpus Christi: the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Spring in New York City brings out the pilgrims, who travel near and far to see burgeoning life in new or familiar places. So it was that I made the pilgrimage with two visitors, traveling to Ground Zero and Battery Park to experience new life among the remains of such utter death and destruction.
The new tower is up and pointing to the heavens but we were drawn to the memorial pool with name upon name carved in black granite and cascading water. No newness erases the utter destruction of those moments on 9/11 when the planes hit the towers. The crosses of steel scattered through the surrounding gardens are a reminder of this. All is not darkness, however. Places of light abound in the new growth of flowering gardens surrounding the scene. Visitors from all over the world are pilgrims, too. We identified them by their languages as we passed them in the narrow streets.
This is Elizabeth Ann Seton’s familiar territory. She traveled these streets to visit her extended family members, to bring necessities to those in need and to worship her God at St. Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church. She would be proud of their service during the chaotic days following 9/11. Caregivers descended on St. Paul’s Chapel, which had become a respite center for those searching for the lost in the rubble of the towers. The Chapel still remains with remembrances of that time, memorializing the outpouring of care and concern from New York emergency workers as well as visitors from all over the U.S.A. and the world.
“This is my Body. This is my Blood given for you.”
The Eucharist and the Real Presence is what drove Elizabeth to seek the Catholic Church at St. Peter’s Church, a few blocks away from St. Paul’s Chapel. It still stands today, miraculously at the brink of the crater caused by the destruction of the planes.
No trip to Ground Zero is complete without a walk down Broadway to Our Lady of the Rosary Church and the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton at 8 State Street, across from Battery Park. It, too, is a reminder of Elizabeth’s love of the Eucharist, now present in her former home with William Seton and her children. Before it became a Catholic Church, it served as an immigrant center for Irish girls, welcoming the new, young travelers to a safe haven when they landed in the new world.
Eucharist and service . . . welcoming immigrants . . . care for the sick and dying . . . nurturing new life . . . All these are part of our celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
Grant your Church, O Lord, the gifts of unity and peace, whose signs are to be seen in mystery in the offerings we here present. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen. (Prayer Over the Gifts)
–Sr. Ellen Rose O’Connell, SC
Sr. Ellen Rose, a former educator, administrator, director of Associates and pastoral care director, provides pastoral care services for retired Sisters of Charity in several residences and nursing homes.