Maundy Thursday Night in Rome

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The Most Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession through the basilica to the haunting strains of the Pange lingua. The chapel of reposition — the Romans still refer to it as the sepolcro — had been readied with a blaze of candles and masses of white flowers. Here in Rome the faithful still keep the beautiful custom of visiting seven, or sometimes three churches, on Holy Thursday, something I did as a boy growing up in New Haven, Connecticut.

If only all the readers of Vultus Christi could have seen the procession of those who came to keep watch and to adore! Most of the time there was no place to kneel or sit. As soon as a place was free, it was taken by another. They came: the young, the old, the sick, and the handicapped. They came: young lovers hand in hand, scouts in uniform, children with their mothers and fathers. They came: the elderly of the neighbourhood walking slowly with their canes, or leaning on one another.

There was, of course, the noise of shuffling and whispering, and the clink of coins being tossed into the alms box set near the altar grille. There was also a silence so intense that one could almost hear the breath of Jesus in His agony and the drops of His Blood falling to the ground.

Tonight was, above all, the experience of the Precious Blood. The Blood shed by Our Lord in His agony purifies the Church and heals her wounds. The Blood of Christ consecrates what is defiled and repairs all that sin has defaced. The Blood of Christ is the secret of the renewal of the priesthood: the only efficacious cleansing in every priestly soul of the indelible character of the sacrament.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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