All Things New
Corapi's 10 Percent Solution
Talk to any priest you know. Ask him: "What's the best part about being a priest? What do you love about it?"
I did that the other day, after the Corapi news broke. I talked to a handful of priests. Again and again, I got the same answers: "Saying mass." "Hearing confession." "Offering the sacraments."
Hearing that, and thinking of John Corapi, I thought of other priests, in other circumstances.
I thought of Fr. Henri Perrin, who wrote so movingly of secretly celebrating mass on Palm Sunday in 1944 in a German concentration camp:
When I held the sacrifice between my fingers, I was holding up to God in complete faith the lives of all the men sleeping round me."
I thought of the priests of Dachau, who were forbidden to say mass, but did so anyway, risking their lives. According to one account:
During the time that the Polish priests were not allowed to say Mass, they asked the priest from Block 26, who was in charge of the chapel, to give them hosts and wine so they could celebrate Mass in secret. The Polish priests who worked on the plantation (farm) at Dachau would kneel on the ground and pretend to be weeding. They had a small portable altar which one of the priests would press into the ground. The priests would kneel down and receive Communion from their own hands.
And I thought of the Vietnamese Cardinal Nguyen van Thaun, who spent decades in prison, facing persecution and risking death by secretly saying mass for himself and his fellow prisoners. In 2008, his sister described his life behind bars:
During an interview with the media after his release, he was asked what his secret strength had been that kept him alive and sane. His answer was always, "The Eucharist." He explained how when he was arrested, he had to leave immediately, empty-handed. The following day he was allowed to write to his faithful to ask for some personal effects. He wrote: "Please send me a little wine as medicine for my stomach pain." They understood right away. A few days later, the guards handed him a small container addressed to him, and labeled "Medicine for stomach aliments." He also received another small container containing small pieces of Holy Host.
With three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of his hand, he would celebrate Mass. "Each time I celebrated Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with Him the bitter chalice" (Testimony of Hope). And those were the most beautiful Masses of his life.
In Testimony of Hope he continued: In the re-education camp, we were divided into groups of 50 prisoners. We slept on a common bed, and everyone had the right to 50 cm of space. We managed to make sure there were Catholics around me. At 9:30 pm, we had to turn off the light. It was then that I would bend over the bed to celebrate Mass by heart, and I distributed communion by passing my hand under the mosquito net. We even made little bags with the aluminum foil from cigarette packs to preserve the Holy Host and take it to others. The Eucharistic Jesus was always present in my shirt pocket.
I have to wonder if John Corapi knew that sort of consolation. Did he even care? For these and other priests, the Eucharist was all. For John Corapi, it was, at best, 10 percent of his priesthood.
Sorry. That's just not enough. And it may be one reason, among many, why he now finds himself in his present state.
This Sunday, the church will celebrate the great feast of Corpus Christi, honoring the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. (In an interesting irony, Corpus Christi is also the name of the diocese where Corapi's order is headquartered; it is the bishop of Corpus Christi whom Corapi attacks in his taped statements.)
This is a time to cherish what we have been given in the Eucharist, and to look at Jesus Christ, present to us in the Flesh—more present to us than any man, or even many people we know and love on earth. It might be a useful time to remember, as well, the sacrifices that have been made to make this holy sacrament possible—the blood that's been shed, the tears that have been wept, the risks that have been taken by great priests like Nguyen van Thaun and Henri Perrin.
It might be a time to pray, as well, for John Corapi.
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic Deacon serving the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, and an award-winning journalist. He blogs at The Deacon's Bench.