The Archdiocese of Birmingham - The Parish of the Immaculate Conception

Bicester Herald, 28th June 1916.



            Yesterday (Thursday) being the feast of Corpus Christi, special celebrations were observed at the Roman Catholic Church, Bicester. As usual the event attracted a large number of the public, and the church was well filled in the afternoon to hear an address by Father Francis, O.S.F.C., of St. Anselm’s, Oxford. In the morning there was a choral celebration of Mass. The altar had been lavishly decorated by the nuns of the Priory and a temporary altar erected in the grounds was likewise adorned. Flags were flying at various parts of the buildings and gardens.

            Father Francis based his sermon on the words, “Behold, I am with you always.” These words, he said, were spoken by our Lord to the twelve Apostles when he commissioned them to go and teach all nations, and constituted a promise of His perpetual presence. This He fulfilled in various ways. He was ever present in the poor; in the Church, guiding her through the saints; and was present in a most marvellous way in the sacrament of His love. Christ loved then to the utmost of His ability. It was not sufficient for Him to assume the lowly nature of man and after His crucifixion to leave them altogether, and so He instituted the Blessed Sacrament as a means whereby He might perpetuate His presence. The Sacrament had always been the centre of life, worship and liturgy of the Church, and for more than fifteen centuries the belief in the real presence was held by practically everyone who called themselves Christians. The greatest enemies of the Catholic Church could not propose a date at which the real presence was introduced, because it was as old as the Church itself. In the 16th century the so-called reformation in Germany took place, and this in the country which was the home of false religion, false philosophy and barbarism which would put the Pagans to shame. A sacrilegious attack was then made on the doctrines of the Church, just as the churches of France and Belgium had been singled out for destruction in the present war. The doctrine of the real presence did not find support by the so-called reformers, and so they tried to do away with it. They accordingly attempted to explain away the words of Christ. It was clearly taught in the scriptures that Jesus was the bread of life. In St. John, 6th chapter, Christ said he was the living bread which had come down from Heaven. Could they imagine their divine Lord allowing His followers to depart from Him without an empathic declaration on this point? No; in spite of the Jews saying “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Christ did not retract His words, but repeated that “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” They could not imagine their Lord being so uncharitable and unreasonable as to tell His followers something which did not exist. He meant what he said. The doctrine of the real presence was clearly taught at the last supper, when Jesus took bread and said, “Take, eat, this is my body,” and taking the chalice said, “This is my blood.” The Catholic doctrine could not be expressed in more clear or more emphatic words. For centuries Catholics had been accused of idolatry for worshipping Jesus in the eucharist, but there had been a change of late. Many of their former accusers had begun to realise what they had lost. They could not keep their eyes closed to the truth; hence many of them to-day believed in the real presence. Father Francis went on to speak of the marvellous mystery of the divine love of Christ in manifesting Himself in the sacrament, and urged the faithful to a more devoted worship of the Prisoner of the Tabernacle.

            After the sermon the usual ceremonies were performed, the leading part being taken by Father Francis, assisted by a Belgian priest of the same name from Buckingham, who acted as deacon. Father Chapantt, of Buckingham, carried out the duties of sub-deacon, and Father Permasse was the master of ceremonies. The procession round the gardens was a spectacle more fully understood by those in touch with the Roman Catholic faith. The canopy bearers were students from Buckingham and several girls offered flowers before the sacrament, as it was carried exposed to the view of those present. The singing was nicely rendered by the choir.[i]


[i] Bicester Herald, 28th June 1916