A notable Eucharistic anniversary

urban iv

Pope Urban IV

Given the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament that our Order has, it seems fitting to mark a rather obscure anniversary that falls on this day.

Today is the 750th anniversary of the promulgation of the Bull Transiturus of Pope Urban IV. If you read to the end: you will discover what that Bull did.

Pope Urban was a Frenchman. As a young priest, he was a Canon of Laon – the diocese in which Prémontré was founded – and later found himself Archdeacon of Liège in the Netherlands (as was).  While he was archdeacon, a nun in a nearby abbey of Cornillon came to him, claiming that she received a vision of Our Lord, who had told her to encourage the authorities to found a new feast in honour of the Blessed Eucharist. This nun is known to us, of course, as St Juliana of Liège. You may have already read about her on this website: she had entered the monastery at a young age and was tasked with caring for the sick in the hospital. By the time of her encounter with the archdeacon, she would have been about 40 years old. No doubt both she and the archdeacon spent many hours talking with one another about this matter, the priest keen to ascertain the validity of her claims.


St Juliana


The archdeacon took the matter to the bishop, Hugh de Saint-Cher, a Dominican (and later a Cardinal-Bishop), who was enthused by the idea, and immediately ordered that a new feast of the Blessed Sacrament in his diocese be celebrated annually. 

Meanwhile, the archdeacon had found himself accompanying the bishop to the Council of Lyons, where his abilities were noticed by the old Pope, Innocent IV, who sent him as his legate to north-east Germany on two missions to negotiate peace treaties between the still pagan tribes of the Baltic coast (alas, not the first time that the Prussians would cause headaches in Rome). After the success of these missions, the Pope appointed him bishop, and soon sent him to Jerusalem to be the bishop of that most ancient of the Christian churches.

The Patriarch, after realising how impoverished, war-torn and afflicted were his flock, returned to Europe to raise money for the relief of suffering, and for military support to protect them from persecution, whereupon he was unexpectedly elected Pope when the See became vacant. 

blessed sacramentIn the third year of his pontificate, he had not forgotten the visions of Juliana (who had been dead for 3 years when he was elected), and he decided to speak to the leading theologians of the day about it: notably, the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Bonaventure, and a Dominican friar who taught at Orvieto, Thomas Aquinas. After consultation, and asking them to compose liturgical texts (Thomas’s texts were chosen to be published), the Pope promulgated his Bull Transiturus, on this day in 1264, and so extended this local Eucharistic feast to the universal church, giving it the name: Corpus Christi. Alas, the Pope died the following year, and subsequent Popes allowed the feast to fall into abeyance. It was only in 1311 that bishops were told unequivocally to obey the decree by Pope Clement V. 

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