Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Bread of Angels...."

On this Corpus Christi Sunday, with a national Eucharistic Congress taking place this weekend at the spiritual seat of a rebuilding Irish church, and as Dublin prepares to host next year's 50th International gathering dedicated to the "Bread of Angels," it's worth recalling the centerpiece moment of the epochal 1932 Congress in the Isle's capital -- an event that, in nation's lore, looms large even into the present....

Sung before a crowd in excess of a million at the closing Mass of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress in the Phoenix Park, John McCormack's rendition of Panis Angelicus would go on to serve as the immemorial shorthand for the mega-gathering, which proved itself the apogée of the notion of "Catholic Ireland," marking the newborn Free State's emergence onto the global stage on its own terms... and, among other lasting legacies, saw the launch of what's now the state radio and television broadcaster.

The most celebrated voice of his age, the original Irish tenor became a naturalized American citizen after World War I, and shortly thereafter was awarded Notre Dame's Laetare Medal. Toward the end of his life, McCormack returned to Ireland, and was made a Count of the Papal Court in 1928 by Pope Pius XI.

Clearly, the shape of next year's meeting will be rather different than its illustrious predecessor. Still, they could always get McCormack's modern heir to offer an encore... or even a certain inspired hymn of his own:

To be sure, the question at the heart of that one finds itself on many minds 'round here these days on both sides of the Pond... and as its answer goes -- at least, for the crowd closest by -- suffice it to say, "All good things in God's time."

All that said, every wish for a blessed and buona festa a tutti -- as always, stay tuned.