“Like what tender tales tell of the Pelican,
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what thy bosom ran — ,
Blood that but one drop of has the pow’r to win,
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas

An ancient Christian book from Egypt records that a mother pelican would stab her breast over her dead chicks. The blood which poured forth from the bird’s side was powerful enough to bring the baby birds back to life. It’s a graphic image to be sure! Despite the fact that ornithologists of today would correct the scientific record, the symbolism is clear. Ancient and medieval Christians saw the pelican as a symbol of Christ, whose blood brings us new life. In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes, “To his good friend thus wide, I’ll ope my arms / And, like the kind, life-rendering pelican / Repast them with my blood.” Christ, spreading his arms wide on the cross, pours out his blood that we might have life.


Lord Jesus, my sins keep me from you, causing darkness and death. Your Precious Blood, poured forth on the cross, will renew me, offering my tired soul forgiveness and new life. As young chicks depend on their mothers, may I be dependent on you. Amen.


O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

-Collect for the Feast of Corpus Christi, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas