This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s Real Presence in the sacrament. The archdiocese as well as many individual parishes will mark this occasion with a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament through public streets.
What is a Corpus Christi procession? In short, it is walking with Jesus. He who has become our bread shows us the way.
But this is not a typical Sunday stroll. In the Catholic milieu, processions are not merely a way of getting from point A to point B. Rather, this movement has depth of meaning, with great biblical, liturgical and pietistic importance. Processions are everywhere in our liturgy — the entrance procession, the Gospel procession, the procession of the gifts of bread and wine, the Communion procession, the procession with palms on Palm Sunday, the procession with the Cross on Good Friday, processions with images of Mary or other saints on special feast days.
These can take a variety of forms from very simple to very solemn and elaborate, but they always involve holy objects and the holy people of God. They are carried out with reverence and decorum. Often accompanied by music, processions are meant to be observed with wonder and awe, taken in by all the senses.
In their literal passage from place to place, processions also symbolize the Christian journey that each of us is on. During this earthly pilgrimage, we are always moving through something on the way to something else and ultimately to the heavenly Jerusalem. We are never static in our faith journey.
Processions glorify God and give public witness to our faith. The centuries-old tradition of the Corpus Christi procession is a specific witness to our belief that Jesus is present among us in the sacrament of the Eucharist. By this very public display, we hope to foster a more fervent eucharistic devotion among the Catholic faithful and to perhaps pique the curiosity of onlookers.
In his homily on Corpus Christi in 2021, Pope Francis said that the Corpus Christi procession “reminds us that we are called to go out and bring Jesus to others. To go out with enthusiasm, bringing Christ to those we meet in our daily lives.” In the Eucharist is a call to evangelize and share our faith with others.
I invite you to join us for the Archdiocesan Corpus Christi Procession on Sunday, June 11, following the 5:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption. I am delighted that a number of parishes are also hosting local processions. It is a great privilege. Religious persecution may seem like an archaic concept, but it is a sad reality that Corpus Christi processions are not possible everywhere in the world without the threat of civil punishment.
In practicing this devotion, may we give thanks for the great gift of the Eucharist and the freedom to share it publicly. And may we also be reminded that every Mass, in a sense, concludes with a eucharistic procession. For it is we, who have received Jesus, who are called to take him out into the streets, to be the face of Christ to the world.