This Sunday, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Catholics from around the Archdiocese of Louisville are invited to join in a Corpus Christi procession in downtown Louisville, beginning at the Cathedral of the Assumption after the noon Mass.
The procession will carry the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s Body, through the downtown streets for all passersby to see.
It is a way to make our faith in the Eucharist visible in the world — literally taking Christ into the streets.
The day happens to coincide with other celebrations in our U.S. calendar: Father’s Day and the lesser-known Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday (celebrated June 20 this year) in 2021.
Both of these days resonate with the feast of Corpus Christi.
Most fathers know about sacrifice, even imperfect fathers. Most, we pray, never have to experience the sacrifice experienced by Jesus. But many wouldn’t hesitate if they had to.
Juneteenth connects with the feast day in a different way.
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, this innocent life, was taken from earth by violence.
On Sunday, it will have been 157 years since the last African Americans were emancipated from enslavement in the United States. On June 19, 1865 — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed all people enslaved in Confederate states and six months after the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. — Union soldiers rode into the Confederate state of Texas’ Galveston Bay to emancipate the state’s 250,000 enslaved people.
But real freedom hasn’t been fully realized. Racially-motivated violence and other forms of racism still overshadow the everyday lives of African Americans.
Most recently such violence unfolded in a Buffalo grocery store. Ten Black people were shot and killed in the massacre and three others were injured. The shooter was charged June 15 with federal hate crimes.
In observance of Juneteenth, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on African American Affairs provided a statement on the subject and a sampling of petitions for parishes to use as general intercessions on June 19 or other appropriate occasions.
Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre had the information distributed to pastors and priests around the Archdiocese of Louisville, as well.
The statement, dated April 20 (prior to the Buffalo massacre), highlights the seventh anniversary of the June 17, 2015, attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Christians had gathered for a weekly Bible study and “they warmly welcomed a young white stranger,” the statement said.
“He appeared to be exploring the appointed biblical passage as they were. Then, he drew his hidden gun and massacred nine of those gathered, even as they reached out to him,” said the statement signed by Bishop Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and chair of the subcommittee.
Bishop Perry said the young man intended to incite a race war. Instead, the nation came together “in moments of amazing grace,” he said.
Bishop Perry goes on to note the Scripture the group was studying Mark 4, 1-20, the Parable of the Sower.
He offers some suggestions and poses some important questions for us all to consider this weekend and beyond:
“Perhaps Bible study groups in parishes or bulletin columns, Juneteenth celebrations, homilies, and such, can pause to pore over this same parable for what it meant that day to a group of innocent Christians studying the Word and what the parable might mean for us today,” he writes.
“In other words, what kind of soil are we? What kind of soil are we called to become? How can we become good soil in which seeds of the Gospel of grace and redemption can grow? What is God saying to America about its spiritual dilemma with race relations?
In seriously discerning our response to these questions, may we seek a lasting reality of amazing grace.