In the times after Christ’s Ascension, when Christians were being openly persecuted, even killed, priests and holy messengers carried the Sacred Body of Christ, the Eucharist, to prisoners, and others who had no way to receive Holy Communion. The devotion and fervor for Jesus in the Eucharist was so strong, that early Christians were prepared to die to protect the Body of Christ, rather than see It desecrated. The Eucharistic, or Corpus Christi Procession, grew from this first practice of carrying the Eucharistic Lord from place to place. Now, out of hiding, Catholic Churches celebrate the feast day devoted to the Body of Jesus, Corpus Christi, the first Thursday (or Sunday) after Trinity Sunday.
Most Catholic baby boomers have no recollection of what a Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession is from their childhood. “Certainly…where I grew up, there were no processions in the 1970’s or 80’s,” stated Fr. Greg Markey in his Corpus Christi homily this past Sunday June 10. Father Markey referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent preaching on the subject of the Eucharist. Speaking of the lack of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the time of the Second Vatican Council became a time of elimination of devotions, such as the Corpus Christi Procession. “A certain secularist mentality of the 1960’s and 70’s, [which] gave an interpretation to the Second Vatican Council, which penalized adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and restricted the Eucharist, in practice, to the celebratory moment of the Mass alone.”
But this was not the intention of Vatican II, the Holy Father reminds us, and that removing the Eucharist from daily life caused a reduction of our faith. “The sacrament of the charity of Christ must permeate all one’s daily life,” he said. This is what the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist should mean to Catholics. More tangibly, Fr. Markey reminded his parishioners that Jesus present in the Eucharist should permeate the faithful Catholic’s entire week.
“As we reflect on our own devotion to our Lord’s True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, we should be asking ourselves on this day, do you know where the nearest Blessed Sacrament Chapel is to your own house? To where you work? And throughout the day, do you think about our Lord Jesus being only so far away from where you are in your house, or in your job? Do you thirst for the Eucharistic Jesus during the week, recognizing that precisely when you are in His presence that you’ll overcome your anxiety, and He will give you inspiration? Every time you pass a church, do you make the sign of the Cross?”
Following the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, parishioners joined a solemn procession, carrying Jesus through the streets of downtown Norwalk. Three choirs, under the direction of David Hughes, sang traditional chants and hymns, acolytes and altar boys accompanied the priests with candles and incense, deacons and seminarians carrying and guarding the Holy Eucharist, First Holy Communicants and Handmaids of the Altar strewing rose petals, visited four altars, each dedicated to the Blessed Mother Mary under a different title, and returned to the church for Benediction.
More and more, Eucharitic Processions are springing up, and being held in communitites and Catholic parishes around Connecticut and around the country, giving Catholics the opportunity to allow Jesus to, once again, permeate their daily and seasonal Catholic life. Perpetual Adoration Chapels can also be found in churches throughout Connecticut, most notably, in Waterbury, Brookfield, and Ridgefield.