Toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”
– Flannery O’Connor
Tomorrow is the feast of Corpus Christi. In the days when the Catholic Church treated the Eucharist like it really mattered, Eucharistic processions outside the parish building or through the town were common. It was a moment in which the world could see the deep respect and reverence Catholics have for the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
I recently found a video of a Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession that was held in Cologne, Germany, in 1947 — just two years after the end of the second world war. As the people processed through the streets with Christ in the Eucharist, the ruble and ruin of the city is plain to see around them.
Through a devastated landscape, the Faith marches on.
In today’s world, the material state of our environment is perfectly in tact. But the faith — which Dietrich von Hildebrand had come in his latter years to refer to as “the Devastated Vineyard” — is in tatters. Belief in the Real Presence is at an all-time low. Church teaching is flaunted with impunity. Heretics and apostates go on calling themselves Catholic with no response from Holy Mother Church, and sometimes even a wink, a nod, and an embrace.
And yet amidst the present darkness, there are some corners of our world in which The Faith burns brightly, its glowing embers stoking the fire of love within the hearts of Catholics who adore their Eucharistic Lord.
The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem are one such respite for the faithful. Last summer, I took some photos and video with my cell phone (my apologies for the quality) to show the way they venerate Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
This is what the Catholic Faith looks like. Every parish in the world should at least be making an attempt to hold such processions on this feast of The Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sadly, only a small portion of them do.
The witness of such processions is critical. We need to act like we believe what we say we believe, or how can we draw others to the saving power of the Catholic faith?
Tomorrow, I’ll be with the Canons again for Corpus Christi. To make things even more special, my oldest son will be receiving his first holy communion on this great feast of the Blessed Sacrament. God is good.
If you have a Corpus Christi procession in your parish, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about where this is being done. If you don’t, please consider asking your pastor if he’ll do it next year. It reminds the world around us — and ourselves — how important and central this sacred mystery is to our faith and our eternal salvation.
Update: The video from yesterday’s procession and 1st Communion is now available: