By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LENEXA, Kan. — Some 500 faithful joined Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in a tradition that dates a few years between the two dioceses, but centuries in the universal church.
On June 26, Corpus Christi Sunday, the two bishops led a procession that once again brought the Body of Christ into the streets — this year to the streets of Lenexa, Kan., surrounding Holy Trinity Parish.
They came, Bishop Finn remarked at the close of an hour-long adoration just before the procession began, because the church and its faithful put Christ first.
“There are so many things in our life and in our world that fight for first place which seek and absorb so much of our energy and attention,” Bishop Finn said.
“Over and over, we must decide. What is first? Who is first?,” he said.
“And when we give God this spot which is his in the perfection of justice, only then do all these other things — many which are of high importance — only then can each find its rightful place,” Bishop Finn said.
The local tradition of a Corpus Christi procession, in which the Body of Christ is taken in an elaborate monstrance to the streets of a city, began in 2005 when Bishop Finn led some 2,000 faithful on a march down Broadway in midtown Kansas City, from Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Parish to Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.
The following year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the merging of the former Dioceses of Kansas City and St. Joseph, Bishop Finn led the procession from the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph to St. Mary Parish in St. Joseph.
In 2007, the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., and Archbishop Naumann joined the procession, this time from St. Thomas More Parish to Avila University in Kansas City.
The following year, the procession in conjunction with the Global Living Rosary drew by far it’s largest crowd, in excess of 12,000 people, to Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, and was televised nationally on the EWTN cable network.
In 2009, the procession moved to the Kansas side for the first time, travelling from St. Agnes Parish to Bishop Miege High School in Kansas City, Kan.
Last year’s procession route went through downtown Kansas City, Mo., at Old St. Patrick’s Parish.
The procession is more than just a few hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Finn said.
“He is a living God who draws us to himself such that our adoration now becomes a communion in the body and blood of Christ,” he said.
“This deep truth is, of course, not just for today,” Bishop Finn said. “Rather, Jesus has given himself and he is with us always until the consummation of the world.”
Quoting a Corpus Christi homily given by St. Josemaria Escriva, founder Opus Dei, Bishop Finn said the Feast of Corpus Christi should lead all believers to contemplate the deep love that Christ has for us that causes him to want to stay with his disciples.
St. Josemaria also compared a Corpus Christi procession to the Gospel, “when in his life on earth, Jesus walked through the towns and villages,” Bishop Finn said.
“People saw him, and they were not always expecting him,” the bishop said. “He came among us, true God and true man. He comes into the everyday procession of our lives.”
But as St. Josemaria cautioned, “The procession cannot be just a passing noise, seen and then forgotten.”
So likewise must be the continuing response of believers to the living God, especially when we encounter Christ in Mass or during prayers, Bishop Finn said.
“These cannot be just passing moments, an obligation fulfilled,” the bishop said. “They are moments, rather, of communion with a friend who wishes to walk with us every day.”
It is also an encounter with Christ who challenges, Bishop Finn said.
“There is much work to be done,” he said. “We come to the Eucharist and he nourishes and strengthens us, but then we are sent out to carry Christ and the work which is his love to the world.”
The hundreds who came that day endured, along with the two bishops, early summer heat and humidity that pushed the “comfort index” near triple digits.
Following the procession, Archbishop Naumann told the congregation in a homily during the closing Benediction that the Corpus Christi procession is a reminder that “the sacrifice of Christ is for the whole world.”
“What does Jesus provide for those who believe?” he asked. “He provides us life, abundant life, eternal life.”
Archbishop Naumann said that Christ in the Eucharist must be approached not only in belief, but in humility.
“Each time we receive the Eucharist, we receive a meal that has already been paid for with a precious price,” he said.
“Let us ask to free our community from the poison of evil and purify us anew with his merciful love,” Archbishop Naumann said.