By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Their faces had seen neither soap nor razor in quite some time. Likewise, the tattered jeans and T-shirts that the two men wore had also seen newer and cleaner days, as they sought refuge huddled under a railroad bridge along Summit Street to escape the early summer heat.
But as Bishop Robert W. Finn, carrying the Body of Christ in a golden monstrance, led a procession of some 500 people under the bridge between the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Church, the two men knew what to do.
They took off their sweat-stained billed hats, laid them across their hearts, bowed their heads and dropped to their knees on the concrete pavement.
Thus is the power of the Holy Eucharist.
“What we do is also a great act of faith,” Bishop Finn told the congregation that filled the Shrine for an hour of silent, prayerful adoration before leading them on the procession.
“We are saying to those along the way, ‘This is the Lord God. We believe he is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, and that he is the Savior of the World,” Bishop Finn said.
The scene was repeated along the route.
People, both customers and staff, poured out of the restaurants along Southwest Boulevard, many of them crossing themselves as the sacrament passed, many of them taking pictures with cell phones. Families stood on their front porches and front yards, some clutching rosaries.
Since 2005, Bishop Finn has led such a procession, nine times through the streets of metropolitan Kansas City, and once in St. Joseph.
For the last seven years, the annual Corpus Christi procession — which dates back centuries in church history — has been a joint event of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. This year, however , was the first year since 2007 that Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was unable to attend.
This year, the procession was brief. Only a half-mile, 880 yards, separates the Westside Shrine from Sacred Heart-Guadalupe, two locations very much part of the fabric and life of the Hispanic neighborhood.
In remarks in both sanctuaries, in both Spanish and English, Bishop Finn thanked the crowd for its display of faith.
“Today we come before our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament to honor him in his Body and Blood, and to ask his mercy and blessing on us, on our diocese, on our community and on the whole world,” he said at the Shrine.
As they filled Sacred Heart-Guadalupe, the crowd knelt for Benediction and a blessing, as the Sacrament was placed back in the tabernacle.
“Thank you for walking this path of this Corpus Christi procession today,” Bishop Finn said.
“What a wonderful act of faith,” he said. “I know that Jesus extended his power and his love to our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and to the Archdiocese of Kansas City (in Kansas) as we carried him among us.
“I pray that this expression of our faith will help us grow in God’s grace and be a blessing to the whole community,” he said. “Many thanks.”