Bringing Christ to the streets: Joint Corpus Christi Procession draws hundreds

‘O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!’ On June 3, Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann led a procession down St. John’s Avenue from Holy Cross parish to St. Anthony parish in Northeastern Kansas City for the Feast of Corpus Christi. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Megan Marley

What are those Catholics up to now?

For Northeastern Kansas City, Mo. on the sunny afternoon of June 3, the large crowd walking down Saint John Avenue was a head-turning sight. Some observers sat watching from store front windows and doorways, others on the sidewalk stopped and stared. Hundreds of Catholics holding rosaries, umbrellas and religious signs were walking, singing and praying as they processed before a white and gold canopy held over a man carrying a strange metal stand.

What was up? The feast of Corpus Christi!

For the past several years, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ has been celebrated with a special procession led by the bishop of this diocese and the archbishop of Kansas City, Ks., taking place on alternating sides of the Kansas-Missouri state line. Both Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann took turns carrying a monstrance containing the Eucharist this year, during a 2+ hour long procession from Holy Cross parish to St. Anthony’s parish.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrates Catholic belief in the literal presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul and divinity—under appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist.

The feast finds its origins in the Middle Ages with St. Juliana of Cornillon, a Belgian nun and mystic who had a series of visions in which Jesus instructed her to establish a liturgical feast in honor of the Holy Eucharist. After many years, her visions convinced multiple bishops to celebrate this feast in the territories under their pastoral care.

Not long after her death in 1258, one of these bishops became Pope Urban IV, who established the feast of Corpus Christi for the entire church in 1264. Urban IV celebrated this feast for the first time in Orvieto, Italy, the site of a Eucharistic miracle the year prior; he also commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Mass and Office for the feast, including ‘Tantum Ergo’, ‘Panis Angelicus’ and many other well-known Eucharistic hymns. The feast was not widely celebrated until John XXII promulgated it in 1317.

Traditional elements of celebrating the feast include processing with the Eucharist in the streets, benediction and singing of hymns, particularly those composed by Aquinas. In the United States, the feast is often celebrated two Sundays after Pentecost, though the day falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (the first Sunday after Pentecost) in other places.

This year’s June 3 celebration began with 1:30 p.m. Mass at Holy Cross parish celebrated by Bishop Johnston. Not a pew was empty, and several dozen people stood in the narthex and on the outdoor steps of the church for the liturgy. Many Knights of Columbus were there to help with the procession, and members of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of Peter Claver were also present.

Lorie Sage, administrative assistant for the Office of Divine Worship who helped coordinate with the parishes and bishops, estimated over 400 persons came for the Mass and following procession.

“It’s all about God’s mercy being poured out, his people being present in the streets,” she said.

In his homily, Bishop Johnston spoke on the importance of the Eucharist and the Mass in the spiritual life.

“Every Mass,” he said, “is a giving and receiving. We give ourselves in Christ to the Father, and we receive Christ in turn from the Father. It’s a transaction designed by God to save us.”

“Christ’s gift of his Body and Blood in this sacrament of the Eucharist is a gift beyond all other gifts. Because when we receive Him—his Body and Blood, his Soul and Divinity, the whole Christ—we mysteriously are enabled to become what we receive. In this gift, Christ is fully present, and in that presence, he gives himself to transform us and to make himself present in us.”

“This feast of Corpus Christi has a character intended to stir up our hearts so that we will marvel in gratitude and love at this precious gift of the Eucharist that we have been given, so that we will never become indifferent or take it for granted.”

“That is why we’ll have this solemn procession through our streets this weekend with the Eucharist, as a way to show our honor and our love for the Lord given to us in this beautiful Sacrament. That is why we adore the Lord present in the Host. That is why we have Benediction, where we receive this special Eucharistic blessing from the Lord himself. That is why we genuflect towards the tabernacle and why we kneel during Mass – all these ways to show our love, our gratitude, our adoration toward Christ our Savior.”

“The key to a bright future lies in being faithful to celebration of the Eucharist, especially at Sunday Mass. Don’t ever miss it! Always celebrate it with gratitude, with adoration, with love. Make the Eucharist the center of your life.”

For more photos from the Corpus Christi procession or to read Bishop Johnston’s homily from the Mass, visit kcsjcatholic.org.

The Knights of Columbus lead the way for the June 3 Corpus Christi procession down St. John’s Avenue from Holy Cross parish to St. Anthony parish in Northeastern Kansas City for the Feast of Corpus Christi. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

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Thursday
June 21, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph