We have just celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ this past weekend. The “Universal Calendar” of the Church has it on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but many Dioceses around the world have “shifted “ it to the following Sunday, probably to make this great day more accessible to the Lord’s people around the world.
I have in my office a picture of Pope John Paul II leading what is called the Corpus Christi procession in Rome, which went from the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, down a long street named the “Via Merulana” to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major where the Holy Father celebrated Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a tradition which continues to this day as Pope Francis, as the Bishop of Rome, leads this great celebration each year. The Solemnity of Corpus Christi began in Belgium with a “private revelation” to a young Augustinian nun, Saint Juliana of Mt. Cornelian, who was given a vision that a feast in honor of the true presence of Christ was needed in the Church’s calendar. Her spiritual director, a priest named Fr. Jacque Panteleon, (the “Director “ of what was could be called Catholic Charities of the then Diocese of Liege) eventually was elected Bishop of Rome and took the name of Pope Urban IV. He then established this date on the calendar, and later commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to write the great hymns of the day: “Pange Lingua” and “Lauda Sion.” There are also several accepted “Eucharistic Miracles” (for example in the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy) which is associated with this feast day. These processions have continued from them ( the days of the 13th century) until the present day.
This day – the music, processions, the Scriptures and the Liturgy – call us to reflect on our belief that Christ is truly presence in Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament , in time of private prayer and procession , was called by the famous Jesuit scholar, Fr. Karl Rahner, as the “Mass held in meditation.”
Time spent with the Lord in prayer in the Blessed Sacrament can strengthen us for our ministry to our brothers and sisters in need in the Body of Christ. In addition, the image of the Blessed Sacrament in procession is a reflection of the procession of life, where the Lord accompanies in the highs and lows, and the twists and turns in the highways of life. At the conclusion of the procession with the Blessed Sacrament at St. Mary Major, Pope Francis said this Eucharistic procession would be a response to Christ’s command: “an action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today, and act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and the whole world.”
God bless you and your families in these early summer days.