I grew up in Orange County in a normal Catholic family. I went to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, said the rosary at home, attended Mother of Perpetual Help devotions on Wednesdays and went to Confession once every three weeks whether I needed it or not. I can recall making up sins for the priest because I didn’t want to disappoint him! Looking back though, I can understand why my parents did what they did, and I came to love my Catholic faith.

One of the memories I have was of our parish processions. Usually, there were three: one in May for Mary, one in August for Mary and one on the Feast of Corpus Christi which was the most beautiful. The sisters made sure ahead of time that we were dressed well, arrived on time and then organized ourselves by ministry groups behind the priest who was dressed in gold vestments with the monstrance under the great canopy. As a young child I was in the
school children section. We dressed in our First Communion clothes every year until we couldn’t fit in them.

Then sister with a handheld microphone and speaker would direct us forward, slow us down, move us faster, all while reciting the rosary. Slowly we wound around the school property until we arrived and finally entered the church for benediction. Masterfully, sister timed it perfectly so that the rosary ended as we made it to the church doors.

Everything culminated with the Sunday choir intoning the Tantum Ergo, bells ringing, incense billowing and then all of us bowing our heads as the Holy Eucharist was raised above us in blessing. I wondered silently at how all of this was centered, surrounded, and focused on that tiny Host.

Many years later, I was appointed pastor of that same parish. Now a parish of mostly Irish and German families was bustling with Vietnamese, Hispanic and Anglo families. Remembering my memory as a child of our parish processions, I revived the devotion for a new generation. I was anxious as to whether anyone would show.

We encouraged and organized for weeks before the event. On the day, little by little people arrived and groups found each other. I carried the Blessed Sacrament under a great canopy, surrounded by incense and lit torches. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried in procession, along with Our Lady of Guadalupe further back. The rosary was recited now in Vietnamese, English and Spanish. This time we walked through the streets, passing condos, homes, a theater and a large Protestant church. The police closed down streets as we processed and guided us back to the church. When we arrived back, the great bell of the church pealed to welcome Christ back to His home. We ended as before, with benediction. The first time we had our procession we had nearly 1000 people! The second time, we numbered 1200 plus. God is good!

Many churches are once again enjoying the Catholic custom of processions. During this time of Eucharistic Revival, devotions like this re-energize us and bring us out of the comfort zone of the parish property. As Pope Francis reminds us, the Faith must be taken to the peripheries. Everywhere we walk with the Sacrament, Christ is blessing His people, all people. Darkness is scattered and the devil is weakened in his hold over souls.

I hope children will be able to make memories like mine. I hope parishes will take the Eucharistic Lord out in procession in a time when it seems counter cultural. Part of Eucharistic Revival is taking up the call to be missionary disciples, to be bold and obvious in the faith that we love. There is something beautiful about taking Christ into our neighborhoods and one can never underestimate the miracles of faith and love that happen as the Lord passes house by house, soul by soul. One can never underestimate the miracles of faith that happen to us as we give witness to Holy Eucharist, to Jesus Christ our Lord and God.