As the event approaches, we will take a closer look at Eucharistic devotions in general, as well as the history and significance of the great feast (in Church terms, “solemnity”) of Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”).
Today, however, I thought I would give our readers some recent Church statements on Corpus Christi processions. After all, many of us might not be familiar with them. Others may have even heard somewhere that Corpus Christi processions are medieval practices that are no longer a part of Catholic piety. What does the Church actually say about them today?
First, let’s look at the Code of Canon (Church) Law, which applies to the entire Latin-rite Church (i.e., us). In particular, let’s look at canon 944 §1, which provides:
“When it can be done in the judgment of the diocesan bishop, a procession through the public streets is to be held as a public witness of veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, especially on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Second, let’s turn to Blessed John Paul II. In his final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (on the relationship of the Eucharist to the Church), he wrote:
“The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ ['Corpus Christi'] is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it” (no. 10).
Third, following a worldwide Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, Pope Benedict issued a 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (“Sacrament of Charity”), where he wrote:
“The personal relationship which the individual believer establishes with Jesus present in the Eucharist constantly points beyond itself to the whole communion of the Church and nourishes a fuller sense of membership in the Body of Christ. For this reason, besides encouraging individual believers to make time for personal prayer before the Sacrament of the Altar, I feel obliged to urge parishes and other church groups to set aside times for collective adoration. Naturally, already existing forms of eucharistic piety retain their full value. I am thinking, for example, of processions with the Blessed Sacrament, especially the traditional procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi . . .” (no. 68).
So clearly the universal Church encourages this annual celebration, and we are most blessed here in Kansas City that our shepherds give the event their full support and participation.
O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine!
All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine!