My first Corpus Christi procession

Surprise! I went to the 9:00 a.m. mass instead of the 12:00 and found out our parish was having a Corpus Christi procession through the town.  After fifty plus years as a Catholic convert this was a first for me, although I have participated in the Pax Christi Good Friday stations of the cross peace and justice walks down 42nd street.

Over the years I have also taken part in reform, women’s ordination and pro-life demonstrations out of doors.  I’m a Consistent Ethic of Life advocate so since 2003 I’ve regularly stood in front of the local Stop and Shop on Saturdays with a small group protesting U.S. wars.  As the killings proliferate, and the economic recession deepens, we are receiving less abuse and more honks of support from the busy Saturday traffic.   


The recent Sunday morning Corpus Christi religious procession was by contrast much quieter but far more exotic.  Just like in the movies we had the canopy on four poles carried by sturdy men following the priest arrayed in a gorgeous vestment and acolytes.  Our pastor carried the Host aloft in a golden monstrance (right word?)  As we walked along we chanted a refrain punctuated by Hail Marys.  As on 42nd St. the plainsong chant was  “Je-sus, remember me/ when you come into your Kingdom.”  Our group of men, women and children of all ages and dress, walked and sang behind the pastor, with two stops for blessings the main street corners of the village.

I appreciate that we enjoyed a great civic blessing in having the help of our local police who cleared the way—just as in the New York City’s Good Friday processions.  How good that we live in a democracy that ensures freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.  

Religiously, I am still sorting out my responses to this novel experience.   I’m not sure about what the appropriate theological analysis should be but I was certainly deeply uplifted by surging emotion.  How rare a privilege to publicly express one’s faith with fellow pilgrims!  In my circumspect intellectual and academic social circles, extreme religious reticence is the rule. The emotional power of this public community devotional provokes new thoughts and questions.

So was this an example of “folk Catholicism” in action?  Or perhaps part of a turn to the conservative right?  At least now those articles I’ve been reading about how highly expressive Hispanic practices can warm up the cool Anglo faithful make more sense.  Walking, praying and singing together as a body in the open air can move heart and mind.  I could imagine myself being one of those crowds of ordinary folk trying to get closer to Jesus up ahead.

Sidney Callahan


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Brendan McGrath
7 years 6 months ago
"So was this an example of “folk Catholicism” in action?  Or perhaps part of a turn to the conservative right?"  - As a young Catholic (29) who's both traditional (not "conservative") and liberal, I think we shouldn't let beautiful parts of the Catholic tradition like Eucharistic devotions become politicized, etc.  As your post itself seems to imply, there's no reason one can't take part in a Eucharistic procession with all the old traditional regalia, and then go do something like protest at the School of the Americas or whatever. 
PJ Johnston
7 years 6 months ago
Amen, Brendan!
Jim McCrea
7 years 6 months ago
My parish, which is FAR from a conservative parish, has had a Corpus Christi procession, albeit on our own property, for many years.  We do keep some of the older traditional practices, which are well-remembered by many of the parishioners.

Here are some pictures:

The canopy is “older than dirt” and hearkens back to the early days of the parish (established in November 1900, with the church being dedicated on Christmas Day, 1901).  How it survived all of these years is beyond me!
7 years 6 months ago
We had a Corpus Christi procession around the Church.  It was a little bit of a shambles because they didn't announce it and all of sudden the canopy came out and the priest went around the pews and then out the door but it didn't fit under the door frame.  All of us were somewhat bewildered and most headed for the parking lot but about 50 stayed and only about 25 till the end.  We had no experience with it and next year I hope it is organized better. 

There were olden days of the May Processions that have all but disappeared.  I hope this is a renewal of such liturgies sprinkled occasionally throughout the year.  More Catholics will become aware of what was once done. 


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