Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Simcha FisherOctober 13, 2023
Priests participate in a Eucharistic procession through Midtown Manhattan in New York City Oct. 10, 2023. The procession and the Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral that preceded it attracted more than 2,000 people. The services, which concluded with benediction at the cathedral, were affiliated with the Napa Institute's Principled Entrepreneurship Conference taking place in New York City Oct. 10-11. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)Priests participate in a Eucharistic procession through Midtown Manhattan in New York City Oct. 10, 2023. The procession and the Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral that preceded it attracted more than 2,000 people. The services, which concluded with benediction at the cathedral, were affiliated with the Napa Institute's Principled Entrepreneurship Conference taking place in New York City Oct. 10-11. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

There was a gargantuan Eucharistic procession through New York City a few days ago, led by a bishop and joined by hundreds of habited sisters and clergy in flowing vestments, replete with candles and incense and song, and followed by thousands of lay people. It was immense.

I love Eucharistic processions—not because they trigger some kind of fond nostalgia for the good old days (how old do you think I am?), but because it is literally Jesus and people following him. What's not to love?

Plenty, it turns out. I found out about the procession by scrolling through social media, and then instantly found out how many people didn't like it.

If I can’t stop being a jerk, at the very least I can try not to be a jerk to people about Jesus.

Let me pause here and say that I don't know much of the context of the procession. It was, I gather, organized by the Napa Institute as part of the National Eucharistic Revival. I have been avoiding learning very much about either the Napa Institute or the Eucharistic Revival because every time these topics come up, people start getting nasty. I’m a slow student, but one thing I’ve finally learned is that Jesus and nastiness do not mix. If I can’t stop being a jerk, at the very least I can try not to be a jerk to people about Jesus. So I stay away from certain conversations. I have made a choice to de-contextualize certain spiritual things. This means I’m less well-informed about some current events, but my prayer life is stronger, and I'm okay with that trade-off.

That being said, I was taken aback by just how mad people were about this Eucharistic procession. I like processions so much, I guess I naively assumed everybody did. I had forgotten that sometimes, people use processions as a power move, as sorties in the culture war. Apparently, people will sometimes organize a Eucharistic procession as a way of saying “This is the old school church, and we’re taking back this space from you filthy modernists” or ”suck it, secularists; we’re gonna stop traffic and you're gonna take it” or . . . something. And that is not very Christlike.

And I gather that some people objected to the procession because it strikes them as tone-deaf for the church to do something so showy and ceremoniously, publicly pious while several dioceses in New York state have filed bankruptcy because of lawsuits from victims of sex abuse by priests; but there they go, walking by slowly in their pretty white robes. So if you look at it in a certain light, you might think, “Why are these rape apologists who have dug themselves so deep into such an ugly hole getting dressed up in fancy clothes and parading slowly through the streets with candles and music, as if they have anything to be proud of?”

I was taken aback by just how mad people were about this Eucharistic procession.

The answer is, of course, we do. We have Jesus. That’s what we have to be proud of. That’s the full answer. If anyone in that procession is proud of anything else—and it's very likely that they are—then they're wrong. But that doesn't change the fact that it's Jesus at the head.

Maybe this procession was intended, by some people, as some kind of power move. So what? People have always tried to use Jesus as a tool or a weapon in the current culture war. This isn’t a 21st-century phenomenon. That is precisely what they did when they crucified him. They had a political, cultural situation, and they decided to use Jesus as a weapon in that culture war. They made a procession through the city and up the hill, and then they stuck him on a tree where everyone could see him. Talk about a power move.

But it didn’t work, because he is Jesus. It didn’t work, because he ignored their intentions and instead he did what he came to do, which was to redeem us. His death still brought about the salvation of the world, and he still rose again, because that is who he is. Always transcendent. Always immaculate. Always worth following, no matter what the context.

As far as our own potentially impure intentions in joining in: This, too, is an old story. This is how it is any time we follow Jesus in any way, in prayer, in the Mass, in our personal devotions, in our public devotions, in our daily life, all the time. We’re always falling short. We’re always doing what we do for partially wrong reasons, if not completely, wrong reasons. It’s called “original sin,” folks.

Show me one thing that Catholics do, in public or in private, that isn’t mixed up with some kind of garbage in one way or another—some kind of culture war, or some impure intentions, or some insincerity, or some nastiness, or some hypocrisy or something. So what? What are you going to do about it? Not follow Jesus?

This is why we follow Jesus! Because we’re wrong and we know it. That's the whole point. I know this sounds simplistic, but that's because it’s actually very simple. Eyes on Jesus. Follow Jesus. That’s all there is. If you wait until conditions are perfect and everyone’s intentions are pure, you will die waiting. We know we’re doing it wrong; we know he is the only man who is always right. Find him, go the way he’s going and the hell with the rest.

More: Eucharist

The latest from america

While reductive narratives depict priests as perfect heroes or evil villains, said writer and producer Father Stephen Fichter, the truth is more complicated.
“At the root of this vice is a false idea of God: we do not accept that God has His own “math,” different from ours,” Pope Francis said in today’s general audience address, read by an aide.
Pope FrancisFebruary 28, 2024
Pope Francis went from the audience to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for a checkup before returning to the Vatican. In November when he was suffering similar symptoms, he had gone to that hospital for a CT scan of his lungs.
Robert Giroux edited some of the 20th century's leading writers, including some prominent Catholic voices like Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy and Thomas Merton.
James T. KeaneFebruary 27, 2024