Corpus Christi Procession —
Walking with Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Eucharistic King

By Grace Small
Special to The Anchor

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — On Sunday, June 3, the Catholic Church around the world celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the solemn celebration of the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What a joyous day of love, thanksgiving and praise! Let us prepare our hearts and make this solemnity this year with greater love and devotion than ever before. It is the Church’s exaltation of her Eucharistic Lord and King! We must open our small hearts and expand them to prepare for this great day and make it transformative in our lives. We cannot just exist as Catholics who just check in and check out one hour a week at Mass. We will not survive this journey of life in God’s grace if we are minimalists. We need to free ourselves from our attachment to ego and our ways, so as to follow Christ Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Why should we participate in a Corpus Christi Procession? Well, no matter how often we have received Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion, it is only on rare occasions that we have the opportunity and the grace to give public witness to our faith and love for the Gift of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as in a Corpus Christi Procession. It is a time of grace when the Lord Jesus will walk with us, blessing us all, as we sing Eucharistic hymns and pray the Holy Rosary. Although some may see this as just another devotion or religious event, it is much more. It is how we honor Christ in His Flesh — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — as the True Bread down from Heaven. We revere Him as our Living Lord and return our abiding love for Christ as His mystical Body and Bride walking beside Him on this solemn day as we live through Him, with Him and in Him in our daily lives. We will process behind the priest carrying our Blessed Lord in his arms exposed in the golden monstrance enshrining the Blessed Sacrament.

This Solemnity of Corpus Christi originates with a miracle that occurred to a German priest, Peter of Prague in 1263. While on a pilgrimage to Rome Peter stopped in the village of Bolsena. Peter was a good, pious priest who strived for holiness. However, he was troubled by the apathy of many of the faithful; clerical immorality and laxity; and a lack of reverence at Mass. Worse, he was afflicted with doubt about the Holy Eucharist. Like those in the Gospel, he asked himself, “How could this be? How can Jesus share with us His Body and Blood?” He agonized over whether at the words of consecration the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Our Savior and whether Christ actually was present in the consecrated host. He knew well that the Church believed and taught that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Our Lord at the consecration during the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Yet, he had trouble believing and prayed that the Lord would increase his faith. The next day, while he celebrated Mass and he said the words of consecration, the host began to bleed. Blood fell onto his hands and onto the corporal on the altar. He was awestruck and began to cry. At first, he was not sure what to do and tried to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and announced what had happened. The congregation was awestruck. He asked to be taken to see Pope Urban IV who was residing at the neighboring town of Orvieto.

Father Peter placed the host in the corporal and then wrapped both in another linen. Arriving at Orvieto, Peter told the Holy Father what had happened. Pope Urban IV then ordered an investigation. After all of the facts had been ascertained, the Holy Father declared a miracle had occurred. He ordered the relics to be brought to the Cathedral of Orvieto, which they were with a procession of great pomp and ceremony. The pope met the procession, and the relics were placed in the cathedral, where they are still venerated today.

One year later, in 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi, a special feast day to recognize and to promote the great gift of the Blessed Sacrament. He commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose a Mass and an office for the Liturgy of the Hours honoring the Holy Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas also composed the beautiful Eucharistic hymns “Panis Angelicus,” “Pange Lingua,” “O Salutaris Hostia” and “Tantum Ergo.” 

St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote the Mass for this Solemnity as well as these beautiful Eucharistic hymns asks, “What could be more wonderful than this Sacrament, in which bread and wine are substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ? Christ, perfect God and man is contained under the appearance of a little bread and wine. He is eaten by the faithful but not torn asunder; indeed when the Sacrament is divided He remains entire in each particle.” There is no doubt that Jesus was not speaking symbolically. “I am the living Bread which has come down from Heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I shall give is My Flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51). 

All of us believers who have a living faith in Christ and all the Church teaches together form the Catholic Church. Preeminent among our beliefs is the belief in Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, true God and true Man, present in the Blessed Sacrament. Who is the center and head of the Church? Jesus is the center. How is Jesus most present to us? In the Blessed Sacrament reserved in every Tabernacle in the world. The celebration of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, is the feast at the very center and heart of our Church, the source and summit of our faith, and the center and heart of parish life, the center and heart of our lives. The center of our heart is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Whom elevated at Holy Mass we worship with the words of St. Francis, “My God and My All”! 

Pray to Jesus and tell Him that you believe He is really present in the Blessed Sacrament and gradually grow from merely believing, to loving Jesus, and being loved by Jesus. Come to visit Jesus reserved in the Tabernacle in church often where you will have a wonderful opportunity to adore, surrender, believe and receive the love of Jesus. Because Catholics in our diocese love Jesus in the Eucharist so much, we have Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in several parishes in our diocese. Every hour of every day and night, we are adoring, surrendering, believing and receiving the love of Jesus in the Eucharist. Trust, surrender, believe in and receive the love of Jesus for you in the Eucharist.

May Jesus in the Eucharist always be the very source and summit of love. Our faith in the Real Presence must permeate all of our actions but especially in church. Sacred silence, reverent genuflections and proper attire for worship are all manifestations of deep reverence and faith. We must also keep in mind the grave importance to receive Holy Communion in the state of grace. There is a direct connection between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession. It is a sacrilege to receive Holy Communion while being in the state of mortal sin. “To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats of the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body eats and drinks judgment upon himself’ (1 Cor 11: 27-29). Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 1385).

As a witness of our love for Jesus, parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul and St. John the Evangelist parishes in Attleboro, will carry Him in procession on Sunday, June 3. It is also a symbol of Jesus’ love for us. We know that Jesus is with us and loves us, His Blood is poured out for us and His Body is broken for us. As Jesus passes in the Blessed Sacrament we adore Him and thank Him for all that He has done for us, unworthy sinners. As Jesus passes you in the Blessed Sacrament, ask Him for whatever healing you need. Try to put words on the deepest healing of your life that you need and ask Jesus to heal you. At Masses for healing, the healing always occurs when people are blessed with Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. Jesus in the monstrance will pass you by during the Corpus Christi Procession. Adore Him, love Him, thank Him and ask Him for help. He is waiting for you. Remember the words of the consecration of every Mass recalling Jesus giving Himself for us, “This is My Body which will be given up for you. This is the cup of My Blood. It will be shed for you.”

In Attleboro, we will have the honor of having a city-wide Corpus Christi procession with Our Eucharistic Lord from St. John the Evangelist Church to St. Vincent de Paul Parish. This will be a first and we hope you will be able to join us. We begin with Holy Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church at 11:30 a.m.  After Mass, Father Chris Peschel will lead the procession at 12:30 p.m. along County Street past Capron Park arriving at St. Vincent de Paul Parish on 71 Linden St.  Once Our Lord is solemnly exposed for Adoration in the church, all are invited for a cookout on St. Vincent’s Church grounds.  

Please make an effort on this day to get out into the streets of our diocese to thank, praise and witness to your love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!

For more information email: Also, Our Lady’s Chapel will also be processing with Our Eucharistic Lord through the streets of New Bedford stopping at various stations at Our Lady of Purgatory Church, St. Lawrence Martyr Church, the Convent of the Missionaries of Charity.  

Grace Small is a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Attleboro and is involved with the First Friday and First Saturday devotions and the Marian Cenacle for priests.

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