It started with the discovery last summer of an ornate, embroidered canopy in a closet in my parish church, St. Augustine’s in Larchmont. The discovery was made by our parochial vicar, Father Louis Masi. The canopy was used at solemn Masses and liturgical ceremonies in the past, and it is in very good condition.
Father Louis mentioned his discovery to our pastor, Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, he asked, if we could use the canopy for a Eucharistic procession on the feast of Corpus Christi? Bishop John readily agreed.
Our procession took place June 19 in Larchmont. About 70 people participated from both Larchmont parishes, St. Augustine’s and SS. John and Paul, because Bishop John and Father Louis, as they are known, are the pastor and parochial vicar of both. Bishop John led the way, holding the Eucharist in a golden monstrance and walking under the canopy. We started at SS. John and Paul and walked down local main roads to St. Augustine’s. Our police kept us safe and did an excellent job of managing traffic.
The sun was shining brilliantly in a clear, blue sky, and the temperature was warm. As we walked we sang hymns and prayed the Rosary aloud. People stepped out of their houses and waved to us, and some made the sign of the cross. When we passed a restaurant with outdoor seating, the waitstaff dropped to their knees on the sidewalk. Once when traffic was stopped as we crossed an intersection, one driver honked his horn, but I didn’t hear or see any other sign of impatience. Most people seemed interested in what we were doing, or were openly positive about it.
In one hour we covered the mile and a half to St. Augustine’s, where we gathered in front of the church until the Sunday noon Mass had ended. Father Louis read a selection from the Gospel of St. John that began with the words of Christ, “I am the bread of life.” When he came to the words, “I will raise them up on the last day,” by coincidence the choir inside the church began singing the same words, from a popular hymn. The Mass concluded and we entered the church, where we recited the Divine Praises and Bishop John blessed us, making the sign of the cross over us with the monstrance. One woman at the Mass told Bishop John, “Thank you for doing this.”
The U.S. bishops issued a document last year, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” in which they asked Catholics to draw closer to the mystery of Christ’s real presence in the consecrated bread and wine. People’s reaction to our procession suggests that many are drawn to, and perhaps hungry for, this greatest of the holy mysteries of our Catholic faith. We need to do everything we can, through prayer, example and our own words, to spread what the Gospel teaches: Christ truly comes to us—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Eucharist that we receive.
The procession reflected the way I look at the Eucharist. We walked together as parishioners and friends, and also as individual Catholics bearing witness to our faith. Similarly, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist as his people, gathered at Mass as the family that is the Church, but also individually, each of us unique and reflecting hislove in our own personal way. That is also how Christ died and rose for us: not as humanity in the aggregate, but as individuals, each different one from another, each of us loved by him and precious to him far more than we can ever understand. All we can do is believe and rejoice in the truth that we are loved beyond our imagining.
We walk together, we pray together; we are loved together, but we also are loved singly, for the persons we are. The Eucharist embodies that, and it is a message that needs to be proclaimed, by all of us and each of us.
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