Yesterday my parish celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi. A bang-up wrap-up to the Easter season, Corpus Christi celebrates what Flannery O'Connor called "the center of existence for me." That's right, folks, the Eucharist. The Biggest of Big Deals, the whole enchilada, the reason you have life in you. It's a major, major feast.
Yes, I realize it's also a city in Texas. A very pretty one from what I hear. But let's move on.
I don't remember Corpus Christi being observed with any particular fanfare when I was growing up. This is probably just as well, since in the 1970s the average Catholic church's idea of "fanfare" was a couple of extra guitars and some colorful balloons. (Yes, balloons. Don't get me started on that godawful fad.)
Lately, though, a lot of parishes are trying out a return to older customs for the feast. The most obvious of which, I guess, is a Eucharistic procession after the high mass.
A Eucharistic procession is when the priest carries the monstrance outside the church and walks around the block, while the congregation follows, singing hymns. I don't imagine many Americans have ever seen one. Which accounts for the funny looks you get from people watering their lawns on a Sunday morning as you process past.
At first I wasn't going to go along with the procession. I figured I'd stay discreetly behind in the church, waiting for everyone to return so e we could have Benediction and a celebratory picnic. But then my dear friend Jay, following the parade with his family, spotted me lurking in the shadows and dragged me along. Since Jay is such a good sport about all the guff I give him for belonging to Opus Dei, I thought it only polite to acquiesce.
If you're not used to processions, and I'm not, it's a strange experience. Strolling along a public street singing with a bunch of her fellow Catholics is something DIH normally only does on St Patrick's Day, and even then only with the aid of an adult beverage or two. But once I got past the lawn-waterers I started to get into it.
I mean, ask yourself: is the Eucharist the reason you have life in you, or is it just some old custom? Which do you really believe?
It's the kind of question you don't deal with head-on every day. The Feast of Corpus Christi sort of forces your hand.
So? What's your answer?
I'll leave it to my readers to discuss. In the meantime, a public note of thanks:
On behalf of my fellow processioners, I'd like to thank you for your hospitality yesterday. I know we were an odd sight, and I know (oh boy, do I know) that the spectacle of Catholics singing is enough to feed the grain of atheism in any man. Thank you for not throwing tomatoes. Thank you for just watching and wondering "What the hell are those weirdos up to now?" And thank you for keeping the neighborhood nice and green.