NGUYEN: What is your parish doing for Year 2?

May 23, 2023

A priest elevates the Eucharist during a Mass. (Photo by Pascal Deloche / Godong)

Beginning on June 19, 2022, (the Feast of Corpus Christi), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) began a nationwide Eucharistic Revival that will last for three years until June 2025, with a National Eucharistic Congress from July 17 to 21, 2024. Their goal was to reawaken our understanding and devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Now, the second phase, the parish level, of our National Eucharistic Revival begins this June 2023. The USCCB requests that each parish across America consider specific ways to foster in every parishioner the genuine love and fervent devotion to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Throughout history, the Church’s firm belief in the real presence of Jesus has been expressed by Catholics in various ways, both in and outside of the Holy Mass. In previous issues of the Catholic Herald, I shared my reflections on both: Knowing the Living Christ in the Holy Mass (Sept. 27, 2022) and Sweet Jesus, We Adore You (Dec. 13, 2022). Here, in this article, is another devotion to consider — the Eucharistic procession — a more communal way to worship and deepen your love for the real presence of Christ.

The purpose of a Eucharistic procession is to give public witness to the faith. Pope Francis, in his homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (June 2021), asserted, “The procession with the Blessed Sacrament… reminds us that we are called to go out and bring Jesus to others...”

The late Pope Benedict also affirmed, “We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our houses be homes for Him! May our life every day be penetrated by His presence. With this gesture, let us place under His eyes the sufferings of the sick, the solitude of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears — our entire life. The procession represents an immense and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the Divine Blessing for the world. May the ray of His blessing extend to us all!” (Corpus Christi 2005).

Eucharistic processions first became a popular practice in the life of the Church in the 13th century during the celebration of Corpus Christi and are attributed to St. Juliana. Later, the Council of Trent (16th century) solemnly approved and recommended it as a public profession of the Catholic faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

In recent decades, we have seen papal celebrations through the streets of Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. There were even Eucharistic processions conducted in dioceses around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic to invoke God’s protection.

A Eucharistic procession symbolizes our earthly pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem, our true home.

In the Old Testament, we read of the procession with the Ark of the Covenant, as well as numerous other festal pilgrimages to Jerusalem, praising God with music and dance or reciting the Psalms. Likewise, in the New Testament, we learn of the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem as crowds shout for joy and praise Him on that first Palm Sunday.

Perhaps, the first Eucharistic procession was Mother Mary’s journey on foot over the hill country in Judea (Lk 1:39-56) to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. She traveled approximately 80 miles on rocky desert terrain while consciously carrying the word made flesh in her womb with great care. Mary’s sacred womb was the first Luna — the name today is used to refer to the circular receptacle with glass sides, metal circled with gold or gilded metal that holds the Sacred Host upright in the monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration and procession.

So, let us heed the USCCB’s call, anticipating one or more Eucharistic processions as the revival moves to the parish phase (June 2023 to June 2024). Like Mary, let us publicly proclaim the real presence of Christ to reaffirm our faith to all and to deepen our love of the Blessed Sacrament. Go out and bring Jesus to others! 

Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.