'Do This in Memory of Me' --Solemnity honors living presence of Christ
Story by Christina Leslie | Staff Writer
Parishes of the Diocese of Trenton joined their spiritual brethren around the world by observing the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) May 29 with processions and celebrations.
The observance of the moveable feast which celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist depends upon the date of Easter Sunday. It is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which falls one week after Pentecost Sunday. This year, the Solemnity occurred on May 26, and in the dioceses of the U.S., it was transferred to the following Sunday, May 29.
Among the parishes of the Diocese of Trenton that held processions was St. Mary Parish, Middletown. This is the second time an observance has been held during the pastorate of Father Jeffrey Kegley, who was eager to reinstitute this “beautiful tradition,” he said.
“The procession followed the noon Mass and proceeded to altars on the campus,” he said. “It concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Mary Chapel. I was impressed so many people came out: we had the First Communicants, youth group members and representatives from the whole parish.”
St. Veronica Parish held their traditional procession following the Sunday noon Mass, said Deacon Gino Esposito, a tradition which predated his 22 years of service in the Howell parish. “Father [Vicente Magdaraog, parochial vicar] exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and we all sang ‘O Saving Victim’,” he recalled. “He walked out of the church, where there was a canopy waiting.
“Our First Communicants led the way and laid flowers along the path,” Deacon Esposito continued. “We took a walk around the property and sang hymns. By this, we acknowledge and celebrate the living Christ in the Eucharist. It emphasizes he is there and he is alive.”
“There are homes around our property and people can spot us off Route 9,” Deacon Esposito said. “It does draw attention. This year, someone said they joined us because they saw us walking last year.”
Father Marcin D. Kania, parochial vicar in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, reinstituted a Corpus Christi procession this year after the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass in the parish’s St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin. With the help of numerous parish groups, it proved to be a celebration which will surely create a new tradition in the shore area parish.
“We set up four altars for the four Gospels and decorated each one with Scriptures such as ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ ‘I will be with you always’ and ‘Precious Body, Precious Blood,’” he said. “Altar servers led the way with a cross, candles and the American and Vatican flags, and we sang songs and sprinkled flower petals along the path as a sign of respect for the King.”
Father Kania estimated about 100 people processed from the church, along a one-mile route on the property, then back into the church. “The distance was enough,” he said. “The Lord gave us the grace to finish.”
“This is a Catholic tradition. We are called to bring Christ into the world, not keep him locked up in a church. He walks among us,” the priest declared.
The introduction of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ was traced to a vision by St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon, Belgium. In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the Diocese of Liege, Belgium, instituted the feast. On Sept. 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull “Transiturus,” which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church.