I love Eucharistic processions. The feast of Corpus Christi, to me, is the greatest of all feast days besides Christmas and Easter, and the Eucharistic procession that usually takes place after Mass is one of the highlights of my year. During the procession I feel so lucky to be Catholic, and to have the opportunity to adore Christ in the monstrance, outside for all to see. I prefer if the procession goes through a town or neighborhood, because then the priest can actually take Christ into the community and the people in the procession can give witness to their faith in the Real Presence—and hopefully stir up curiosity in the minds and hearts of the people who see the procession go by.
After the Eucharistic procession I attended with my family this past Sunday, I was left a little disappointed, and definitely longing for more. While I was hoping for at least 20 minutes of walking, singing traditional hymns, adoring Jesus in the Eucharist, and having my four year old son experience this beautiful tradition the way I did when my dad used to take me and my brothers to long Eucharistic processions when we were little, what took place was only a few minutes of processing around the small courtyard at the entrance of the church before the priest said the benediction and brought the Eucharist back inside.
For the rest of the afternoon I reflected on the short procession, and wondered why we don’t have more of a love for the tradition of a lengthier Eucharistic procession anymore. I was thinking that maybe it is just that we don’t have the patience for it, or maybe priests think it would take too long, or that people wouldn’t stay. After mulling over these things for a few hours, I called my mom, who is in Madrid, to wish her a happy birthday.
After telling me a little about having a birthday lunch with her aunt and cousin, she proceeded to describe the Mass and Eucharistic procession of my dreams.
At 7 pm the Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated outside of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Almudena, in the old part of Madrid. After Mass, the Eucharistic procession started towards the Puerta del Sol, which is a little less than a mile from the Cathedral, in the heart of Madrid and the geographical center of Spain. This walk, down the Calle Mayor, would normally take about 10 minutes, but my mom told me that it took an hour and a half. She said that the streets were packed with people, everyone sung the Anima Christi and other Eucharistic hymns, and as the Eucharist passed by, onlookers threw rose petals and sang from the balconies above. When the Eucharist arrived in the Puerta del Sol, one of the priests prayed that from there, the very center of Spain, Christ would go out into the entire country. By this time it was 10 pm, and the procession turned around to go back to the Cathedral, most likely lasting another hour or more.
As I hung up the phone and for the rest of the evening, I was more than a little jealous that I had missed this spectacular event, but most of all I was so happy to know that somewhere in the world, and I am sure in many other places besides Spain, the faithful give Jesus the type of procession He deserves. While it is not fair to compare the United States to Spain, a country that is culturally Catholic, and may have even seen the first ever Eucharistic procession, we could learn a lot from the Spanish zeal for external displays of faith. As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and this is especially true in Spain, where the first Christian martyrs died for the faith during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and the most recent martyrs include 6,000 priests and religious who were killed during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. As we pray for our religious freedom in this country during the upcoming weeks, let us also pray for the courage to practice our faith boldly, despite the cost, and not to be afraid to worship God or to adore His son in the Eucharist, even in public. May the Spanish martyrs pray for us, and give us their courage!