My dear friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and through the streets of Rome as throughout the Catholic world the Blessed Sacrament will be carried in procession to honour Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in this most wonderful of sacraments. I have reflected recently on what appears to be a revival of processions at parish level in Catholic popular piety, and how walking with others addresses a felt need within the Catholic soul.
For many centuries Corpus Christi processions have long been a feature of Catholic devotion. When we venerate Our Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament in this way we are honouring the memory of him who was crucified and rose for our sake, or what Scripture calls ‘our salvation.’ Eucharistic adoration is an act of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man, and whom the Church professes continues to be present to us as the bread of life, the living bread come down from heaven.
Devotion to the Lord present in the holy Eucharist, outside the celebration of Mass, has become an established part of Catholic practice. When we enter a church, great or small, we instinctively look for the tabernacle, which quickly becomes the focus of our attention and prayer.
I visited a church in our Diocese of Lancaster recently during the Forty Hours devotion where the atmosphere of hushed mystery and deeply reverent silence were almost tangible. The literal meaning of the biblical phrase ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14) is that he pitched his tent among us. This is a powerful image of the Son of God taking up his dwelling in our world, and he still dwells with us in the Blessed Sacrament in our churches and chapels in every part of the world.
Whenever we walk in procession following our Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance we are engaging in a symbolically deeper journey, reflecting the experience of Israel of old as they journeyed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
Those ancient Israelites had the reassurance of God’s presence who went before them ‘in a cloud by day, and a flame of fire by night.’ The Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the Law which accompanied them was a further sign of God’s protective presence with his people.
So when we set out in Eucharistic procession we do so as the people of the New Covenant, with the Lord in our midst in his Eucharistic presence. Let us see our procession this weekend of Corpus Christi as reflecting our life’s journey in the company of God’s people on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Today, its seems most opportune for me to extend an invitation to everyone in our Diocese of Lancaster to come on pilgrimage to a National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress in Liverpool next year (7 – 9 September 2018) called Adoremus (let us adore) which the bishops of England and Wales are organising.
Eucharistic Congresses are gatherings of clergy, religious and laity which celebrate and promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church. The last International Eucharistic Congress in England was held in 1908 when, in fact, permission for a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament was refused.
Participants will engage in a series of sessions focusing on different dimensions of the Eucharist and the daily celebration and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On the final day of the Pilgrimage and Congress, Sunday, there will be pilgrimage Masses and a big street procession – open to all. Plenty of details will follow in due course.
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster