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Corpus Christi June 23rd. 2011

The Archdiocese of Dublin observed the feast of Corpus Christi with a procession through the grounds of Clonliffe College in Drumcondra. Bishop Raymond Field, KC*HS, led the procession at which Chevalier Brian Curneen and Chevalier Joe Tiernan assisted in carrying the baldacchino. H.E. The Lieutenant, returning specially from the Order’s Consulta in Rome led 29 Knights and Dames in procession. 

The event was well attended with the congregation singing the Congress Anthem in advance of the International Eucharistic Congress. The homily referred throughout to the celebrations to be held during the IEC encouraging preparation, reflection and participation in the IEC.

Corpus Christi?

Corpus et Sanguis Christi also known as Corpus Christi, the feast of The Body and Blood of Christ

The feast of the Blessed Sacrament was established in 1246 by Bishop Robert de Thorte of Liege at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Carvillon and was extended to the universal Church by Pope Urban in 1264.

Among the reasons St. Juliana had suggested the practice so that the Catholic doctrine receive aid from the institution of this festival at a time when heresies were rife and the faith of the world was growing cold. She hoped the faithful who love and seek truth and piety might be enabled to draw from this source of life new strength and vigour to walk continually in the way of virtue

Honouring Him in a very public way

Establishment of the Feast of Corpus Christi

According to Canon Law (Can. 944 §1,2) "Wherever in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop it can be done, a procession through the streets is to be held, especially on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, as a public witness of veneration of the Blessed Eucharist. It is for the diocesan Bishop to establish such regulations about processions as will provide participation in them and for their being carried out in a dignified manner." No other devotion has received such attention in the Code of Canon Law which shows the importance the Church attaches to this feast. It is one of the few feasts which is mentioned along with Holy Days of Obligation

The full name of this feast is Corpus et Sanguis Christi or The Body and Blood of Christ. "The office composed by St. Thomas Aquinas and customary procession was approved by Popes Martin V and Eugene IV. Celebrated in June, the first Sunday after the feast of the Trinity." (Modern Catholic Dictionary, by John A. Hardon, S.J.)

A Eucharistic Procession - Corpus Christi

The public procession of the Eucharist should be promoted everywhere, especially in the light of the example of Pope John Paul II, who took the annual Corpus Christi procession from St. Peter's Square to the streets of Rome. However, such a procession must be carefully planned. If it passes "through the streets", i.e., outside church property, it may be authorized by the diocesan Bishop, who should establish appropriate regulations to ensure respect for the Eucharist, a dignified celebration and full participation on the part of the people. What is described below for the solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi) may be used on other major occasions when this act of homage to Our Lord may also be celebrated, for example, "after a lengthy period of adoration." Such as the annual solemn exposition or Forty Hours devotion.

Everything is prepared as usual: (a) for a solemn Mass with white vestments and (b) for exposition of the Eucharist. Six or four candles burn on the altar. An extra priest's host is placed on the paten or prepared in a lunette, to be consecrated for the procession. The monstrance is ready on a credence table. Extra candles and flowers may be set up in the sanctuary to enhance the festive occasion. A white cope may be placed near the chair.

In the sacristy, a second thurible is prepared during Communion. The two thurifers should be assisted by a boat bearer during the procession. A noble canopy (baldachin) attached to four or six staffs may be prepared outside the sanctuary, preferably near the seats of the people trained to carry it. Torch bearers should assist as for the solemn Mass. Glasses to protect the torches or lanterns mounted on staffs may be used according to custom. Only Eucharistic banners should be carried in the procession, never images of Our Lady or the saints. Banners of sodalities and Catholic movements may be carried by their representatives. A Eucharistic banner may replace the processional cross. Hand candles are usually carried by those walking in the procession. If it is customary for children, such as first communicants, to strew flowers before the Eucharist, they should be trained to act in an orderly and reverent way, without impeding the procession. Members of the armed forces, the police, scouts or other bodies may escort the procession through the streets. Music may be provided by a choir and/or band, according to custom.

The route of the procession must be carefully defined. Well-placed loudspeakers and printed programs promote the full participation of the people—and help those watching the procession to be drawn into the celebration. In some countries, it is customary to decorate the houses and other buildings along the route. If the procession is long, the celebrant may stop at altars set up at convenient places where Benediction is given. The procession terminates with solemn Benediction, given either in or outside the church here it began, at another church or at some suitable place where the people can gather conveniently.

The Procession

All kneel while a hymn of adoration is sung. Incense is prepared as at exposition, but in two thuribles. The Host is incensed as usual. Then the deacon or, if he is not present, a concelebrant or assistant priest goes to the altar with the celebrant. Both genuflect, and the deacon (concelebrant or assistant priest) places the monstrance in the celebrant's veiled hands. If he has no assisting clergy, the celebrant himself goes to the altar to take the monstrance in his veiled hands. If a sling is used, the deacon or the M.C. ensures that the monstrance rests securely in it, under the humeral veil.

All taking part in the procession stand. The celebrant turns or comes around to the front of the altar. His cope is held back by the deacon(s) as he slowly walks forward to an agreed point, where those bearing the canopy meet him and raise it over him and the deacon(s). The two thurifers and the boat bearer take their places in front of the canopy. As the first hymn begins, the procession proceeds in this order:

  1. cross bearer carrying the cross or banner, flanked by the candle bearers;
  2. religious associations, sodalities, etc., perhaps carrying their own banners;
  3. religious in their habits; followed by First Communicants strewing flower petals;
  4. the book bearer and corporal bearer;
  5. the clergy, in choir dress (and copes);
  6. the concelebrants of the Mass;
  7. the two thurifers in front of the canopy customarily swinging the thuribles with their inside hands;
  8. the people.

Directly under the canopy walks the celebrant, carrying the Eucharist devoutly at eye-level, with the deacon(s) beside and slightly behind him, holding back his cope, if necessary. No one else walks beneath the canopy. The torch bearers with torches or lanterns walk along each side of the canopy. According to local custom, an escort from the armed forces, the police, scouts or a Catholic youth movement, etc., may also flank the canopy, but arranged farther out from the torch bearers and carefully spaced so as not to obscure the celebrant as he carries the Eucharist.

Directed by the ushers in the church, the people who are to walk in the procession follow the canopy, taking part in hymns and acclamations. The singing is led by the choir and cantor(s) - either walking in the midst of the people or singing from a fixed point, with appropriate amplification. The procession should move at a slow and reverent pace. Identifiable marshals should control the ranks of a large procession, so that it does not become disordered. All those in the procession not already carrying something may carry hand candles. Children trained to strew flowers are arranged according to local custom, but they are not mingled with the clergy or servers.

If the Bishop carries the monstrance, he is flanked by two assistant deacons in dalmatics (or lacking deacons, concelebrants), who walk beside and slightly behind him holding back his cope. There are some other variations in the order of procession. The clergy in choir dress are followed by the deacon(s) of the Mass, then the canons of the cathedral chapter and other priests, wearing copes, followed by visiting Bishops wearing copes, but bareheaded, walking immediately in front of the thurifers. Those of higher rank walk nearer the Blessed Sacrament. Other visiting Bishops wear choir dress but are bareheaded during the procession and immediately follow the canopy. Those of higher rank also walk nearer the Blessed Sacrament, in this case preceding others in the order of procession.

If the Bishop does not carry the monstrance, he walks alone immediately before the canopy, bareheaded and carrying his crosier, but not blessing the people. If he celebrated the Mass, he wears vestments, otherwise a white cope. A Bishop in choir dress comes immediately after the canopy.

As the procession goes through the streets or appointed area, the faithful not walking in it should kneel as the Blessed Eucharist passes by. As noted above, the procession may pause at suitably decorated "altars" for Benediction.

On returning to the church, or arriving at another church chosen and prepared for the final Benediction, the ceremonial escort, torch bearers and thurifers precede the canopy if the aisle is narrow. The canopy bearers stop in front of the sanctuary as the celebrant goes up to the altar. They move off to one side and put the canopy in a suitable place. The deacon takes the monstrance from the celebrant, places it on the corporal, and both genuflect. The M.C. or a server removes the humeral veil. Servers and torch bearers line up in the sanctuary for Benediction.

The celebrant and deacon(s) should wait until all the people have taken their places in the church and are kneeling. At a signal from the M.C., the hymn of adoration is sung, the Eucharist is incensed and Benediction is given as usual. Unless adoration is to continue, the Eucharist is reposed and a final hymn, acclamation or Marian antiphon may be sung. Clergy and servers proceed to the sacristy.

The feast of Corpus Christi is one time when our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is exposed not just to faithful Catholics but to all the world.