Corpus Christi Customs & Traditions

A Corpus Christi procession  in Poland.

A Corpus Christi procession in Poland.

Everyone loves a parade. If you search the world, you will find Eucharistic processions of almost every description to mark the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

In Rome the procession goes down one of the major streets, from the Lateran cathedral to Saint Mary Major. It is a fairly somber affair.

The feast, formerly known by a Latin name—Corpus Christi—grew up out of a grassroots devotion to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Because of this, the types of customs and traditions that grew up around this procession have more to do with late medieval religious festivals than they do with the restrained tradition of the Roman Catholic liturgy.

Places in Italy celebrate the feast with music, marching bands, and dancing. In Orvieto, a corporal with a stain of blood from the Eucharistic miracle in the nearby town of Bolsena is kept. This year the feast there takes on a special dimension: from January of last year till November of this year, there is a special Eucharistic Jubilee celebrating the 750th anniversary of the feast of Corpus Christi. The festival reaches its height in the period from Pentecost to the feast day, and is a great celebration.

Parishes or groups of parishes in Canada may have these processions too, albeit on a smaller scale. Some of them have stopping points along the way where people offer special prayers to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, like this one in the Hamilton diocese.

Corpus Christi EnglandThese celebrations are more than a theological statement: they celebrate what it means to be Catholic. They are serious, but they are also a joyful and fun time when we say, “It’s good to be part of the Catholic family. Alleluia!”

-Dr. Glenn Byer, Associate Publisher

You can learn more about various Catholic eucharistic devotions with Twenty-Third’s recently published book Prayerbook for Eucharistic Adoration available from Novalis. You can also deepen your eucharistic spirituality with our monthly periodical, Living with Christ.

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