Feast of Corpus Christi
Tomorrow, I will preside at the feast day celebration honouring the Body and Blood of Christ at Notre-Dame Basilica, which has maintained the longstanding tradition of celebrating Corpus Christi on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. As in previous years, it will be a threefold celebration. First, we will gather for mass at Notre-Dame; then we will march through the streets en route to St. Patrick’s Basilica, where the celebration will conclude with Benediction.
This is an important celebration for me. It reminds us of the central place that the Eucharist holds in the life of Christians and of the Church. The celebration at Notre-Dame, particularly its procession, is a public demonstration of our faith in the Risen Lord, present in the Eucharist. As we walk through the city streets, we show who we are and express our commitment as his followers.
The streets, even today, are the obvious venue for people to voice what they think or what they want. People readily take to the streets to express their opinions or their disapproval, to promote a cause or to defend their interests. Our religious processions also have a place on the streets of Montreal. It is good that we Christians express our deeply held religious convictions as we walk, sing, pray and process with the monstrance bearing the Bread of Life, Christ, in whom we believe and who has promised to be with us always.
In addition, the diocesan celebration at Notre-Dame is an opportunity to join with others who share our faith. It is important to recognize that we do not live the adventure of faith in isolation. The Corpus Christi procession is one of those gatherings that permit us to rediscover the community aspect of Christian belonging. I walk, I sing, I pray with others with whom I share a common belief in the same God, the same baptism, the same Gospel. This experience can only deepen our faith.
We are indebted to a Belgium religious, Sister Juliana of Liège, who promoted this feast day. It was first held in the Diocese of Liège in 1246; Pope Urban IV added it to the liturgical calendar in 1264, making it an observance for the universal Church. He asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the liturgical texts. Pope John XXII, in 1318, ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be solemnly carried in procession through the streets for this feast.
Corpus Christi, with its procession and altar of repose, evokes vibrant childhood memories for my generation. Today, throughout the Diocese of Montreal, many parishes still mark this feast with a procession, either inside or outside their church; it will be held this year on Sunday, June 6.
† Jean-Claude Turcotte
Archbishop of Montréal