The eucharistic procession that Steven Travale attended, May 29, 2016. Photo/Steven Travale

A return to old tradition

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • June 17, 2016

In a small farming village in southwestern Ontario a few weeks ago, the sun was shining, incense was permeating the air and the Most Blessed Sacrament was being adored in an outdoor procession. 

The day was Corpus Christi Sunday, and the Roman Catholic community in Formosa was carrying out an annual tradition that dates back to before the magnificent church was built more than 125 years ago.

I had the privilege of participating in this eucharistic procession, a rare but beautiful event I had yet to experience in my life, up until that day. That being said, it is something I hope to see and participate in many more times.

Religious processions were quite common events throughout the Catholic world in the early part of the last century. This practice has since died off, except in a few parishes where the faith of the people and their outward love for God has guided them to uphold this tradition.  

From a distance, some may find it staunchly traditional and old-fashioned. With the glimpse I caught as one of the nine altar servers, I witnessed the wonder and magnificence of this traditional but important practice. 

The Corpus Christi procession, among others, is a chance for Catholics to share their love and reverence for God. It is an expression of adoration, of commitment and even evangelization. Witnessing  people as young as six months and as old as 90 years old walk slowly behind the exposed Eucharist was touching, poignant and beautiful, particularly with the echoing of Tantum Ergo, the path of rose petals to walk on and the fragrant smell of frankincense. 

Why all the pomp and ceremony? Quite simply, because our Lord deserves the highest forms of devotion and adoration, which takes many forms including a public procession of the Eucharist, truly present for all to see and know.

Fr. Paul Nicholson, a missionary preacher from the London diocese, led the procession after Mass. He shared with me his thoughts on the tradition of processions over lunch that afternoon, and they particularly struck me.

“The return of the traditional practice of the Corpus Christi procession in many places throughout the world is like the return of the birds at spring. It doesn’t mean that winter is completely over, but the return announces spring is coming. St. John Paul II proclaimed a eucharistic springtime and the public demonstration of faith in the eucharistic love of God is precisely that,” he said. 

Indeed, it was springtime, which means as Catholics, it is our task to get past the winter blues and bring vivacity and joy in a renewed way. What a beautiful experience it is to be close to Jesus. It is time to bring back this holy, beautiful and timeless tradition to our dioceses and parishes.

(Travale, 18, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont.)

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