Monday, June 11, 2012

Eucharistic Processions (Part II)

5:30 AM bus departure comes early on a fresh June Sunday morning. Thirty seminarians boarded a bus leaving the North American College for a nearby town in Umbria called Orvieto. Though the Vatican celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi on Thursday the rest of Italy celebrates it on Sunday. Orvieto, an Italian city atop a hill, is where the tradition of Eucharistic processions began. 

A little history first: In 1263 a priest was celebrating Mass in Bolsena, a nearby village. He had personal doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. During Mass the host he had just consecrated bled onto the corporal (a linen cloth used to catch any particles of the Blessed Sacrament). The corporal was taken in procession to Orvieto where it is kept in the cathedral. The Pope at the time spent significant time in Orvieto since Rome was in disrepair and would have been made aware of this wonderful miracle. He began the feast of Corpus Chrisiti the next year 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas was also in Orvieto at the time. Pope Urban comissioned him to compose the hymns and the prayers for the Mass and procession. I'm sure you've heard Tantum Ergo before. Well it was written by St. Thomas for this feast in Orvieto. Once a year for 749 years the Blessed Sacrament is processed through the streets of Orvieto.
Look close - Under the crucifix on the altar is the Miracle.
It was a great honor to be able to participate in this year's celebration. The bishop of Orvieto has traditionally asked the seminarians at the North American to come to Orvieto for the feast day. 

The procession took the same form as the procession in Rome on Thursday. But here there was a more Medieval flare with many of the locals dressed up in their traditional garb. The streets were lined by thousands of people kneeling as the monstrance passed by them. So beautiful. One moment was especially moving. A young mom with her little boy standing next to her whispered to her son while pointing down the street. I was close enough to hear her say: "Ecco Gesù viene. Look Jesus is coming." The little boy straitened up and with the help of his mom made the sign of the cross. Then he watched and waited to see Jesus in the streets of his town. This little scene was repeated over and over as mothers and fathers passed on the faith to their children.

After the procession the diocese hosted us, and we ate a delicious lunch. We had some time to walk around and relish the moment before we boarded the bus for Bolsena.  (To be continued)