My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Sunday, June 19, is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known by its name in Latin, Corpus Christi. This year’s celebration of Corpus Christi will mark the opening of the three-year Eucharistic Revival announced last year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The mission of the Eucharistic Revival is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”
According to the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., “Very early (in the fourteenth century) the custom developed of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a splendid procession through the town after the Mass on Corpus Christi Day. This was encouraged by the popes, some of whom granted special indulgences to all participants. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) solemnly approved and recommended the procession on Corpus Christi as a public profession of the Catholic faith in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament.” The Code of Canon Law encourages liturgical processions outside the church, “When it can be done in the judgment of the diocesan bishop, as a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, a procession is to be conducted through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ” (canon 944). The leading of processions outside the church is among the specific liturgical functions especially entrusted to the pastor (canon 530).
In my Pastoral Letter of June 22, 2014, Ars celebrandi et adorandi, Latin for “The Art of Celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy Properly and Adoring the Lord in the Eucharist Devoutly,” I wrote, “I highly encourage and give permission for pastors to conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ, as a witness to our faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and as an expression of our belief that God is in our midst even in our everyday lives.”
This encouragement and permission for Corpus Christi processions is reflected in Statute 107 of our Fourth Diocesan Synod as adopted in 2017: “As a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, clergy in this Diocese may conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets and are especially encouraged to do so on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Such processions shall be conducted in accord with the pertinent liturgical customs and norms. Arrangements for the procession through the streets shall be made with local law enforcement and civic officials for the sake of good public order and as required by civil law.”
Carrying the Blessed Sacraments in procession through the streets is what Stephen Bullivant, professor of Theology and Sociology at St Mary's University in London, calls a Credibility Enhancing Display (CRED), which is a sociological term for what makes this Catholic experience special.
The focus of the first year of the Eucharistic Revival will be on Diocesan Revival. Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, we will observe a Year of the Eucharist, beginning on Dec. 8, 2022, and ending on Dec. 8, 2023. The highlight of our diocesan Year of the Eucharist will be our Centennial Celebration on Oct. 28, 2023, marking one hundred years since the translation of our Diocesan See from Alton to Springfield. This Centennial celebration will be held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, which holds 7,000 people. I have instructed pastors that there are to be no parish Masses or weddings across the diocese on Oct. 28, 2023, in order to allow all the priests and as many parishioners as possible to attend the day-long event at the BOS Center in Springfield. Our featured speakers, who will address the relationship of the Eucharist in the life of Christian discipleship, will be Dr. Scott Hahn, Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, who recently was appointed as the new Bishop of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota.
The second phase of the Eucharistic Revival, through June 2024, will foster eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through eucharistic adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and movements of the Holy Spirit. These local efforts will be designed to help convert hearts and minds to fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The third phase of the Eucharistic Revival will be the National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. At this historic event, more than 80,000 Catholics of all ages from every diocese in the United States are expected to gather in Indianapolis to worship our Risen Lord in the mystery of the Eucharist. Then, the Year of Going Out On Mission will take place from July 21, 2024, through Pentecost of 2025. We pray that the Holy Spirit will enkindle a missionary fire in the heart of our nation as we reconsecrate ourselves to the source and summit of our faith.
May God give us this grace. Amen.