Detail of a miniature of a bishop carrying a monstrance in a Corpus Christi procession under a canopy carried by four clerics. England (probably Glastonbury)
Below are two vintage newsreels of Corpus Christi processions from many years ago. The first is in Cork, a town in southern Ireland, during WWII. The second is in the bombed out city of Cologne, Germany only two years after the war (notice the significant destruction, yet the magnificent cathedral still stands). Also, in the second video at the very end you will hear reference to Cardinal Archbishop Frings, who was a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism, and later would play a significant role at Vatican II, with a young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger writing his speeches for him.
Many places in the world still have Corpus Christi processions (there are quite a few videos), but not where I live, and I would guess not nearly as often mostly everywhere as once upon a time. Catholicism has waned not least because, in terms of social/cultural/public life, so many Catholics have just given up. What was once considered worth putting in the effort for, is now thought too much work. What was once thought an appropriate public display of the body of Christ in unity, is now considered vulgar or just too frightening. But why complain for lack of a vibrant Catholic culture is one is unwilling to create it?
I say create it. But I don’t know how. Perhaps it begins with taking seriously the Mass and the Real Presence. And that’s a big, life-long project for all of us. Perhaps it begins with more Latin Masses. I don’t know, but I think that is probably true at some level. Love and good works are more important than processions, I know, but then again a solemn Corpus Christi procession just might be an act of love and good works for a local community longing for more than what the secular world can offer. Perhaps we must fight our tendency to feel embarrassed by such public displays. Anyway, I want to help.
What amazing displays of Catholic tradition, faith, and witness.
So I sent an email to my local parish church office asking if there was going to be a Corpus Christi procession this year. I got a one word reply: “No” — without greeting, explanation, a thanks for asking, it has not come up sorry, or even punctuation — literally just the word “No.” Of course the answer sufficed, was clear, and I realize folks are busy and need to get on to other things, so it’s not a big deal.
But somehow, in that short and cryptic answer, I sense a lot of the “bigger picture” of current Catholic witness in our community.