ORLANDO I The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, was celebrated with Mass and a Eucharistic procession led by Bishop John Noonan that stopped at nine altars of repose in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, June 18.
Many of the more than 2,000 attendees were dressed in traditional costumes from their country and sang as Bishop Noonan reached the altars which represented the many cultures present in the Diocese of Orlando.
Father Emmanuel Akalue, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Palm Bay, whose altar represented the African community, spoke of the importance of the feast. “It means a lot to us because it shows that we pass on the universality of the Church which we represent. So we are only one ‘AM’. Among the people of God, although there are many parts, there is only one body. We are only the African parts of the Church. So we are very happy and excited to be part and parcel of this wonderful initiative of the Church.”
The Trawczynski family, parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Orlando participated in the Mass and procession. Originally from Poland, the procession brought back memories of the celebration in their homeland. “In Poland this is a very big holiday. Everybody goes on the streets with Jesus. It is a much bigger scale because Poland is a very Catholic country,” said Anna Trawczynski. Dawid Trawczynski added, “It is a special day today. We celebrate the body of Christ. We want the kids to know what this day means for us and for the Church and we just want to be present here.”
Honoring their Indian heritage for the second year at the altar of repose prepared by St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Parish in Sanford, were Sojin and Sheeba Joseph. They came with their two daughters. Sheeba said that what she enjoyed most was that, “We are all united in him. All together we are one community.”
The basilica is in the heart of the tourist area, bringing together faithful from across the country who are visiting the area. Elida Hernandez was visiting from Texas. When she is in town, she participates in Mass at the basilica. She found the African altar the most beautiful because of the reverence of the congregation as they knelt before the monstrance holding our Lord Jesus Christ. Afterward, her granddaughter, who works on a cruise ship and had just returned from Africa, was blessed by Father Akalue. It was a special moment for her. She found the procession very “educational” as she learned about other cultures.
In his homily, Bishop Noonan pointed out that, “We believe these words (of consecration) because of Jesus. We pray these words. And above all, we accept these words. That somehow, through the words of Jesus, bread and wine is consecrated into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”
Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “You may see with your mind, but you must listen to your heart,” alluding to the fact that there is often more to something than what mere eyes can reveal. “And that is the challenge for all of us,” said Bishop Noonan. “We think we see and understand everything, but do we listen to our heart? Our ‘Amen’ is our belief, our trust in Jesus Christ. There are nine different altars from different cultures that remind us that we are one,” he continued. “He is one body. Let us be mindful of the greatest mystery, but also the greatest gift that each of us receive when we come to church. Not only in word, but in Eucharist, may we receive God into our hearts so that we too may have faith; may have hope; may have love in our hearts forever and ever.”