As they followed Bishop John Noonan holding a monstrance with the Body of Christ through downtown Orlando, singing and praying on a warm Sunday evening, more than 1,000 Catholics from the Diocese of Orlando gave witness to their love and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist during the annual Corpus Christi procession June 22.
The one-half mile procession began at St. James Cathedral, where Bishop Noonan had just celebrated Mass, and ended at St. James Cathedral School.
“Tonight as Catholics we come to celebrate the most important Sacrament in our lives – the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine,” Bishop said in his homily, later adding, “God gives us so much. He gives us his only son, Jesus Christ. When we are invited into union with Jesus Christ, we are invited into a union of love.”
Bishop Noonan said when we participate in the celebration of Mass, we come not only to hear God’s Word, but to be fed spiritually with the Eucharist
“Let us not forget that great gift,” he said “Let us remember, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life within you and I will give you eternal life’ (John 6:53-54). Christ has given us a gift in the Eucharist. Let us above all embrace it and not only embrace it, but believe it with the faith he has given us.”
Held in many dioceses throughout the world, the Corpus Christi procession invites Catholics to reflect on the mystery of the holy Eucharist and brings Catholics to greater levels of devotion to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
During the celebration of Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi outside of Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis said that the Body and Blood of Christ can give people eternal life because “the substance of this bread is love.”
Living the Catholic faith, he added, means “allowing yourself to be nourished by the Lord and building your life not on material goods, but on the reality that does not perish: the gifts of God, his word and his body.”
In Orlando, Maria and Rolando Ramirez of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Orlando, and their children eagerly awaited the start of the procession. This was the first year the family was participating in the celebration.
“We wanted to share this with our children so that they can be in the presence of God and show him love, reverence and gratitude for everything that he has done for us,” Maria said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to walk alongside with other people of our faith and support one another in showing God our love for him.”
Once the procession arrived at the school grounds, Bishop Noonan led the community to eight Eucharistic altars of repose constructed by the Haitian, Hispanic, Brazilian, Polish, Korean, Filipino, African and Vietnamese ethnic communities of the diocese. There, he set the monstrance gently onto each altar, knelt in prayer and censed the Eucharist as the respective communities sang songs of praise in their native languages while the rest of the faithful knelt in prayer.
The celebration ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament that included prayers, song and praise at an altar in front of the school’s gymnasium. As the celebration came to a close, the people were visibly touched by the blessings they had received.
“I think it was a great witness of our Catholic faith for the world,” said Chris Torres, from Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. “Pope Francis tells us to go outside and show people what our faith is all about, especially the Eucharist. The Eucharist, as our priests say, is the source, summit, and height of our Catholic faith, so bringing him out to the world and adoring him is a mystery to a lot of people and they start asking questions,” he added. “It is a good thing for us to share.”