Pope Benedict XVI has praised the “lively tradition” of holding solemn processions with the Blessed Sacrament “through the streets and squares” on the feast of Corpus Christi.
“The Catholic Church professes worship of the Eucharist ‘not only during Mass, but also outside of its celebration, preserving with the utmost diligence the consecrated Hosts, presenting them for the solemn veneration of the Christian faithful, carrying them in procession with the joy of the Christian crowd,’” he said, quoting his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidei.
Pope Benedict addressed tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 10 to say the midday Marian prayer, the Angelus. The feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and has been celebrated universally since 1264. While the Vatican celebrated the feast on Thursday, many dioceses worldwide transfer it to the following Sunday, as in the United States.
The Pope told pilgrims that the annual feast “renews in Christians the joy and the gratitude for the Eucharistic presence of Jesus” in the midst of his people. It is, he said, “a great act of public worship” that reminds everybody that “the Lord remains present beyond the time of the celebration” of Mass.
This is why in church buildings, from earliest times, “the most sacred place is precisely where the Eucharist is kept” in the tabernacle.
The Pope spoke “with emotion” of those people in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna who were hit by a recent earthquake. There, amid the ruined churches, “the Eucharistic body of Christ, in the tabernacles, has also remained in certain cases under the rubble,” he said. With many of those affected having to attend Sunday Mass in the open air or in make-shift tents, the Pope reminded pilgrims that it is in the Eucharist that “the ability to share life and property, to carry each other’s burdens, the capacity for hospitality and welcome” is “born and renewed.”
He concluded by giving some personal advice on how to adore the Eucharist in prayer, suggesting that one can undertake such prayer individually, “pausing in recollection in front of the tabernacle, and in community, also with Psalms and hymns.”
Either way, such prayer should preferably be undertaken “in silence, in which to listen interiorly to the Lord alive and present in the sacrament.” The model for this form of Eucharistic prayer, he said, was the Virgin Mary, “because no one knew better than she how to contemplate Jesus, with eyes of faith and openness of heart, the inner resonances of his human and divine presence.”