Takin’ Him to the Streets
Do we really believe Jesus is really present in the Blessed Sacrament? Then let’s act like it. The world needs our witness.
Weekly Sunday Mass participation is now under 25% among U.S. Catholics, irrespective of fallout from the COVID-19 restrictions. For American adults in general, religious membership has fallen under 50% for the first time in more than 80 years. And among younger adults, “nones” have increased markedly, including because of growing dissatisfaction with traditional morality.
What to do?
When people won’t seek out God, bring the Savior of the world to them.
In sports circles, strategists will argue that the best defense is a good offense. Keep your opponent off-balance and on the defensive, and you’ll more likely score and keep them off the scoreboard. Similarly, when Jesus says the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” his Catholic Church (Matthew 16:18), he conveys that we should go on the offensive in storming the strongholds of our spiritual enemies (see Ephesians 6:12).
Continuing the sports analogy, don’t expect success when you keep your best player on the bench. And when the MVP of your team happens to be the Word who “became flesh” (John 1:14), the God-man himself, all the more reason to take full advantage of his skillset.
Yes, the Sacrifice of the Mass is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). But when the vast majority of Catholics aren’t making Mass every Sunday, and most Americans have never personally encountered Jesus, we need to bring Christ to them. We need to get the Lord on their radar, and his reality as Eucharistic Lord in particular, if we want to evangelize and draw them to (or back to) his Church.
Given our religious liberties in America, what better way to do that than regular Eucharistic processions throughout our nation? Do we really believe Jesus is truly present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament? Do we really believe he’s the New Covenant Passover Lamb whose one self-sacrifice we not only offer anew at every Mass, but partake of as well? (see 1 Corinthians 11:23–30).
Then let’s act like it.
If we as faithful Catholics don’t behave like we believe in our Eucharistic Lord, how can we rightly expect anyone else to do so? And what better way to advance the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20) than have young and old — clergy and lay people alike — in solidarity with the Bread of Life on the avenues of America?
If I could collectively offer diocesan bishops some key counsel, I would advise them to require their parish pastors to get permits for at least two Eucharistic processions a year: one on Corpus Christi Sunday, and one in the fall when the weather is still good. I say “permits” because if you have a large procession and are crossing city streets, it’s good to have a police escort to preempt needless tragedies at busy intersections. And police departments are typically happy to help — after all, promoting the Prince of Peace makes their jobs easier (Isaiah 9:6; see John 12:31–32).
In addition, I would advise bishops to require their pastors to have a few other processions each year that wouldn’t require crossing any big roads, yet would take place in bustling areas of local communities — namely, processing through well-traveled parks or walking around the block in a highly treaded section of town. In such cases, parishioners could carpool with their pastors to a designated location. Or instead, just process around their parish neighborhood without crossing any busy boulevards.
And why not have one, massive Eucharistic procession in each see city (the city after which the diocese is named) throughout the nation every year? I recall the impact of a procession in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in recent years, when Satanists at Harvard threatened to desecrate the Eucharist. When we lead with “the King of kings” (Revelation 17:14), and then offer follow-up events at our parish churches, including Eucharistic adoration, the divine harvest master won’t let us down (see Matthew 9:36–38).
Non-engagement is not an option, because the devil and his demonic confreres never sleep (1 Peter 5:8–9). And we can’t be dissuaded by the fear of fallout, including mockery, physical attacks or even outright martyrdom. St. John teaches us, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Our Lord Jesus affirms: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. ... Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When we center ourselves in the Lord, we can attain that peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27), even praying for our persecutors as Christ did from the Cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34; see Matthew 5:43–45; CCC 852).
Older readers may recall the “Doobie Brothers” tune — “Takin’ It to the Streets” — that inspired the title of this column. Five years ago, that same song inspired my post on evangelization at a summer art fair in Michigan. Now, more than ever, though, we just can’t simply preach the Word of God. We need to bring the Incarnate Word himself to our streets.
- eucharistic processions