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The Feast of Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as a parallel to Maundy Thursday and originates from the 13th century.

St Juliana of Mont Cornillon near Liege lost her parents at an early age and was placed in a convent where she received the veil at the age of 15. She had a deep faith in the Blessed Sacrament and felt very strongly that there should be a feast in its honour.

She made her thoughts clear to the Bishop of Liege, Robert de Thorete, and he convened a synod to discuss the matter. In 1246, he instituted the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in his diocese. Pope Urban IV, who had formerly been archdeacon at Liege, formally instituted this as a universal Feast Day for the Church in 1264 and commissioned St Thomas Aquinas to prepare the text of the Office and Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the significance of this solemnity in his homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi, in 2008: ‘The answer is given to us in the fundamental actions of this celebration we are carrying out: first of all we gather around the altar of the Lord, to be together in his presence; secondly, there will be the procession, that is walking with the Lord; and lastly, kneeling before the Lord, adoration, which already begins in the Mass and accompanies the entire procession but culminates in the final moment of the Eucharistic Blessing when we all prostrate ourselves before the One who stooped down to us and gave His life for us. Let us reflect briefly on these three attitudes, so that they may truly be an expression of our faith and our life.’

The Corpus Christi procession is an opportunity for the Christian faithful to make public profession of faith and worship of the Blessed Sacrament. We are united as the people of God, who journey with the Lord and witness to His sacrifice for us. Redemptionis Sacramentum describes the importance of the Corpus Christi Procession: ‘The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly fills with joy those who take part in it.’

For a second year there will be a Corpus Christi procession between the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St, Mayfair, and St James Church, Spanish Place, Marylebone on Sunday 7 June. The procession will leave Farm Street at 5.15pm, led by Cardinal Vincent, and will end with Benediction at Spanish Place at around 7pm.

The procession is jointly organised by the two parishes and all are welcome to attend. Families with children preparing for their First Holy Communion are particularly encouraged to attend. Last year more than 1,000 people took part and it is hoped that this year the Catholic witness in this busy part of central London will be even greater.

Parishes in possession of a Blessed Sacrament banner are asked to carry it in the procession. Priests and deacons interested in participating should contact either Peter Allingham (peter@ancient.co.uk) or Peter Sefton-Williams (peter@seftonwilliams.com). Details of where and when to arrive and vesting instructions will then be issued to them. Knowing in advance how many priests and deacons will take part will greatly assist the organisers.

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