The full name of the Feast of Corpus Christi is “Corpus et Sanguis Christi”: the feast of the Body an d Blood of Christ. It is a feast dedicated to celebrating the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. It was instituted through the inspiration of St. Juliana of Mont Carvillon, a Belgian nun, by Bishop Robert de Thorte of Liege. Its popularity spread throughout Belgium and was instituted in the universal church by Pope Urban in 1264. Saint Juliana’s hopes for this festival were fourfold. First, “that the Catholic doctrine receives aid from the institution of this festival at a time when the faith of the world was growing cold and heresies were rife.” Corpus Christi was a Feast to bring aid to the people. Second, her prayer was that that “the faithful who love and seek truth and piety may be enabled to draw from this source of life new strength and vigor to walk continually in the way of virtue” This feast was to do what the Eucharist always does: it was to feed the flock, and nourish Gods people. Third, that reverence for the Eucharist be restored. She wished that the Blessed Sacrament be viewed in truth, as truly blessed. She finally wished this to be a public proclamation of Christ and of Christians to the world, that Corpus Christi be truly seen. The two devices that are put into use during this feast day are the Monstrance, and the Procession. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning “to show”. It is that ornate vessel designed to hold the Blessed Sacrament for veneration. The Eucharistic procession is endorsed through the code of cannon law. While the procession is a formal part of the church, it can take many forms in various parts of the world. Typically the parade is a formal and ornate procession of the monstrance by a vested priest followed by the faithful throughout a town or cities streets.
In thinking about that name Corpus Christi, or feast of the Blessed Sacrament, can someone not think about towns named after that feast day? Corpus Christi Texas was founded in 1839 by Colonel Henry Lawrence Kinney as Kinney’s Trading Post, or Kinney’s Ranch. It was given the name Corpus Christi by the English, in honor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
The “Apostle of the Mohawks” Isaac Jogues (January 10, 1607 – October 18, 1646) was a Jesuit priest, missionary, and martyr who traveled and worked among the native populations in North America. He gave the original European name to Lake George, calling it Lac du Saint Sacrament, Lake of the Blessed Sacrament. Isaac Jogues was born on January 10, 1607, at Orleans, France. After having been professor of literature at Rouen, he was sent, in 1636, to New France, the north east corridor of the United States and Canada, as a missionary to the Huron and Algonquian allies of the French. Issac Jouges and his companions were tortured by these Native Americans, yet this treatment did not deter this Jesuit’s desire to preach Chest to these people. Issac Jouges was eventually martyred, though one of the fruits of his labor was Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint of the Universal Church.
While today processions of Corpus Christi are sadly disappearing in many parts of the world’s streets, one is reminded of that procession of Christ from places like Oxford, England to Corpus Christi, Texas. One is reminded of Christ’s presence in that Lake of the Sacred Sacrament through that procession of Issac Jogues from Orleans France to Lake George, New York. Both these places are reminders of the procession of Corpus Christi from the Old to the New world.
In thinking more on these processions of the feast of Corpus Christi, one has to think about the first procession of the body of Christ. One has to think first of St. Juliana’s desire for this feast, and also her inspiration. The desire for the feast has already been mentioned. As for the model it was structured on, that might be one for the academics. For some though, one only has to look to the bible to see the model of the monstrance processed through the streets. It was that journey Mary took from the streets of Nazareth to the Hills of Judea while carrying the Body of Christ. She brought that Blessed Sacrament to her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation. Mystically, might that have been both the first procession of Corpus Christi, and its “First Communion?”