CHARLESTON — The skies were threatening, but the torrential downpour held off during the Diocese of Charleston’s Eucharistic Procession June 5.
A brief sprinkle of rain was just a blessing from above for the people who walked through the Holy City’s streets celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Bishop Robert J. Baker carried the Blessed Sacrament and led a crowd of approximately 500 people from St. Mary of the Annunciation Church on Hasell Street to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street.
Bishop Baker told The Miscellany that he was moved to tears as he carried the monstrance because he meditated on the suffering of Christ as he labored on the road to Calvary to his crucifixion and our redemption.
He later told the congregation gathered at the Cathedral that he was praying for the lives of his flock and for their gift of bold faith. He said he was honored to carry the Jesus of Calvary sacramentally present in the Eucharist though the streets of Charles-ton, and felt like Simon of Cyrene.
A woman from a store on King Street handed out tissues to passersby in the procession because the heat and humidity were so oppressive.
Bishop Baker said that she was like Veronica who wiped Christ’s face.
Linda Loda, the owner of another store on King Street, Jack Patla Antiques, stood in the doorway of her shop with her friend Cindy Blence. The two women told The Miscellany that they were upstairs in Loda’s home when they heard singing.
“It sounded like angels,” Loda said. The two women came downstairs to watch the procession, and Loda was moved to tears.
“I think it’s healing and inspirational,” she said. “And it makes me cry. It’s a gift to the city.”
Blence, who was visiting from Tampa, Fla., said she was impressed that the City of Charleston allowed it.
Once the Blessed Sacrament and the faithful were safely in the Cathedral, the rain let loose.
Bishop Baker urged the congregation to remember the gift of redemption they had been given.
“Might we not, all of us, bring our burdens to Him and allow His redeeming presence in the Holy Eucharist to bring us healing and peace?” he said. “What is there in our lives today that encumbers us — a difficult decision before us, a frightful illness, a wayward son or daughter, a wayward lifestyle in our own spiritual life? Bring that situation to the Calvary of the Eucharist and ask the Lord for His healing, His guidance, His forgiveness, His peace.”
The bishop said everyone should visit the Blessed Sacrament and go to adoration to show greater reverence for the Eucharistic Lord when present in the church.
“I encourage you to extend today’s blessing though your daily devotion to the Lord of the Eucharist all through this Year of the Eucharist and all through your life,” Bishop Baker said. “Then every year will be the Year of the Eucharist and all through your life.”
The bishop thanked Msgr. Joseph Roth, vicar general and pastor of the Cathedral, for organizing and hosting the celebration. He also thanked Father Edward Fitzgerald, pastor of Divine Redeemer Church in Hanahan, who gave a homily on Corpus Christi.
The tradition of the Eucharistic procession in the Catholic Church evolved from Pope Urban IV’s establishment of the feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. According to an article by James Monti in the May 2005 Magnificat magazine (Vol. 7, No. 3), Pope Urban IV made no mention of a procession, but the custom logically followed from the pontiff’s expressed wish that “the devout multitudes of the faithful should lovingly run together to the churches” and “offer hymns of singular gladness,” that “Faith may sing, hope may dance, charity may rejoice, devotion may clap,” and “the sanctuary may rejoice.”
In the article, Monti went on to write that in Cologne, Germany, the idea of a Corpus Christi procession arose almost immediately for the stated purpose of seeking the protection of God.
It was recorded for the first time in the archives of Saint Geron’s Church sometime between 1265 and 1277.
By the 14th century, Corpus Christi processions were citywide events around Europe.
Groups from around the state participated in the Diocese of Charleston’s modern-day procession, and some carried colorful banners. Organizations included the Legion of Mary, the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women, the Coastal Council of Cath-olic Women, the Perpetual Eucharistic Society of Blessed Sacrament and St. Joseph churches, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and representatives of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Immaculate Conception, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Benedict churches.
The Knights of St. Peter Claver had a strong representation, turning out in large numbers. The Knights of the the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of Malta and the Knights of St. Gregory were also represented. The Knights of Columbus attended in full force and full regalia. Dan Machowski, James White, Harry Tebelman and John Sulkowski were the four Knights assigned to carry the canopy protecting the bishop and the monstrance.
Some of the many councils that participated included the Pope John Paul XXIII Council 6250, Grand Strand Assembly 2107, San Miguel Assembly, Msgr. Donald L. McLoughlin Council 9375, Rev. P.N. Lynch Assembly 1071, Donald Godfrey Council 6726, and the Msgr. Richard C. Madden Assembly.