A few weeks ago I participated in a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. It was sponsored by a local group called "Roses for Our Lady," whose president, a fellow-blogger and my good friend, is Ann Bender. The perfect weather for our May Eucharistic procession helped ensure that a good crowd of people participated.
As we walked and prayed the Rosary, I was grateful that we had the freedom (and the police permit) to walk in the streets of the city, to bear public witness to our faith. I wondered, too, what the people in their cars who had to wait and the people on their porches thought as we processed. Were they thinking: "Why don't those Catholics keep their faith in their churches where it belongs?"
That's in fact what many people seem to be thinking these days. They think that faith is a private matter. It's what you do on Sundays in your churches. It's not what you do in your other institutions, your schools and hospitals. There, they believe, the government should have "the final say."
Tomorrow in many places where the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated and on Sunday where it will be celebrated in other places, our Eucharistic Lord will be accompanied in procession on streets throughout the world. We will witness to our faith. But more: we will proclaim that Jesus is Lord and King. That Christ has a right to be in public. That all people have a right to know the love of God revealed in Jesus who gave his Body and Blood for the salvation of all. Here's how Pope Benedict put it last year in his homily for the Feast:
The Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of the cities and villages to show that the Risen Christ walks in our midst and guides us towards the Kingdom of Heaven. What Jesus gave to us in the intimacy of the Upper Room today we express openly, because the love of Christ is not reserved for a few but is destined for all. And then the Holy Father reminded us that we who receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion are transformed. We are the Body of Christ transformed and nourished by the Eucharist. We are, in a sense, living monstrances called to bring Christ into the world again. Our procession reminds us that we are called to bring Christ to the streets, the homes, the work places, the parks--wherever we go. Pope Benedict continued:
Let us walk with no illusions, with no utopian ideologies, on the highways of the world bearing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humility of knowing that we are merely grains of wheat, let us preserve the firm certainty that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God prepares for all men and women new heavens and a new earth, in which peace and justice reign--and in faith we perceive the new world which is our true homeland.