Procession brings Christ to the streets of Austin
By Michele Chan Santos
On a bright, warm Sunday morning in June, hundreds of Catholics knelt before the Blessed Sacrament at an altar on the front steps of the Texas Capitol.
"We pray today for a deeper faith in our Holy Eucharist," said Father Albert Laforet Jr., the rector of St. Mary Cathedral. "Our church throughout the world today celebrates the feast that brings us unity."
The third annual Corpus Christi procession was held June 2, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
Worshipers gathered for the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Cathedral, and then proceeded to walk to the Capitol, going down Brazos and on to 11th Street. It was the first time the celebrants were allowed to have an altar on the south steps of the Capitol.
Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. from Brownsville reserved the front steps for the Corpus Christi procession, Father Laforet said. Frank Fuentes, a catechist at St. Mary, is a friend of Senator Lucio’s and asked him to make the location possible.
"It was so beautiful that we are willing to demonstrate our faith. We are living the Word of God outside in the world," Fuentes said.
Father Laforet said the procession was part of the Year of Faith. "We wanted to publicly profess our faith, to respond to the Holy Father’s call," he said.
Father David Trahan, associate pastor of the Cathedral, carried the host in a monstrance under a guarded canopy. Father Trahan, Father Laforet, Father Eugene Nyong, Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez and several others, including members of the choir, led the procession. The people sang and prayed along the route.
The crowd was made up of 300 to 400 people. Parishioners from St. Mary and from other parishes and groups marched in the procession, some carrying banners.
Phyllis Patrick, a Cathedral parishioner, has attended all three Corpus Christi processions. She makes a point of attending "because I think it shows unity with our parish and the bigger church," Patrick said. "It’s another way to adore the Body of Christ, which is so essential to our faith and to our lives. It’s a wonderful thing to worship the Blessed Sacrament in a group. It just buoys you up. We are all one Body of Christ."
L.J. Smith carried the banner for the Catholic Scripture Study Group, which has met at St. Mary at 7 p.m. every Thursday for the last 12 years.
The Corpus Christi procession "is a beautiful Catholic tradition. It’s so beautiful to see it done more in the United States now," Smith said. Around the world, Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ with processions, prayers and hymns. Particularly in Europe and Latin America, there is a long history of processions on this day.
"It’s a way to show our faith in public as the apostles did," said Dr. Mike Murphy, who also belongs to the Catholic Scripture Study group.
In his homily, during the Mass before the procession, Father Trahan said, "The reason we have the procession on this day is to help us confront reality. In here, we are removed from the world around us. All of the sights and smells of our church make us aware of God. We have to be unafraid to go out into the world. People who look at us from the outside may not understand, may think we look funny. We are bringing Christ out into the world to remind the world that God is the creator, God is the king."
Later in the day, Father Trahan explained further, "We have to own up to our faith. We can’t hide from it. When we receive the Eucharist, we are making a public statement that we believe that this is God."
Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez organized the event, which he considers "very special."
"We are doing it just for Jesus. St. Theresa of Avila said we should protect Jesus by proclaiming him to the world. That’s what we are doing," Deacon Rodriguez said.