Peonies. I think of peonies whenever it’s Corpus Christi Sunday.
In our church at St. John the Baptist in Meire Grove, we have a Corpus Christi procession immediately following the final blessing at Mass that takes us out of the church building, down the sidewalk, along the road and out to the four corners of the cemetery. The priest carries the monstrance flanked by four parishioners, each carrying a corner of the canopy over Father to protect the Blessed Sacrament from the sun. The procession is led by the Meire Grove band, the church choir and young girls dressed in their Sunday finest dropping flower petals. With three daughters and Corpus Christi falling between late May and mid-June, peonies were usually the only flower blooming in any abundance that I didn’t mind having them pick to fill their baskets.
The Solemnity the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The name “Corpus Christi” is Latin for “the Body of Christ.” On the website of the BBC, I learned that this jubilant festival is celebrated by Roman Catholics and other Christians to proclaim the truth of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Mass.
Corpus Christi falls on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday (60 days after Easter). In some countries the feast is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. In Meire Grove, it will be celebrated following the 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 23.
Christians already mark the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist, on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). But, because Maundy Thursday falls during the solemn period of Holy Week, it was thought necessary to have a separate festival of the Eucharist that would allow the celebration not to be muted by sadness.
The feast was inspired by the religious experience of St. Juliana (1193-1258), a Belgian nun, who dreamed repeatedly of the Church under a full moon with a black spot. According to legend, the dream was interpreted to her in a vision by Christ. The moon, she said, was the Church’s calendar of festivals and the black spot was the lack of a festival to celebrate the holiest element of the Church — the Eucharist. Juliana shared this with her local bishop, who in 1246 issued a decree for such a festival to be celebrated in his territory. It was instituted throughout the Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264.
While on a recent mission trip to Guatemala, Deacon Jim Schulzetenberg of Greenwald witnessed several processions that reminded him of Corpus Christi. He commented, “Processions are a public display of Catholic faith in action. I think they are a good way to bring more life into the Catholic Church. Corpus Christi is the Body of Christ. Who and what is that other than the Blessed Host and the faithful people of God? It is fitting to bring them together in a public display of worship, such as a procession.”
If you have never experienced a Corpus Christi procession, I would invite you to find one nearby or join us in Meire Grove. Since we as Catholics believe the consecrated host contains the real presence of Christ, the Corpus Christi celebration is our way of treating the Body of Christ the way it should be treated — with reverence, ceremony and adoration.
Rita Meyer married into the uniqueness of life in Stearns County when she met her beau some 20- plus years ago. Together they raise chickens, children (four of them) and vegetables on their farm just outside of Meire Grove. When she’s not picking green beans by the 5-gallon pail, she can be found on her blue bike, in the kitchen baking or carpooling kids to their next activity