WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CNS) — As another wave of Catholic dioceses in the United States plan to reinstate the Sunday Mass obligation in upcoming weeks, Catholic multimedia network Ascension, based in West Chester, has queued up several digital events to help Catholics celebrate and deepen their devotion to the holy Eucharist.
This year the feast of Corpus Christi “will carry an especially poignant meaning as so many of us were separated from our eucharistic Lord for many month,” explained theologian and Ascension author Edward Sri.
The feast of Corpus Christi was instituted for the entire church in 1264 by Pope Urban IV. Also called the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, it honors the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
The first of Ascension’s virtual events to honor the June 6 feast day is already underway: a special novena campaign to pray for a renewed fervor for the Blessed Sacrament. The novena is a partnership between Ascension and PrayMoreNovenas.com, where people can join in.
According to Ascension, thousands are praying along in the United States and other countries around the globe, like England, Australia, Lithuania, Lebanon and India.
“It’s our privilege to help Catholics around the world unite in prayer,” said Jonathan Strate, Ascension’s president and CEO. “The church is universal, and on this feast day which honors the body of Christ, it is truly our honor to help unite that same mystical body in prayer across the globe through digital media.”
In addition, Sri was hosting a June 3 video premiere of “Celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi,” available for free on Ascension’s Facebook and YouTube platforms, which have nearly 1 million followers between them.
“The feast of Corpus Christi has a rich, beautiful history,” said Sri. “This Corpus Christi event will explore some of that history, celebrate stories of both historic and modern-day Catholics who have shown heroic devotion to the body and blood of Jesus, and will end with some suggestions for how Catholics can celebrate this great solemnity in their homes and parishes.”
Traditionally, many U.S. parishes and dioceses celebrate Corpus Christi with outdoor eucharistic processions of the Blessed Sacrament with the faithful singing hymns as they process solemnly.
For those who cannot attend a procession, Sri suggested Catholics can venerate the Blessed Sacrament at church or honor the Eucharist in a particular way among family and friends.
As churches begin to reopen, Sri said, this post-pandemic period offers a chance for Catholics to reacquaint themselves with their Sunday Mass “routine,” which was lost for many with in-person attendance mostly not allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s always worthwhile to study the meaning of the prayers and rituals of the Mass,” said Sri, the author of a small group study program called “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass.” Originally published by Ascension in 2011, it is being released as a revised, 10th anniversary edition.
“But this year we have an opportunity to reunite with the Lord in an especially meaningful way,” he said. “Like a married couple renewing wedding vows, we are invited to say to the Lord, ‘Yes, I still choose to be here with you on Sundays.'”
Retired Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said Sri’s best-selling study program has been “a blessing for thousands over the past decade.” With COVID-19 separating “many of us from Mass for far too long … we need to recommit ourselves to the central act of our faith with passion and joy,” he said.
Added Sri: “There is so much grace waiting for us in the Eucharist, and I’m honored to help Catholics celebrate this year’s Corpus Christi as one of the most meaningful and transformational ones we’ve ever seen.”