Sunday, June 10, 2007

Therefore We Before Him Bending: A Eucharistic Procession at St. Peter's

Several years ago, at the annual colloquium of the Church Music Association of America, Dr. William Mahrt spoke about the various processions that took place at Salisbury Cathedral in the Medieval era, Eucharistic processions being foremost among them. What would it have been like to have been there for one of these processions? I've always wondered and imagined.

On Saturday evening I wandered over to St. Peter's in Merchantville, New Jersey and got a glimpse of what it might have been like in those days so many years ago in the fields at Fort Sarum. After the Vigil Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi, the faithful of the parish processed around the neighborhood, and there was triple Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament--once in the parish parking lot, another time on a private lawn, and finally at the church. The Verdi Band from Norristown, PA played traditional hymns, and many in the train sang along from memory. Neighbors gawked, dogs stood still, and the grace of God poured out over this little town.

As we turned the last corner on the procession, the new (2003 A.D.) bells of St. Peter's--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--pealed as the band continued to play. One could not escape the impression that we were in a parade, a parade more festive--and surely more important--than any civic parade. Our Guest must have been pleased. Inside the church, at the final Benediction, the congregation lifted the roof singing O Salutaris. It was a moment of devastating beauty.

The Lord is working great deeds through the people at St. Peter's. One might wonder how it is all accomplished. Toward the end of the evening, I found the key that unlocks the whole mystery--the entrance to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

To the people of St. Peter's and to their pastor, Fr. Manuppella, I say, May God continue to prosper your work. May your Eucharistic witness plant seeds of belief in those who doubt. May the glorious bells of your church cast out the evil spirits of cynicism and unbelief, and may you continue to fall in love with the Divine Lover who loved us to the end and gave us His Body and Blood as a pledge of our future glory.

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