Corpus Christi Retrospective Part 2:
In Procession

An anonymous bishop once famously prescribed a remedy for many of the problems facing the modern Church with the words “less jabbering – more processions“. He was not wrong.

In one sense, of course, processions form the structure of the entire liturgy: we begin with an entrance procession (introit), and there are processions for the Gospel, the offertory, and perhaps most strikingly, communion. In each case, we walk towards the altar of God, towards the (liturgical) east.

Perhaps this is why ad Orientem worship seems so natural to me – it’s building on the theme of our pilgrim church travelling together and awaiting the Lord together.

During the course of the year, we have other opportunities for procession, including some that take place partially outside the church building. Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil come immediately to mind.

But Eucharistic processions take this to a whole other level. Not only are we poor pilgrims journeying in search of our heavenly homeland, we are ourselves bringing the Lord to the people in the streets.

Corpus Christi Procession, Holy Rosary and St Joseph, Tacoma, 2016 (photo by Emily Gossard)
Corpus Christi Procession, Holy Rosary and St Joseph, Tacoma, 2016
(photo by Emily Gossard)

It is the ultimate form of evangelization, because despite all of the preparation and rehearsal we might do, it is not us but Jesus Himself who does the preaching. What use are mere words when here we have the Word Himself?

Less jabbering. More processions.

This is the fourth year our little parish in Tacoma has teamed up with the little parish across the freeway to process from one to the other and back.

Holy Rosary / St. Joseph Tacoma Corpus Christ Procession, 2013
Holy Rosary / St. Joseph Tacoma Corpus Christ Procession, 2013

It’s always exciting when we cross the long bridge over I-5.

This year, however, there was a key difference, and that difference is an important one for Tacoma and, indeed, the entire Archdiocese.

Rev. Michael Stinson, FSSP
Rev. Michael Stinson, FSSP
Last year, our partner parish of Saint Joseph became an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter under the care of a new pastor, Rev. Michael Stinson, FSSP.

They are the first parish in Tacoma to exclusively offer the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite – what some call the “traditional Latin Mass”.

It’s no secret that a tension exists between many traditionalists on the one hand and some diocesan priests and officials and ordinary Catholics on the other.

There is an opinion amongst some of those who came of their liturgical age in the 1970s and 1980s that the Extraordinary Form is hopelessly old-fashioned and retrograde and that the traditionalists are bitter old sourpusses who want to “turn back the clock” on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Very Rev. Nicholas Wichert (photo by Emily Gossard)
Very Rev. Nicholas Wichert
(photo by Emily Gossard)
On the other side, there are traditionalists who veer off into trap of denigrating the Council and even declaring that the Ordinary Form is invalid or possibly even heretical. When they see the Novus Ordo Mass, they see only clown Masses and puppet shows.

Mind you, these folks are a small minority of both sides, but they are a vocal and powerful minority. And there’s just enough of a smidgen of truth to both sets of accusations to set weak hearts aflutter.

So how should the two communities of these two Forms of the Roman Rite interact? With charity would be a good start. Beyond that, Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter to the bishops in 2007 said,

It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching

(Pope Benedict XVI, emphasis mine)

This very liturgical Pope says that two Forms should be mutually enriching. In his letter, the Pope goes on to talk about the sort of minutiae that only liturgists normally care about, but what does “mutually enriching” look like on the ground?

It looks like this:

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the parishes of Holy Rosary and Saint Joseph in Tacoma, Corpus Christi 2016 (photo by Emily Gossard)
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the parishes of Holy Rosary and Saint Joseph in Tacoma, Corpus Christi 2016
(photo by Emily Gossard)

Two parish communities and two priests of two Forms of the Roman Rite coming together to worship the One God, using every human element at their disposal for that which is beautiful, good, and true.

Less jabbering. More processions.

Fr. Stinson, a corps of altar servers, and many parishioners arrived at Holy Rosary during Communion at our noon Mass.

Together, the two communities adored the Lord, and then Fr. Wichert our pastor carried the monstrance containing our Eucharistic Lord through the streets in procession.

At St. Joseph, Fr. Wichert offered Benediction. In Latin.

On the way back to Holy Rosary, it was Fr. Stinson’s turn, and once we had arrived at Holy Rosary, it was Fr. Stinson who offered Benediction.

Fr. Wichert holds the ombrellino over Fr. Stinson, who carries our Eucharistic Lord (photo by Emily Gossard)
Fr. Wichert holds the ombrellino over Fr. Stinson, who carries our Eucharistic Lord into Holy Rosary church
(photo by Emily Gossard)

While Fr. Wichert reposed the Eucharist in the tabernacle, Fr. Stinson and some of his congregation chanted a short, but beautiful and haunting hymn.

The entire procession was an overwhelming experience.

Less jabbering. More processions.

Were there problems caused by differences in tradition? Well, sure. Heck, there were glitches caused by all sorts of last-minute changes and misunderstandings, too. We are dealing with human beings here, after all!

But all of these pale in comparison to this: we were unified in faith and unified in intent. And it was clear that both pastors approached this in a spirit of goodwill, cooperation, and unity. And upwards of 250 parishioners from both parishes walked in the procession.

I very much hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful new phase of the friendship between the people of these two parishes, and not the coda at the end of the symphony.

Because this is mutual enrichment between two communities in love with the Lord and their Catholic faith, and it is achieved by less jabbering – by a reliance on the Word of God and not on our own feeble human words – and more processions.

(photo by Greg Cook)
(photo by Greg Cook)