Bell chimes and sacred music filled the blustery air on Sunday, June 3rd as more than one hundred Saint Mary Mokena parishioners set out on their third annual Corpus Christi procession, an ancient Catholic tradition brought to new life in the southwest suburbs these past few years. The solemnity celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist
The procession began immediately after the 11 am Corpus Christi Sunday Mass. The celebrant, Father Raed Bader, exposed the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass and began the procession outside.
Led by two Knights of Columbus, the procession included beautiful sacred music from all four Saint Mary choirs: Adult, Chamber, St. Cecilia Schola and Children’s Choir. “It was wonderful to have all four of our choirs participate in this most sacred procession on such a gorgeous day,” says Anna Pacek, Director of Sacred Music at St. Mary. “We chose to sing pieces such as “Oh Lord I am not Worthy” and “O Sacrament Most Holy” because they are beautiful, traditional Eucharistic hymns.”
In addition to the sacred music, the procession included three bell ringers who heralded the coming of the Blessed Sacrament with regular chimes. Both Father Bader and Father Dindo Billote, pastor of St. Mary, took turns carrying the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament under a special canopy to three altars and then finally down the half-mile stretch to the old Saint Mary church on Wolf Road.
Each altar stop included a Gospel reading and sacred music to allow processors time to reflect on the Eucharist. “The importance of Corpus Christi is to venerate our Blessed Sacrament, our Lord Jesus, in the species of the bread that we consecrate,” says Father Billote. “Jesus said that ‘This is My Body,’ and we as Roman Catholics believe that.”
Along the way, about 15 recent First Communicants sprinkled flower petals on the road, which is a time-honored tradition on Corpus Christi. The feast dates back to the 13th century when St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon had a divine vision instructing her to help get the solemnity instituted. It was adopted in the Catholic Church over the next several decades.
The procession culminated at the old St. Mary Church, built in 1864. Father Billote presided over Benediction and reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. The congregation, stretching outside due to insufficient room inside the little wooden church, concluded by singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
Although common in Catholic countries around the world, Corpus Christi processions had become rare in many American churches over the past several decades. St. Mary Mokena has slowly begun to change that in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and the custom seems to gain strength with each successive year.
Watch the video from the procession below: