Almost 6,000 Catholics gathered to celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist last Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. That’s right: 6,000. The number included more than 1,200 children and their families for a Mass, procession and benediction on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi.
If you hadn’t spoken to one of the children or their parents, chances are you never knew about such a remarkable event in the life of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Regardless of how – or whether – other newspapers or media choose to cover news of the Church, readers of this newspaper can continue to expect unparalleled coverage of local Catholic news.
The feast was significant not only for the outstanding attendance and beautiful liturgy, but for what it signified for the Church.
Preparation for the event began only weeks ago with Cardinal Justin Rigali sending a personal invitation to every child who received first Communion this spring. The children, and their parents, responded in magnificent fashion. The children showed how important the Eucharistic sacrament is to them. They understood the thoughts shared by the Cardinal in his letter: “Jesus loves you very much and desires to share His life with you as often as He can.”
The expression of the children’s simple faith was as evident as the beautiful dresses of the girls or handsome suits of the boys. Also evident was the commitment of so many parents, guardians, grandparents and brothers and sisters of the first communicants. Families from every background and from throughout the Archdiocese prayed together, mingled and shared conversation before and afterward under a glorious blue, sunny sky.
They represented a powerful witness of faith and love for the Eucharist and the Church, not only for each other as Catholics, but also for the curious onlookers in center city. The significance of receiving Christ at Communion, then following the Blessed Sacrament in procession along the streets of Philadelphia, was a powerful reminder for all Catholics of the great gift Jesus offers. Catholic families gathered for this celebration in numbers greater than anyone had seen in many years. They witnessed the unifying power of the Eucharist for each other, and for the entire world.
Love for Jesus in His Church is strong in this Archdiocese. It is a love witnessed by families, led by children. May it always be so.