Help from the readers: Eucharistic procession

I got a question from a reader:

This summer I’ve been assigned to a small rural parish in the diocese … and my pastor and I have been talking about doing a  Corpus Christi procession.  He’s excited by the idea, and I’m gently trying to convince him to do a procession around the downtown block where the church is, rather than just the parking lot … more of a witness to our neighbors.  :)

My question: is a canopy required for a Eucharistic procession?  Every photo I’ve seen online seems to imply yes.  You’re the best person I could think of to ask.  Sorry to bother you with this question … I know you get tons of email and so on.

Secondly (ok that’s two questions!): Is there any official rite for a Eucharistic procession? 

Some of you will have specific information for this questioner.

What I am also interested are stories about how you may have gotten a Eucharistic Procession organized at your parish or chapel.  Let’s have some stories and practical pointers.

Less Chatter – More Processions

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  1. EJ says:

    If I’m correct that you’re probably a deacon or seminarian assigned to a parish using the Novus Ordo, then I would highly recommend Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite by (now Bishop) Peter Elliott (Ignatius Press). There is an appendix which covers Eucharistic processions in detail-and it was instrumental when a friend and I took a similar initiative in our parish as you and your pastor are doing. I don’t think a canopy is specifically required, though using one is laudable if you can. We also urged our pastor to speak with the authorities to allow a procession around our block – it was a wonderful idea and a tremendous witness. Best of luck with this undertaking, I promise you it is well worth the hard work!

  2. Fr Ray Blake says:

    Until we can afford something better we use a canopy made out of a rectangle of sequinned fabric and four painted broomsticks, it almost doesn’t look as bad as it sounds.
    (If anyone has an unwanted proper canopy and/or ombrellino in the UK, a poor parish in Brighton would be grateful.)

  3. TNCath says:

    In our diocese, we have had several Eucharistic processions in parishes. Ironically, these processions have been held in mostly small, inner city parishes, in somewhat “at risk” neighborhoods, which I believe are very effective not only as an act of adoration for the Blessed Sacrament but also as a very powerful means to evangelize the neighborhood. Less chatter indeed! The large, suburban parishes (and certainly NOT our cathedral) have pretty much avoided them. In the ones I have witnessed in our diocese, only one has employed the canopy, in part, I think, because it was the only one that still had one.

  4. EJ says:

    Well since you’re also interested in a story-ours certainly was. My friend and I were altar servers in a suburban parish in the late 1990s. Our circumstances were somewhat unique in that we belonged to a Spanish-speaking community within a larger English-speaking suburban parish. We were the odd minorities, and as is frequently the case with Spanish-speaking Catholic communities, the worship styles are substantially more traditional that your typical American parish in suburbia. The pastor of the parish was very liturgically progressive – felt banners, folk masses, etc, you get the idea.. BUT our associate pastor (assigned to our community) was very orthodox, reform of the reform. The English-speaking community had altar girls, we didn’t – they were two priests with very different styles, and while the pastor did not particularly care for our more traditional manner of worship, he did not interfere with it at all. To make a long story short, my friend and I were given the green light by the associate pastor to help him plan the parish’s first Corpus Christi procession in 25 years. The Pastor himself was not thrilled about it, but in the end was ambivalent, he simply ignored the whole project as one more odd thing us hispanics wanted to do. Our supportive associate hinted that he had priest-friends at several parishes in our diocese who might be willing to lend us vestments (ours were very ugly), torches, and a rarely seen canopy. I was only 17 at the time, and had had my license for just a week! My friend, my beat-up used honda, and my very bad driving went all over the diocese borrowing what we would need for the procession, and it was truly God’s will, because everything seemed to fall right into place. My friend and I rounded up our community’s servers and rehearsed the solemn Mass and procession with our associate pastor. Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite by then-Msgr. Peter Elliott was our guide and proved invaluable to our efforts. When the Feast finally came, everything went flawlessly, we processed around our parish’s block to the delight of many, especially passers by. The pastor did not want to make a big deal about it, again he preferred to simply ignore it as a “cultural” thing our community wanted to do, and which provided him the opportunity to come across as culturally sensitive. He did not allow us to annonce the procession to the larger community, but nevertheless, word got out, and the parish was packed with members of both communities, it was a unifying event -and while the Mass was in Spanish, our associate also spoke in English, and used the opportunity to preach a very beautiful homily on the Eucharist, the Sacred Liturgy, and the importance of fidelity to liturgical norms. Everyone understood the language of beauty and reverence that was finally restored that day. Honestly, along with the day of my First Communion, that day has been one of the happiest in my life. Now ten or so years later, when I consider the great gift to the Church that Summorum Pontificum is, and the liturgical changes at the Vatican and around the world, I remember our modest efforts on that Corpus Christi, I smile and marvel at how the tide has turned.

  5. Ricardo Aleixo says:

    This was always one of the grandest processions held in my home town in Portugal. We cover the path of the procession with elaborate carpets of flower petals that only the priest bearing the Most Blessed Sacrament was permitted to walk on. I have never seen the Blessed Sacrament in a procession without a canopy or an ombrellino, not even on Holy Thursday.

    I belive you do require canopy or an ombrellino along with some torches, at least two? If you do not have theese things, they can always be borrowed from a sister parish for the day. We lent out one of our canopies a few times, they where grateful and they returned within a day or two.

  6. My parish has had Eucharistic processions through the neighborhood in the past. It has been quite a wonderful witness to the Faith we have in our Eucharistic Lord. We are in one of those “at risk” neighborhoods mentioned above, and right near a college campus, so these times are a wonderful opportunity to bear the light of Christ into the world.

    We do not have, and so have not used a canopy, but that doesn’t speak to the Norms. I’d think that it was addressed in the Rituale Romanum, though I don’t have access to it right now.

    Finally, the most amazing of all the Eucharistic processions I have witnessed was at the Eucharistic Congress in Chicago in August 2005. I had the privilege of bringing a group of junior high school boys to Grant Park, where, with thousands of other Catholics, we were able to worship Christ in his Eucharistic presence and witness to the Faith to the city. It was quite a moving experience.

  7. Patrick says:

    I found this to be a very helpful document. It gives the exact order of things from the end of Mass to the procession itself. It’s taken from the Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite by Msgr. Peter Elliott.

    I just asked the pastor, “will you carry the monstrance?” He said “of course”, so we’re putting it together.

  8. Anon says:

    Thanks for the tips, and Fr. Z, thanks for posting this… EJ: Yep, this is my seminarian summer assignment, and it is a Novus Ordo parish. The Ceremonials of the Roman Rite is in the office too! :)

  9. ordinary catholic says:

    EJ, that was a wonderful story! Thank you and God bless you.

  10. To answer your first question: No, the canopy is not obligatory, however, it certainly adds dignity and reverence. But I would not let not having a canopy stop the procession.

    As for having a procession around the block, I would check with the city about getting permission to close off the streets temporarily. This shows you are going through the proper channels and also helps keep people safe. Some cities might require a permit for something like that.

    I also highly recommend Peter Elliott’s as well as “Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year” although what you need is in #’s 695 – 711 of “Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite”.

    There is also a book of the actual rites called “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass” which also has info on Eucharistic processions. It is something any parish should have.

    Overall, I would say the most important part is to have the procession. If you have to scale it back to just around the parking lot without a canopy, I would say that is still a start. As Fr. Z has been saying “brick by brick” or in the case of a procession “step by step”

    Many blessings!

  11. leo says:

    umbrella if the procession is inside the church , canopy if its outside

  12. Jason in San Antonio says:

    Fr. Blake,

    In this age of I-don’t-have-something-where-can-I-buy-one, I love your parish’s ingenuity in simply making an umbrellino. What a healthy sign. And I’ll bet yours isn’t the first to reuse broomsticks and leftover fancy fabric.

  13. Fr. Upnorth says:

    Where does one purchase a canopy? Or how can make one? Does anyone know?

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