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Invited to the Party-Corpus Christi

alec vanderboom

I had a rough time at my first Corpus Christi procession. I had high expectations for Sunday’s march. Most of my life, I spent as Protestant, with a mere slip of the true grander of the "Last Supper" to hang on to each Sunday. I had no idea that Jesus was patiently sitting in the real Eucharist, waiting for me to show up for adoration.

After falling in love with Adoration this year, I had high hopes for the joy of singing in my first Corpus Christi procession. This Verse from St. Thomas Aquinas's "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" (1227-1274) jumped out at me during choir practice:

"Word made flesh, the bread of nature
By his word to flesh he turns;
Wine into his blood he changes,
What though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest.
Faith it's lesson quickly learns."

"Ah, that line 'What though sense no change discerns? really captures my new feelings towards the Eucharist," I thought during our practice. "I can't wait to belt that question out loudly during the Procession next Sunday!"

Of course, the reality of trying to sing a 13th Century medieval chant while helping my husband shepard three children across a highway proved challenging. Since there were only ten choir members and my family crew is understandably a little slow, I quickly lost my place in the alto section. Surrounded by non-singing a 100 non-singing parishioners, I kept losing the thread of the melody and pitch became a huge problem.

Then, Hannah accidentally stepped on my left foot drawing blood.
Now I had to limp across a major-highway while trying to stay in time and in tune. A kind Legion of Mary member noticed our distress and took over the stroller with the sleeping Maria from my husband. That gave Jon two hands to hold a wiggly 3 year old who kept trying to dart into traffic.

In the midst of verse number four of Pange Lingua, Maria wakes up. The baby sees an unfamiliar face above her, and starts wailing. Nothing will stop her cries. That left me to hold the wailing baby, hold the hand of tired 5 year old and jiggle the photocopied packet of hymns.

When we finally arrive to the open field to kneel reverently in front of the monstrance, I feel anything but reverent. My knees hurt in the uneven ground. The baby is heavy to hold and fussy. She won’t let me put her down in the grass. I’ve forgotten to pack her sun-hat. I keep repositioning her baby blanket to shield her tender Irish skin from the sun as I vigorously jiggle her up and down.

About the time that I apologize mentally to Jesus and reposition myself from a reverent kneel into an awkward squat, I hear my husband call out “You need to sit still Hannah. That is the really Jesus sitting up on that porch. This is not pretend!”
That comment sort of slices through me. This is really Jesus, and I know it. I’m still having to sit down, instead of kneeling, I’m still saying “sh, sh!” to a baby instead of reverently singing the closing part of Pangis Angelius. Even if Jesus in his full glory sat on the parish rectorary porch, I’d still be lost!

I get this depressing mental image of being one of the blessed one sitting at Jesus feet while he shared the Sermon on the Mount. I’d be the one worried about my scratchy tunic and worried about my fussy baby. I’d miss most of his words completely.

I go home and fall in bed completely depressed. “I stunk today!” I told my husband. “I didn’t get to praise Jesus at all.”

Then my loving spouse, with the full wisdom of the Holy Spirit gives me a tender chat. “Abby, that Corpus Christi Procession, was for the rest of the world. The world that DOESN'T know that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. You and I have a standing invitation to come visit him any time.”

“In fact, let’s go see Him right now.” With that, my husband pulls me out of bed and takes me back to Adoration. This time, it’s just me and Jesus in the Adoration chapel. No fussy baby’s to hold. No painful places to kneel. I’m not much better at dropping deep into contemplative prayer this second time, but I get some graces never the less.

That’s my Jesus. Always willing to meet me where I am, and lending me the graces necessary to run towards His Holy Presence.