In Layman's Terms - Bob Sullivan

Preaching without words: an invitation

Apologetics by Bob Sullivan 

The culture around us is moving further and further away from God. Well-funded groups publicly denounce God, while promoting hedonism, consumerism and immorality. Some groups even lobby for laws and file lawsuits to force Christian images, monuments and expressions out of the public realm. They also force doctors and emergency pregnancy centers to provide contraception and abortion referrals. Some states now require florists, photographers and bakers to help celebrate lifestyle choices that fly in the face of their personal faith in God.

Yet the vast majority of Americans believe in God, profess Christianity and recognize the First Amendment’s protection of our freedom to express our religious beliefs. The problem is, fewer and fewer of us are comfortable expressing our faith outside the four walls of our home or our church. Too many Christians misinterpret the meaning of a “personal” relationship with Christ to mean a “private” relationship. Jesus did not suffer humiliation, torture and an agonizingly painful death so I can safely have a secret friendship with Him.

In a day and age in which martyrdom is once again a common reality in certain places in the world, those of us who still enjoy the freedom of expressing our faith have an even greater obligation to do so with confidence, courage and a bit of boldness. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most beautiful and powerful ways hearkens back more than 900 years.

In the late 11th century, Christians first began to solemnly process through their villages, towns and cities, with the Blessed Sacrament. In the 13th century, Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi. While Eucharistic processions were not limited to the date of the Feast of Corpus Christi, this became the most prominent day of the year for Eucharistic processions. Eventually, processions became an iconic sign of Catholic life. If you lived in a community or city with any amount of a Catholic population, you would witness and likely participate in one or more processions through your neighborhood each year.

Even as recent as 50 years ago, Eucharistic processions were common in all the large cities in the United States, especially cities with first and second generation Catholic immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Mexico. The media and entertainment industry had no qualms about incorporating video footage of Eucharistic processions in their segments, shows and movies.

Even rural communities had Eucharistic processions until the 1950s faded into the 1960s.

At that point something changed and even the processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi experienced a reduction in size and scope. Many parishes, neighborhoods and cultural groups retained the tradition, but for most of us, we grew up with little or no exposure to a truly traditional Eucharistic procession.

I saw a traditional procession while visiting New York City several years ago. It was the feast of a nearby Catholic church and the entire parish was out, celebrating the Catholic faith. At first, I wondered if it was a little irreverent, but then as I saw the people passing by, praying, singing and glorifying God, I realized it was beautiful and true. It was a bold, public, powerful, proclamation that Jesus Christ is King and we are forever blessed to be the beloved sons and daughters of His Father.

On the 13th of May through October, this year, there have been processions at one or more parishes in the diocese to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. If you have been blessed to participate in one or more of these, you already know the grace made available to us as we honor God in these processions.

Eucharistic processions are returning to our culture, and just in the nick of time. People accepted processions if they didn’t appreciate them before the 1960s. Today, people can have a distinct reaction to processions in which the Eucharist is carried through town. Some flee, others snicker or gawk, but some likely feel that last tug they need to return to God.

St. Cecilia in Hastings has practiced the traditional Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi each year. But Oct. 28, Bishop James Conley is going to lead a much longer procession from Holy Cross Chapel in what was once the Crosier Monastery to St. Cecilia. This procession will be the first time the Blessed Sacrament has processed for more than a few blocks in a long time in Hastings. We will reverently process slightly more than a mile, through neighborhoods, parks, down a hike-and-bike trail, up one of the most heavily traveled streets in Hastings, and directly to the altar in St. Cecilia.

Best of all, you are invited.

If you want to experience a palpable receipt of grace, deepen your love of Christ, witness the power and glory of God to a pagan world and send Satan running away, join the shepherd of the Diocese of Lincoln Oct. 28. In doing so, you will be participating in a Christian tradition that is nearly 1,000 years old, you will participate in the Christian obligation to spread the Good News and you will experience communion with the Messiah and mere mortals who desire to help build the Kingdom of God on earth, right in the middle of a culture which has gone astray.

The procession begins at 4 p.m. at 14th and North Pine, in Hastings. After the procession, Bishop Conley will celebrate the vigil Mass at St. Cecilia. This is all part of the “Fatima & Tomorrow” event which begins at 1 p.m. and hosts Bishop Conley, Father Scott Courtney, Doug Barry and Teresa Monaghen as speakers. The whole event is free and you can come to all of it or just a portion. To register or to gather more information, go to or call 402-469-5149.

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