Corpus Christi

In Rome we get to celebrate Corpus Christi twice. The Vatican celebrates it on Thursday but the bishop’s conference (CEI) celebrates it on Sunday. Some brothers go out to a few towns such as Orvieto on Sunday but this year I stayed back. Thursday, however, is a different story.

After an afternoon snack we took a slow bus ride across the center of old Rome to St John Lateran. I went in one door of the Church and realized that the rest of the community went in the other side, the brother with me said we should go back out and circle around but on a whim I suggested asking the Swiss Guards to let us cross the barricaded center, I walked over and before I said anything they waved me across with their hand.

We still had over an hour before Mass, so I tried to pray my rosary and read a spiritual book. As I put my rosary in my pocket to say the litanies, a priest beside me struck up a conversation and we talked most of the time till mass.

He was from Chile and is spending a few months in Rome on sabbatical. But after he found out that he was surrounded by Legionaries, he asked a bunch of questions about us. When he got to “which Legionaries here are from Chile?” my mind went totally blank and even asking a few brothers around me didn’t solve the problem. Fortunately after a few minutes we remembered at least a few.

Benedict XVI is an example in how he celebrates mass. Being on the side of the altar, we could see him in a perfect profile at the altar just looking about 30 yards ahead.

The procession, however, really makes Corpus Christi unique. In Rome, the procession makes a big S-turn leaving St John’s and then goes straight for about a mile to St Mary Major’s. The Pope leads the way, kneeling before the monstrance on a modified car the whole way. We all walk behind but there aren’t really columns or anything resembling them – it’s each for himself.

I started probably 75 yards behind the Pope but I want to be closer so I would try to look for little holes to the right or left to move up in, and I think I probably got to about 50 yards away by the end.

On the way down the street it caught my eye to see many people had put Eucharistic banners out their windows and candles on the windowsill for when the Pope passed – the one little Church on the way had a 10 foot wood cut-out image of a monstrance in front. But on the other hand, looking again, most of the windows were closed and the shutters drawn. These people don’t want the joy of Christ; or, they can’t stand the sting to their consciences.

When we got to St Mary Major, most of the courtyard was taken up by some adoration sodalities that must have gone ahead of the Holy Father (I saw them entering St John Lateran and then at St Mary’s 3 hours later). I got right up to the barricade but realized I was surrounded by about 20 nuns in different habits – blue, brown, black, and white. Looking over, I saw some other Legionaries about 10 yards away, but ten yards is quite a distance in standing-room only. I received the Holy Father’s benediction, and then, as I was leaving, I ended up right beside where the car driving Benedict back to the Vatican passed to wave good-bye.

About Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC

In 2001, I traveled from Calgary, Canada to join the Legion. Since then I’ve been all over North America and spent some time in Rome. I currently reside in Washington doing a bunch of writing and taking care of the community while studying my Licentiate in Theology (between Masters and Doctorate). I’m most well-known on Instagram and Twitter where I have about 6,500 and 40,000 followers respectively.
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One Response to Corpus Christi

  1. Francois M-D says:

    Brother Matthew,

    I am glad you had the opportunity to participate in such a celebration. Am I envious? A little bit but one day I’ll be in Rome sometimes between Easter and Corpus Christi, that’s for sure.

    It probably is a coincidence but in his last post Jim mentions the Gay Pride Parade while in yours, you describe a beautiful Corpus Christi procession in the streets of Rome. When I was a kid, we used to have those processions of the «Fete Dieu», as we say in French, in every city. I would walk proudly beside my father, That was like a Christian Pride Parade. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to rehabilitate those public demonstrations of faith, the kind of courage Christ had.

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