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Written by Alan Hustak VMO
Friday June 5th, 2015

Thousands of the faithful took to the streets of Montreal on June 4 for the annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ which traditionally takes place the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

Archbishop Christian Lepine celebrated Mass at Cathédrale Marie- Reine-du-Monde before leading the congregation out of the Cathedral  in a candlelit procession down  Ste. Catherine Street to St. Patrick’s Basilica for Benediction.

The idea of an outdoor demonstration of faith was revived in Montreal 15 years ago, but this is only the second year that the Blessed Sacrament was paraded along St. Catherine Street, the city’s main downtown thoroughfare.

Until 2000 the celebration had been a modest affair in and around Place d’Armes outside Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal.

“There was definitely a buzz from the crowds in the streets, a curiosity from the people on the sidewalk,” said Tom Altenburg, one of the Knights of Columbus who walked beside the archbishop. “A lot of people wondered, ‘what is this?’  But there was no animosity, just an overall sense of genuine awe, of total surprise. ”

Archbishop  Lepine told an overflow crowd that it had gathered for the evening to receive the love of Christ.

“We walk behind the Blessed sacrament to demonstrate that we are faithful to Him, ” he said, reminding those present that it is not always easy for us to be faithful.  “We all want love,  hope to love, but at the same time it is difficult… for love is to want to be faithful,  and it is not always easy to be faithful, not always easy to love Jesus.  But nothing is stronger than the unconditional love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for an alliance with us.”

It was the fifteenth year the local Roman Catholic community has revived the event with a street procession.  Organizer Rev. Peter Sabbath, says the annual event has become “a fantastic opportunity to bring Christ to people who have no connection to the church.”

Both churches were packed not only with local parishioners but with people from around the world. A couple from Tucson, Arizona, joined in the service because they had never been to one before.   Juan Mireles and Diana Clarisse  Montano  Navarro said they share the experience of Corpus Christi from their youth in Mexico where such processions are common.  A family of seven from Colombia were attending for their first time in Montreal.  Similarly, a young man from France attending his first Corpus Christi Procession in Montreal said even in a secular society it is important for Catholics to profess their faith openly and without fear. “People sometimes look at you strangely when you do that,” he said, “But it is important for Catholics to stand up and be counted.”

Tourists in town for the Grand Prix took pictures as the monstrance passed by,  some shoppers paused to watch  in respectful silence, but a few in the crowd were heard to complain because of  blocked traffic.

The custom of a street procession began in the 13th century when Juliana of Liège, a  Belgian nun, petitioned her local bishop to set aside a day for the special veneration of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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