WILMINGTON — Catholics from around the Diocese of Wilmington joined Bishop Koenig to kick off a three-year Eucharistic Revival June 19 at St. Peter’s Cathedral and other churches downtown. The revival is a three-year grassroots effort of devotion and belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The cathedral was filled with people, as well as the smell of incense, for Mass with Bishop Koenig and several priests of the diocese, along with seminarians, permanent deacons and lay leaders. The Mass and procession occurred on the feast of the Corpus Christi, a day of celebration and reverence of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
The feast of the Corpus Christi comes two weeks after Pentecost Sunday and a week after the celebration of God the father, the bishop said.
“Today, the third in our trifecta of feasts, celebrates the source and summit of our lives as Christians, the gift of Jesus Christ’s body and blood,” he said.
Bishop Koenig said St. Thomas Aquinas used the miracle of the loaves and the fishes to help explain the real presence. The substance changes, although the bread and fish remain the same. It is the only miracle story aside from the Resurrection that is in each of the four gospels.
“At first sight, it might appear to be just one more miracle story. In the early church, however, it was a very significant one, insofar as it told them and it told us about the Eucharist,” Bishop Koenig said.
We are reminded at Mass, as Jesus said, to “do this in remembrance of me.” We do that, the bishop continued, by joining together, as one church and in our own small communities or parishes, and celebrating the Eucharist each Sunday.
St. John Paul II noted how the faithful gather each week, saying the church draws its life from the sacrifice of Jesus. Not only do we look back to what occurred, the late pope said, but we also look for context “since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister,” Bishop Koenig said.
In processing through the streets of Wilmington following the Mass, he continued, the Diocese of Wilmington would be joining with parishes and dioceses around the world. Pope Benedict XVI, in 2008, offered Mass on the feast of the Corpus Christi with a procession afterward.
“In walking in such a procession, we are moving behind the one who is the way and the one who frees us from our paralysis and enables us to proceed by taking step after step,” Bishop Koenig said.
“We know that we walk with Jesus.”
After Mass, the crowd moved to Sixth Street in front of the cathedral. After an initial group of priests and others, Bishop Koenig carried the monstrance as a canopy was held over his head. Behind him, a few hundred faithful, including babies on strollers and at least one person using a walker, followed on a comfortable afternoon with no humidity. A few city residents looked on from their doorways or apartment buildings, and the procession passed several people enjoying a meal and a drink outside on Market Street.
With seminarian James Gebhart leading, the group sang hymns as it moved toward St. Patrick’s Church at 15th and King streets. Wilmington police provided an escort along the route.
At St. Pat’s, Father Joseph McQuaide read a gospel from John, and the group spent time in quiet and spoken prayer before moving on to St. Joseph’s Church on French Street. There, they heard a reading from Luke’s gospel and sang some hymns, led by a few members of the Diocesan Gospel Choir. They also had time for adoration.
The afternoon concluded with closing prayers and remarks from Bishop Koenig back at St. Peter’s Cathedral. And even though it was not an especially hot day, many of those in attendance found their way to the cathedral courtyard for water ice.