Corpus Christi celebrations

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The moveable feast of Corpus Christi, officially known as the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, was instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264 and is a public acknowledgement of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The official day of the feast is the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, most dioceses transfer the celebration to the following Sunday. The eucharistic procession usually occurs after Mass, with a return to the church for Benediction.

The Corpus Christi procession is popular in the Arlington Diocese, with nearly 15 parishes - including St. Michael Church in Annandale, St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax, St. Veronica in Chantilly, St. John the Baptist in Front Royal, St. John the Apostle in Leesburg and St. John the Beloved in McLean - holding the event May 29.

It's been an annual event for St. John the Beloved for years, but it was held for the first time in 10 years at St. Michael, where Father Richard T. Carr, parochial vicar, led the procession.

Most parishes held their procession in the early afternoon. St. John the Beloved waited until after the 5 p.m. Mass - and it rained. Even with the inclement weather, the church was packed with worshippers.

After Mass, Father Christopher J. Pollard, pastor, led by a Knights of Columbus honor guard, was joined by first communicants, students of St. John Academy and the congregation as he processed with the Blessed Sacrament to a temporary altar erected in the lower church parking lot.

Young girls, each holding a single red rose lined, the path from the church to the temporary altar. There were small baskets of rose petals that were to be scattered along the path in front of the monstrance held by Father Pollard, but the rain made that part impractical.

During adoration at the altar, the faithful, many with umbrellas opened, stood solemnly as Father Pollard raised the monstrance and everyone bowed their heads in reverence.

After adoration, Father Pollard processed back to the church for Benediction.

In his homily, Father Pollard said that adoration focuses our attention on God and that His presence is the reason we are in church at Mass.

The presence of so many people willing to process in the rain was no surprise to parishioner Michelle Holoubek, who said that it's a testament to the parishioners and the pastor.

"Father Pollard has made it his mission to bring the community together," she said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016