Under a cloudless blue sky, more that 2,500 worshipers followed Cardinal O'Connor June 6 as he carried the Blessed Sacrament along the streets surrounding St. Patrick's Cathedral in the third annual procession on the feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ). The procession, including three Benediction ceremonies at temporary altars set up on the cathedral steps, followed a Mass at 3 p.m. celebrating the feast.
Carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a gold monstrance and walking slowly beneath a canopy held by four ushers, the cardinal moved up the main aisle, through the cathedral doors on Fifth Avenue and around the comer to the 50th Street
steps, where he placed the monstrance on an altar between two stands of burning candles. With police blocking off traffic, thousands knelt on the sidewalk and street, singing fervently, the traditional Latin hymns "0 Salutaris" and "Tantum Ergo." Participating was a mix of lay persons from many parishes and priests and religious in an array of habits, a sight that stopped Sunday afternoon tourists and shoppers in their tracks.
"What a tremendous outpouring of the faith," the cardinal said from the Fifth Avenue steps after the ceremony. "This reminds us of God's goodness and that our faith is still alive, very much alive, in the Church of New York."
The ceremonies were organized by the cathedral staff in cooperation with the Office of Evangelization, headed by Msgr. Francis E. Oliverio.
Similar processions took place in vicariates and parishes throughout the archdiocese, at the request of Cardinal O'Connor, who has asked for greater private and public devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
On Staten Island, 200 people attended an outdoor Mass on the grounds of Alba House, run by the Society of St. Paul, and took part in a procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the neighboring streets. Father Frank A. Pavone, international director of Priests for Life, was the main celebrant and homilist. He said that the Blessed Sacrament is really the center of the universe, since the creator of all things is present. The same God who transforms bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ can transform each person into a saint, Father Pavone said.
Alba House has maintained a 24-hour perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel for the past six years, with at least one person present at any time during the day or night.
Deacon James Stahlnecker, who coordinates the chapel schedule, said of the procession, "It was a wonderful sight to see the long line of people following the Blessed Sacrament. How good it is to show our Catholic faith in this way."