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By Msgr. Charles Pope, June 18, 2019
Sunday, June 23, I will have the privilege of carrying the Lord Jesus in a Corpus Christi procession through the heart of the Capitol Hill area in Washington, D.C. We have named it “Corpus Christi in the Capital.” It will begin at 1:00 PM at my parish (Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church, 1357 East Capitol St. SE) and proceed for approximately one mile, past the Capitol and Supreme Court, ending at St. Joseph’s Church (313 2nd St. NE). I have long desired to do this, and God-willing we will process this Sunday.
Allow a brief reflection on our purpose and our privilege to process with our Lord.
For the past twelve years I have pastored a parish in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It is a location that inspires both awe and anger. It is the epicenter of power in our country, power for both great good and great evil. Yet here we are as well, the Church. There are two other parishes in the area: St Peter’s, to the south (the House side), and St. Joseph’s, to the north (the Senate side). My parish, Holy Comforter, is located due east of the Capitol.
In my years here I have been privileged and challenged to give weekly bible studies, both in the Capitol and at the White House. I spent four years preaching and teaching in the Capitol during the 1990s and five years at the White House (2003-2008). It was both a wonderful opportunity and a heavy responsibility to represent Christ in these places where great decisions were and are made.
Political sea changes occur frequently in this town. My ability to walk those halls changed after 2008, but that did not end my ability to spread God’s Word. My primary pulpit is always my parish, but in recent years my writing and my radio work have grown. I also walk this neighborhood and pray for life in front of a Planned Parenthood center (I refuse to call it a clinic) along with members of five area parishes. God is always opening doors even if our task is tragic and painful; thank you, Lord. In these ways, I (and many others) have tried to manifest the Lord’s presence in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
This year, we plan to do something new yet at the same time old.There’s a 1970s Doobie Brothers song that talks about “takin’ it to the streets.” This year, I will walk, along with Catholic Men United and others, and take Jesus to the streets. Yes, Sunday June 23, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we will take Jesus to the street—East Capitol Street, to be specific.
We will process up a street where many protesters have walked before, past the homes of believers as well as non-believers, past rainbow flags as well as Madonnas in front yards, past the homes of members of Congress and “ordinary” folks as well.
There will be believers who will rejoice as we walk past and non-believers who will wonder what we are doing and perhaps scoff at us. But the Lord loves them all and wants to save their souls. We will walk in love and witness.
Though we will sing and pray, our testimony will be more visual than verbal. We will honor the One who makes everything possible. Jesus will be carried by priests of the Church with great solemnity, under a canopy of honor, surrounded by six torchbearers, and accompanied by the sounds of praise and adoration and the smell of incense.
In a town accustomed to motorcades with revving motorcycle engines and blaring sirens that seem to say, “Get out of our way,” this procession will be at a more leisurely, prayerful pace. Its message is more tender, even if it delays people for a moment:
“He who loves you and died for you is passing by. He is calling you now to the repentance that gives joy. His power is not worldly and passing but heavenly and eternal. Yes, let us praise and adore Him, who alone can save us. In a city of potentates here is the true King, without whom nothing is possible!”
As we march, the dome of the Capitol will grow ever larger in the center of our line of sight. To our left, the Library of Congress, and to our right, the Supreme Court, will also become closer. We will stop twice at the homes of believers: at 10th and East Capitol and at 3rd and East Capitol; in each home we will enthrone Jesus truly present and worship Him at an altar prepared there. We will pass the Capitol and the Supreme Court, begging that His blessing and truth be established there. Finally, we will end our mile-long procession at St. Joseph’s Church, just behind the Senate Building.
We will not march in a triumphalist manner but in reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the members of the Church, both clergy and lay. The march will not be easy, especially in the heat of late June. We will commit ourselves anew to the Lord, acknowledging our past sins and seeking grace to overcome our shortcomings and resist temptations. We will cry for God’s mercy on us and on our nation. Without grace and mercy, we do not stand a chance, but with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
Join us if you can, but even if you can’t, unite with us in prayer and purpose. We pray for ourselves and our nation, we make reparation for our sins and those of this land, and we remind others that Christ is King, Lord, Savior, and our only hope. May the heart of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with great affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world even unto the end of time.
Corpus Christi Procession in the Nation’s Capital – Our Privilege and our Purpose