Taking it to the Streets!
October 29, 2017
Last week, I wrote about the Holy Name Society’s recent Eucharistic procession through the streets of downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine. Reviving a decades-old tradition of Catholic men gathering to honor the name of Jesus Christ, some 300+ men gathered literally to walk with the Lord, as the pastor of Old St. Mary’s carried Him in a monstrance along a two-mile route winding between the Cathedral and his landmark historic church on 13th St., escorted by Cincinnati’s finest.
While it is now (fortunately) common to have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament inside parish churches (for example, we have Our Lord in the chapel in a monstrance all day Mondays between 9am and 7pm), it is much less common to “take Jesus to the streets” and of course we need permission from the bishop to do so. What is the point of doing this?
In a nutshell, to introduce Jesus to a world that hungers for Him, whether they know it or not. It is very significant that when Jesus first taught about His gift of Himself as “the Bread of Life” – giving Himself as our True Food and True Drink – that He did so when the throngs of thousands of people following Him out into the remote and barren desert were physically hungry. They had had nothing to eat all day and now had nowhere to obtain food. Until, that is, Jesus transformed a few scant scraps of fish and barley bread into a superabundant banquet for the 5,000 hungry men, with enough left over to fill huge baskets full. (This is all described in John chapter 6).
But Our Lord was very clear: as miraculous as this was, He wanted them to hunger for something far greater: His own divine presence, which He would continue to shower upon us in the Holy Mass, receiving the same Body and Blood that He allowed to be nailed to the Cross to save us from our sins.
Maybe more than ever, we live in a world that is hungry for Jesus, but just don’t know this beautiful teaching. I saw this as I walked with the men, in the streets north of the Cathedral. Straight through the decaying and blighted neighborhoods that most of us never see, except perhaps from the cocoon of our locked cars. Neighborhoods touched by unemployment, fatherless homes, the flight of businesses from the area, the desperation of alcoholism and drug use. So that the fallout from those ill effects no doubt caused some residents to be literally hungry for food to eat.
In such neighborhoods, the scourge of alcoholism and drug abuse is still visible. But what is an alcoholic or drug addict, except someone looking to fill an aching hunger, for peace, or love or meaning or acceptance that he or she can’t find in his surroundings. How much they need to be filled with the food that only Christ can satisfy!
I saw that hunger in the faces of the little children staring out at us in amazement from the second floor windows of the businesses on Vine St. as we headed south – alone, with no adults to supervise them. Children I could only assume had no knowledge of the goodness of God and the love of Christ for them because there was no one to teach them. Children hungry to know that God wanted to feed them with His presence and His love.
Interestingly enough, the neighborhood around Old St. Mary’s Church was not too long ago almost frighteningly blighted, with open illegal drug use and rampant crime. It has now been almost completely transformed, into the hip and trendy hangout for mostly young adult millennials with their smart phone apps telling them this is the place to be seen drinking coffee or brunching or dining. So there are countless au courant diners, espresso shops and cafes, all overpriced but all packed on a Saturday morning with lines queuing up to obtain a coveted place. At our slow walking pace, with Our Lord in the monstrance moving slowly through the crowds, looking only half-interested, I could see the hunger in their faces as well. Not physically hungry of course – they had more than enough disposable income to eat very well. But a spiritual hunger. Because almost known of them have any real lived experience of worshiping God. They do not know Our Savior’s words in the Gospel (6:27) “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
We can literally never reflect enough on how important this bread of life is, how great a gift the holy Mass is, and how urgent it is for us to appreciate it ourselves and share this good news with all of our family members, friends and acquaintances – even if it means “taking Jesus to the streets!