ORLANDO | Recognizing the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and God’s mystical body throughout the world, Bishop John Noonan celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Eucharistic Adoration followed with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to eight altars of repose representing eight countries and the continent of Africa.
After a year sabbatical due to COVID-19, Father Emmanuel Akalue, pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Kissimmee, said “It means everything to us as the African family of the Diocese of Orlando, that we are part of this important event as a testament to our faith — our collective Christian identity as the Body of Christ. We are different members that make up one body. ... Made of different races, traditions, languages and culture, we too are part and parcel of this collective identity.”
Father Akalue, who accompanies the African Community Ministry, added, “This is about Jesus – in spite of (COVID-19) challenges, we always emerge stronger. … May God help ease the challenges completely.”
Bishop Noonan harkened to past processions in native lands where the day was set aside “like every other Sunday, to worship, to listen, to believe, to trust, above all to honor God through His son Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist.” He spoke of the nourishment the Eucharist provides and the love it represents for God’s people — “freely given, always available to every person who hungers.”
As the faithful celebrated this unconditional love, Bishop Noonan noted the difficulty for many to believe because of science, and the great suffering and pain caused by wars and the coronavirus. In the words of Bishop Robert Barron of the Word on Fire ministry, he said, “In the Christian tradition, beauty, goodness and truth are known as transcendentals linked to the three core human abilities — to feel, to wish and to think.”
Bishop Noonan said the tendency to avoid the transcendental in our age “does damage to the human heart, the human spirit.” As those present prepared to receive Holy Communion, he reminded them that Eucharist means “thanksgiving” for “the living bread come down from heaven… my flesh given for the life of the world, …reinforcing the Mystical Body of Christ.” He urged them to ask of themselves: “Do you believe that? Who are you and what have you received? What is God saying to you? Are you listening? What is God asking of you in your life? Do we hear? Do we believe? Do we trust?”
Mary Nguyen participates in Vietnamese events through St. Philip Phan Van Minh Parish and helped decorate the Vietnamese altar, which featured an image of the 102 martyrs who gave their lives to spread the Gospel in Vietnam adorned the left side.
Noting the emperor killed the missionaries, Nguyen explained one-third of the Vietnamese who converted did so in thanks “to the suffering of our ancestors; willing to accept their fate under the pressure of the government.” Like Christ, they offered their lives. She said she prays in constant gratitude for their “overcoming the obstacles so they could preach the Gospel to us.”
Nguyen explained the parasols represent the royalty of God Almighty. The tassels are the people, the kingdom of God.
Other countries with altars of repose in joyful expectation of reception of the monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration were Brazil and Portugal with statues of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady Aparecida (Our Lady Revealed); Korea which also commemorated its martyrs as the large choir or hanbok , dressed in traditional Korean costume, singing the Lord’s praises; the Syro-Malabar church, Poland with an image of the Madonna of Czȩstochowa, the Philippines, and Haiti. “We are trying to show our devotion to the faith,” said Jack Klis, a member of the Polish community who is a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Orlando. “As a people, most of us here are immigrants. We remember these events and are trying to extend those traditions.”