Taking Jesus onto the streets
An estimated 800-1,000 people joined the central London parishes of the Jesuit Church of The Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, and St James’s Church, Spanish Place, in their joint outdoor procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of London for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
The procession began at Farm Street with Eucharistic hymns and the Faure version of the great Corpus Christi motet Ave Verum Corpus arranged specially for the occasion by the Farm Street Choir directed by David Graham. A short homily by Fr Dominic Robinson introduced the procession. He said “We were taking Jesus out on to the streets of our city to witness to our faith in his love, his mercy, his compassion, which the Eucharist above all expresses. We must remember that our witness is never private but always public as we respond to Pope Francis' call to walk alongside those who rarely or never come inside the buildings of a church.”
The procession stopped en route on the steps of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Duke Street for a short Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and prayers for the Ukrainian people sung by the Cathedral choir in Ukrainian, Slavonic and English. After crossing a very busy Oxford Street the procession concluded at St James's Church with a Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in Latin and English with a specially rousing version of the eucharistic hymn Lauda Sion Salvatorem sung by the parish choir.
The joint initiative could not have been possible without the brilliant co-ordination of the Order of Malta who liaised with the city authorities to make it possible.
It is hoped the procession will now become an annual event in the life of this part of London. Speaking before the event, The Rector of St James Church, Fr. Christopher Colven, reflected on the event's potential for evangelisation and also historical significance: “In 1908, London was the venue for an international Eucharistic Congress, at the culmination of which a procession carrying the Blessed Sacrament through the capital's streets was planned. The prospect raised a clamour of objection. In the event a great act of witness took place through London’s streets but without the Blessed Sacrament at its centre. Over a century later our two parishes witnessed to their belief in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist with their own procession through the streets of Mayfair and Marylebone. Pope Francis speaks constantly of the need for new forms of evangelisation. This is what we were doing – literally taking Jesus out onto the streets of our neighbourhood”.