“The Eucharist is the reason!” In celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Father Andrew Budzinski, Pastor of St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne, reiterated the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church before leading his parish in procession to the edge of their parish boundary on Sunday, June 11.
Father Budzinski emphasized, “The Eucharist is the most important thing we have. St. John Vianney said, ‘If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.’ It is precious because it is actually His Real Presence, the Body and Blood of Jesus; He says so Himself in today’s Gospel.”
He reminded the congregation that the current Eucharistic Revival is in response to a 2019 poll which revealed only one-third of surveyed Catholics knew and believed in the Eucharist. Encouragingly, when Father Budzinski surveyed the parish last year with the same question, he found that more than three-quarters of the faithful at St. John the Baptist identified and believed in the authentic Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. His efforts to lead parishioners in formation and devotion remain on-going.
He exclaimed, “Not everyone in today’s Gospel believe that it’s Jesus’ flesh and blood even though they hear it straight from His mouth. They ask, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ Let’s ask ourselves the same question. Or another way of asking it: ‘Is it really His flesh or not?’ Those are the only two possibilities, right? It is either really His flesh or it’s just a symbol. However, Jesus says nothing about it being a symbol. Rather, He said five more times that it is His flesh and blood!”
He continued, “What happens next is very important. The Gospel goes on to say that many of His disciples said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ And as a result, many returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. The disciples take Jesus literally when He says ‘Eat My flesh and drink My blood.’ They, in effect, say, ‘No way! That’s too much. We’re out of here.’ And they leave. And Jesus lets them leave. Now, if it were just a symbol, why would Jesus let them leave? If it were, Jesus would have said ‘Wait, don’t leave, you misunderstand.’ But He doesn’t.”
Father Budzinski exclaimed, “Every year in OCIA, this is the point that convinces every non-Catholic that it really is the Body and Blood of Jesus. If it is a symbol, Jesus would not have let the disciples leave over a misunderstanding. The Eucharist is the reason they become Catholic! In 2011, I went to World Youth Day in Madrid with two million kids from around the world who knelt down in complete silence when Pope Benedict XVI brought out the monstrance for adoration. Two million kids don’t kneel down in silence for a piece of bread. The Eucharist is the reason why they kneel.”
Furthermore, he stated, “I gave up a wife and children to become a priest. If that’s just a symbol, we priests are the stupidest people on earth. The Eucharist is the reason we make that sacrifice. This week, a young man thinking about priesthood met with the diocesan seminary admissions committee. We asked him why he wanted to be a priest. He answered, ‘Because I want to say Mass and give people the Body and Blood of Jesus.’ The Eucharist is the reason he is entering seminary.”
“In a few weeks, our parish secretary and her fiancé will be getting married. They chose today’s Gospel, the Bread of Life discourse, as the Gospel for their wedding. I asked her why and she said, ‘Because without the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, our marriage doesn’t make much sense.’ The Eucharist is the reason. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, once wrote to his son about the Eucharist, ‘Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.’ The Eucharist is the reason.”
He concluded, “Why are we here today? Because we want to live! Jesus says in the Gospel ‘Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you do not have life within you.’ We need Him to live; our fallen flesh and blood is too weak against sin and death. The Eucharist is the reason we are alive. And Jesus wants everyone to live. That’s the reason why we are going on procession, because we can’t keep the Eucharist to ourselves, He must be taken to the corners of the world! Go wherever God calls you and do whatever He says. The Eucharist is the reason.”
While Corpus Christi processions have become an annual occurrence at St. John the Baptist Parish, this year, Parochial Vicar Father Paolo Degasperi brought an added personal touch to the event. Father Degasperi, who will soon become Pastor at St. John’s, learned through his evening walks around the neighborhood that many parishioners live on nearby Sherwood Terrace. In anticipation of the procession, Father Degasperi contacted all of these parishioners and invited them to decorate their properties with sidewalk chalk, banners, balloons, and flower confetti to help foster Eucharistic devotion in the families and neighborhood.
After the final prayer, Father Budzinski led a solemn procession with the Blessed Sacrament towards the west. On their way, they passed the home of Nicholas and Adrienne Langhals, who stood outside with their three-year-old son Dominick. Adrienne shared, “This Corpus Christi procession felt different having it go right in front of our house. It also was a unique experience to witness the joy and excitement of our son. We told Dominick that we were going to decorate outside because Jesus would be coming by our house on Sunday. He asked me if it was the ‘real Jesus,’ and I said yes. He got very excited and told a few different people that Jesus would be coming by his house.” She added, “He loved throwing the flower petal confetti, joining in the procession, and the prayer time in front of the altar in a neighbor’s yard. Also, there were several young families involved in the procession which brought so much liveliness to the celebration. We love how connected our church is to our neighborhood and it was great to see other neighbors decorate and participate in the procession, as well.”
These neighbors included Hugh and Julie Baldus, who agreed that decorating their home and seeing others do so made them feel more engaged with the procession and parish. Hugh said “The thought process of how to creatively represent and honor our Lord and His Sacrament led us to meaningful soul-searching.” Speaking on the procession itself, he stated, “Being a ‘follower of Christ’ in a literal sense is a departure from the Mass setting, and reminds us that our parish exists beyond the walls of SJB. Walking with Christ’s Body and Blood is more than a gesture, it is a demonstration of our lifestyle and belief. It is a metaphor of our life’s walk with Him.”
A few weeks prior, St. John’s led a four-and-a-half-hour rosary walk around the perimeter of their entire parish boundary to surround and immerse their people with prayers. This also offered a reminder that Catholic churches are spiritually responsible for every soul living within their boundaries, not only those who are registered and involved in the life of the parish.
The Eucharistic procession reached its end at the yard of a parishioner’s home across the street from Foster Park, the western limit of St. John territory. The monstrance was placed on a table with lit candles and Father Budzinski proclaimed the Gospel account of the disciples’ momentous catch of fish after Jesus’ resurrection. He remarked that, “Although there were so many, the net was not torn. The Lord sent His followers to make new disciples in every direction, with confidence that there is room enough in the Church for everyone!”
The event concluded with Solemn Benediction and the Divine Praises. As the group was far from the parish, Father Budzinski then removed the Eucharist from the luna (the glass case which holds the host within the monstrance), broke the host, and distributed communion to four altar servers who assisted in the procession.
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